We’re coming in for a wild ride in 2019. The last few years have been pretty crazy, and 2019 looks to continue to amplify this highly innovative and disruptive trend.
While some may be nervous about trends in technology such as artificial intelligence, I'm still quite optimistic. The most long-term successful aspects of our civilization are those that rip apart on a regular basis. Frequent disruption allows for people to start anew and create bigger and better things and open up fresh possibilities. It seems to be part of our collective human nature to keep pushing forward.
So, with that in mind, here’s what I predict we have to look forward to in the next decade.
Prediction 1: Artificial intelligence (AI) goes mainstream.
I doubt many would disagree with me on this one. However, I may differ slightly in my perspective than I've heard from many others. That is, I don't see artificial intelligence, or "the machine", taking humans over and enslaving us. I see us creating the machine and then taming it for our own very productive purposes.
Back in March 2016, Microsoft put an AI chatbot out on Twitter. It was designed to use machine learning to improve its ability to interact with people — to become more human. Within less than 24 hours, it had become a racist, misogynist jerk. We humans took over that embryonic form of artificial being and unintentionally twisted it into a mess by exposing it to our worst, rather than our best. Not our finest hour!
Humans may still end up being enslaved, but it won't be by AI. If it happens, it will be by very flawed humans using very human-controlled systems. I believe that most people are inherently good. However, we all realize there are those those looking to use technology for their own vices. Computer systems can amplify that treacherous advantage and that's where I hope we will focus with great care and vigilance.
AI will become mainstream in the next decade. The machine won't be sentient, but it will become otherwise indistinguishable from human abilities--and surely exceed them in many ways. As long as we are responsible stewards of this technology, we should realize wonderful benefits.
Prediction 2: Highways will become much safer and construction a rare occurrence.
At some point toward the end of the next decade highway carpool lanes will start to be converted to auto-car lanes. The only vehicles allowed in will be those that are capable of self driving on freeways and are connected to the Autonet. By the end of the decade, virtually all commercial vehicles will be connected and up to 20 percent of personal vehicles will be as well.
Autonet is a segment of the Internet dedicated to moving vehicles. It's designed to allow for collective awareness of everything that may be of concern to a vehicle. Instead of just being aware of its immediate surroundings, with Autonet, all of the sensors and processing capability of networked vehicles are integrated into an awareness data set and made available to anything on the net.
With that Autonet connection, all the vehicles on those lanes will effectively act as one. They will be capable of faster driving speeds while staying much closer together and still being far safer than they are today. Instead of continually widening freeways, this auto-automation will eventually increase existing freeway capacity by a significant amount.
Prediction 3: The concept of healthcare changes radically.
Today, wellness is a large industry. It largely consists of encouraging regular checkups, improving diet and increasing activity, all with the aim of reducing costs for insurance carriers and increasing longevity. It is a good thing, but far from good enough. Part of the problem with today's wellness paradigm is that it is built on the model of healthcare technology advancement that we've experienced over the past three decades. We are on the verge of a complete shift in the way technology and health interact. It will be as big a change as what happened to daily life with the introduction of the personal computer, Internet, and smartphone.
In five to ten years, my prediction is that we may see the first usable organs for transplant grown out of our own cells. A scaffold will be 3D printed with a dissolvable structure. Skin cells from the recipient are converted to T-cells which are then programmed to grow around the scaffold and become a kidney, liver, or other organ. That organ is then implanted without the need for anti-rejection drugs.
Along with 3D printing, subcellular engineering will come into being. Designer virus capability will become a viable means of curing many cancers and other serious afflictions. Virus programming will eventually allow for fast and effective treatment of almost all known ailments.
Costs for the most advanced treatments are astronomical today and for most of the next decade will continue to climb at an almost logarithmic rate. It will get to the point that insurance companies simply refuse to pay for such treatments and no one with a net worth less than nine figures will be able to afford it. We as a society will have a choice of either letting advancement stall and backslide, or looking at some aspects of health care as we did at the moon shot in the 1960's; so big that only a government can afford to pay for it.
The first such treatments will cost millions of dollars, maybe tens of millions. But when the T-cells are injected and programmed to rebuild the organ in situ, the costs and level of infrastructure needed drop to a small fraction of what they will be at peak. When the human body is largely rebuildable via injection (probably 20-30 years down the road), healthcare becomes no more serious than auto repair.
Prediction 4. All of this IoT (Internet of Things) stuff finally works.
Today, there are three major personal IoT system leaders (Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and the Apple Siri HomePod i-IoT thing) and a vast number of small contenders. You can do a lot, but it's still a tech enthusiast’s game. None of the systems are really easy enough for the average person to set up, secure, and configure. Interoperability is still questionable at best. Within the next decade standards, protocols and security technology will reach the point such that adding to your IoT life will be no more difficult than plugging in a toaster.
Going that last mile to make things easier is often more difficult than all of the time spent prior combined, but it's the most important. We won't be able to fully take advantage of all that the Internet has to offer until it is that easy. I'm seeing that in another five to ten years.
Prediction 5: We get security figured out.
Security, like ease of use, is a prerequisite to fully engaging on the potential of a connected world. Today, with all of the distance we've come, social engineering — a human contacting a human — is still the biggest class of security vulnerability. We will always need improvements in technology security, but it will never be enough without solving the human social problem. I wish I knew what the solution will be. That would be a great business to go into. But it's way beyond me. Someone will figure this out within the next decade and when they do, a lot of unrealized potential will be suddenly opened up. In fact, my four predictions above all depend on this happening.