In July, the New York Times published a piece called “How Tech Won the Pandemic and Now May Never Lose”. As the title suggests, the article argued that throughout COVID-19 technology provided the tools that made life and work possible — especially in the first half of 2020, when there was real belief that the painful recession would turn into a catastrophic depression.
So yes, tech is in the spotlight and having its moment. But as we all know, technology is never static. It is always moving forward and trying to expand the boundaries of what’s possible. It’s not about the past: it’s all about the future.
And what will that future look like? There are many tech trends that are shaping 2021 and paving the way for years and decades to come. Here are five that I find especially fascinating:
Yes, I know what you are thinking: AI is not a new trend! In fact, AI traces its roots all the way back to 1956. But there are many advances in AI that have immense potential and promise. Here are some remarkable possibilities:
- Scientists at the University of Cambridge have succeeded in using AI, along with brain scans and memory tests, to develop an algorithm that can recognize Alzheimer at an early stage.
- Scientists at South Ural State University have developed a model for more effective diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes using AI and IoT technology.
- Sophisticated AI and ML models can help organizations efficiently discover patterns, reveal anomalies, make predictions and decisions, and generate insights.
However, there is a dark side to AI as well. We have arrived at a point where AI can generate close-to-perfect — and for many people utterly indistinguishable from authentic — deepfakes. To keep AI from becoming a liability instead of an asset, the OECD has listed three key principles for regulating the impact of AI solutions:
- AI should benefit people and the planet by driving inclusive growth, sustainable development, and well-being.
- AI should be designed in a way that respects the rule of law, human rights, democratic values, and diversity.
- AI should include appropriate safeguards — for example, enabling human intervention where necessary — to ensure a fair society.
2. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Tech
Deloitte points out that AI can enable leaders to understand individuals’ behaviors and how they change over time, which ultimately helps them reinforce and optimize behaviors that promote DEI across the workforce and organization.
This is not just an ethical obligation — it is also a strategic priority. Research has found that organizations with inclusive cultures are 2x more likely to meet or exceed financial targets as those without inclusive culture. They are also 3x more likely high performing, 6x more likely to be innovative and agile, and 8x more likely to achieve better business outcomes.
There are a growing range of AI point solutions that are built to help organizations establish and drive their DEI program. Among the most interesting and exciting are customized dashboards that leverage cloud-based analytics and generate broad and deep visibility of DEI-related progress, opportunities, and obstacles.
3. Quantum Computing
Just like AI, quantum computing is not new. However, the potential use of quantum algorithms in AI techniques could lead to a massive and unprecedented computational boost. This would increase capacity, speed and reliability when tackling highly complex problems in a variety of fields across business and science.
Google is a major player in the quantum computing space, and very recently had what some scientists are calling a breakthrough with the discovery of time crystals (which was first hypothesized in 2012 by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek). Time crystals made of atoms that are arranged in a repeating pattern in space — a design that enables them to shift shape over time, but without losing energy or overheating. Since time crystals continuously evolve and do not need much energy, they have the potential to be extremely useful for quantum computing, which rely on very fragile qubits that are prone to decay.
Many people think that blockchain technology is exclusive to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. However, there are many interesting and promising applications in other areas, and which have the potential to transform the future. For example:
- Healthcare: helping patients and doctors securely transfer sensitive medical information.
- Real estate: making title issuance instantaneous and offering properties that can be purchased using cryptocurrency.
- Cybersecurity: taking passwords off a centralized server, and using biometric and password-free solutions, to make IoT devices virtually impossible to hack.
- Record management: enhancing the security of birth certificates, death certificates, voter registration cards, etc.
- Logistics: helping businesses monitor the progress of shipped goods, store information on drivers and materials, manage payments, and process smart contracts.
- Collectables: helping individuals create track and exchange digital NFTs.
For a deeper look at how the blockchain is — and will — alter everything from how we access healthcare to how we enjoy our favorite music, check out this article: https://builtin.com/blockchain/blockchain-applications.
5. Digital Workplaces
A digital workplace is the virtual, modern version of the conventional workplace. It provides personalized role-based services and all the applications, data, and collaboration that workers need through a consumer-like online experience.
Even before COVID-19, digital workplaces were on the rise. However, the pandemic has greatly accelerated this trend, as a growing number of organizations divest themselves of costly real estate (especially if it is located in a premium downtown urban area). Analysts predict that the size of the global digital workplace marketplace will surge to USD 90.52 billion by 2028 — up from USD 19.46 billion in 2020.
One of the key factors driving the growth and popularity of digital workplaces, is that workers from all over the globe can work for enterprises that may be located in another city, country or continent. For example, a software developer in Mongolia who aspires to work for Apple does not necessarily need to find a way to get to Cupertino, California. If there is a digital workplace nearby, then he can simply log in and fulfil his dream.
Science fiction legend Arthur C. Clarke said in his Third Law that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Well, the technologies highlighted above certainly are not an illusion. But considering the vast potential they must fundamentally reimagine and reinvent our world; we can be forgiven for being amazed and astonished. No, it’s not magic. But it’s close!