2017 has been an interesting year for the tech industry. Google’s Deep Mind launched an ethics group to focus on societal issues raised by AI and to assure public trust in emerging technology. The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced considerable UK investment in emerging technology in both the Spring and Autumn budgets, placing an emphasis on AI development and emerging technology regulation. So, what do I think next year could bring?
1. AI will make a medical breakthrough
In the realms of the medical sector, software is capable of solving complex problems which would take humans an inordinately long period of time to achieve. As AI becomes less dependent on computing capacity, I expect that next year we will see some major medical research breakthroughs with very limited AI learning. Even the most intelligent doctors can only think of a few things at a time, if you channel hundreds of doctors’ research and thoughts through AI, the possibility of breakthroughs in medical research for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and HIV becomes much more achievable. While AI will not replace people in the medical profession, it will certainly aid diagnoses, decision-making and eventually aid surgical procedures. As the NHS continues to experience issues with underfunding and overworked staff in 2018, AI could very well be the tool to aid overburdened medical professionals as they continue to treat an unprecedented number of patients.
Whilst many people may be wary of the role AI might play in medicine, the consistency of quality assured technology and automated processes will take away the inconsistencies of human error which are bound to happen with overstretched medical staff.
2. Virtual reality will help doctors perform operations
Virtual reality (VR) will also play a major role in the medical sector in 2018. Of course, VR made headlines this year for helping surgeons separate conjoined twins . Incredibly, VR will allow doctors to perform medical procedures via robotics. This could mean the end of patients having to travel long distances, sometimes to different countries, to have lifesaving operations from world-leading medical professionals. Robotics is already being used in surgery, but VR could revolutionise how these operations are performed.
3. Voice technology will lead the way
2018 will see the mass adoption of voice-controlled technology as it moves away from being a novelty, and will be used on a wider scale. This will happen as the real-world application of this technology begins to make a genuine impact on people’s lives. The impact that voice control will have in a domestic environment, as it is integrated into more products, will be hugely beneficial. Especially for less able sections of our society, such as the elderly and people with disabilities. For instance, the advances in disabled accommodation will greatly improve the quality of life for people who may have found everyday tasks a challenge. While voice-activated kettles and voice-activated central heating may seem like minor innovations, they will help a large portion of people greatly. Innovation that will make a positive change, is simple technology that has a massive impact on the way we function as human beings.
4. Blue-collar workers are not the only people who will be out of work
Automation and AI are often cited as being a potential threat to the working class, blue-collar worker. While I still believe that 30 per cent of jobs as we know them today will be obsolete, it will not just be blue-collar workers who are left looking for employment. I predict that any process orientated roles will be replaced by intelligent software. We have already seen this at firms such as Goldman Sach’s where 600 of its traders have now been replaced by 200 computer engineers as traders are replaced by software . In 2018, we will see an increase in the number of highly educated employees having to change their job. Clearly, the need for the mass retraining of a large section of society is needed and we mustn’t just think about drivers and factory workers, AI and software advances will affect our entire workforce to a differing degree and that must be addressed.
Companies should look to re-train their staff now. The traditional blue-collar worker we describe is using technology in their everyday lives, from smart phones, to banking to deciding which paint to buy, and they are more than capable of re-training to be relevant in a digital workforce.
5. Hacking must be regulated and taken seriously
2018 must be the year that the UN sets up a hacker group to test the cyber security of nations, businesses and Non-Governmental Organisations to ensure they are doing the things they are meant to do. At present, we are relying on talented hackers who are doing us all a favour by exposing poor cyber security practices in business and government. Thankfully, many of the major 2017 hacks have resulted in relatively minimal damage to businesses and organisations. The majority of people orchestrating these attacks have been non-malicious and are either doing it for fun or to prove a point. We must not rely on “ethical” hackers lurking in the shadows of the internet to warn businesses and governments. This must become official and regulated by organisations such as the UN in 2018.
6. Driverless vehicles are the future, not electrical
Britain has seen a whole raft of new legislation around cars and vans this year, including the ban of all new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040. In my eyes, electric vehicles are clearly not the future. The innovation, while theoretically a step in the right direction, has seen very little uptake in the scheme of things and will be superseded by hybrid technology models or hydrogen based engines. Electric powered vehicles will not have a significant impact on our quality of life, but autonomous vehicles certainly will by offering mobility and freedom to sections of society who may not be able to drive due to disabilities, old age or socioeconomic status.
7. RIP Apps – deceased 2018
I believe that 2018 will mark the end of an era for applications (apps). The app was very interesting to businesses and the public alike when it was a new concept. But, as thousands of apps continue to flood the market, we are going to see a more integrated system where the app is no longer separate, but integrated into our day-to-day life. There are quite frankly too many apps and the way we want to use them is changing. The network has become vast, access to WiFi and 4G now makes it much easier to stay connected. In 2018, we will see apps become much more integrated into one platform, as the business model for apps continues to change.