The parade of new technologies and scientific breakthroughs is relentless and is unfolding on many fronts. Almost any advance is billed as a breakthrough, and the list of “next big things” grows ever longer. Yet some technologies do in fact have the potential to disrupt the status quo, alter the way people live and work, rearrange value pools, and lead to entirely new products and services.
Today, we see many rapidly evolving, potentially transformative technologies on the horizon— spanning information technologies, biological sciences, material science, energy, and other fields. We also sought to understand how these technologies could change our world and how leaders of businesses and other institutions should respond.
In this article, we’ll break down the top 10 disruptive technologies that will impact your future life – Using a structured analysis to sort through the technologies with the potential to transform and disrupt in the next decade or two. We assess the potential impact based on what we can know today, and put these promising technologies in a useful perspective for the future.
1. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here and here to stay. Beginning around 2012, the deep learning revolution brought advanced artificial intelligence into the mainstream. Leaps and bounds in improvements in hardware (GPUs), processing power and cloud services (AWS), and deep learning software frameworks (Tensorflow, Theano, Torch) allowed researchers to make strides at an unparalleled pace, inventing new AI models that could match human performance on many tasks.
These days AI is ubiquitous and is used everywhere from financial services (automated credit scoring), Automotives (self-driving vehicles), pharmaceuticals (computational drug discovery), biotech (precision medicine and genetics), robotics process automation, and so many other areas.
AI is being adopted across a wide variety of industries, and its influence is only spreading. There will be a point in the near future where AI will touch every field in some way and automate a large swath of the jobs that our society is employed in today. The progression of AI is likely to be exponential as new researchers flood the field, and demand for AI services is not likely to slow anytime soon. Now is the best time to get in on the ground floor and begin investing in companies utilizing AI across key areas of their businesses.
The future of society as it relates to AI is compelling, but also much different from what we currently face. It’s difficult to anticipate all the ways in which AI might someday be used or influence the ever-shifting landscape of our communities and culture, but one thing’s for certain: it’s not going anywhere and we are the ones who’ll need to adjust – not the machines!
2. Electric Vehicles / Robo-Taxi
Electric Vehicles (EV) are already a mainstay on the roads, with a growing number of all-electric models being available to buy right now. The electric effect is now in full force, with established brands committing to offering a wider range of pure electric cars in the future, while those who depend heavily on diesel are seeing sales falter – with a deadline of 2030 in regions like the UK to halt sales in combustion cars.
The world is at the tipping point for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, and it’s going to happen steadily over the course of the 2020s. Every company can see the writing on the wall with Volkswagen, the world’s largest automobile manufacturer pledging to transition to an all-electric lineup by the end of the decade and with Tesla surging ahead to become the world’s most valuable car company. The internal combustion engine will stick around for a while longer but it’s almost certain that the future is going to be almost entirely electric.
The world stands at a crossroads. If humanity doesn’t do anything to address the growing climate crisis then we can expect global temperatures to increase well beyond 2 degrees celsius over pre-industrial levels by the end of the century which will have catastrophic consequences for all of us. Governments, corporations and individuals like you and me have to do what we can to reduce and mitigate this catastrophe from happening and reducing our emissions is just one of the many steps we have to take.
3. AR / VR
Augmented reality, commonly called AR, is an interactive 3D experience that combines a view of the real world with computer-generated elements in real-time. Designers create inputs—ranging from sound to video, to graphics to GPS overlays and more—in digital content which response in real-time to changes in the user’s environment, typically movement.
AR, unlike Virtual Reality, keeps you grounded in the real world, and it overlays virtual elements as a visual layer within that environment. Immersive AR systems may combine the computer elements with real-world elements with convincing depth, perspective, and other rendering characteristics, and the AR system will understand the real environment well enough to be able to position relevant synthetic elements “in front of” and “behind” real objects and otherwise be able to interact with the real world in a meaningful way.
It goes without saying – the future of AR is going to blow our minds. As more big brands adopt it, the tech develops and more data is collected, it is going to fundamentally change the way we consume media, buy products and interact with the world we live in.
Soon we are likely to be walking down the street in our smart glasses, swiping thin air and talking to someone only we can see. It is undoubtedly the operating system of the future.
Virtual Reality (VR) is arguably the next footstep towards a modern/post-modern era of development. The potential groundbreaking effects that loom behind these machines is mysterious. With the ability to save lives, act as a medium for business development and confrontations, and provide its users with endless hours of entertainment, learning, and discovery.
Today’s most popular VR applications involve taking total control of a user’s senses (sight and hearing, particularly) to create a totally immersive experience that places the user in a fully virtual environment that feels pretty realistic. Climb up something high and look down, and you’re likely to get a sense of vertigo. If you see an object moving quickly towards your head, you’ll feel an urge to duck out of the way.
Very soon, VR creators will extend this sensory hijacking to our other faculties – for example, touch and smell – to deepen that sense of immersion. At the same time, the devices we use to visit these virtual worlds will become cheaper and lighter, removing the friction that can currently be a barrier. From headsets taking the simple form of sunglasses, experiencing what life on Mars would really be like and being able to overcome some of your biggest phobias and fears, VR is set to transform the world as we know it.
The latest 5G standard can also provide very interesting scenarios for the evolution of VR. This standard will allow more devices and large user communities to be connected. In addition, its almost imperceptible latency will make it possible for consumers to receive images in real time, almost as if they were seeing them with their own eyes.
All this means that Virtual Reality is no longer science fiction. It is integrated into our present and, in the coming years, it will lead to advances that will shape the future.
With an unprecedented need for science coupled with enormous government and private investment into that science, interest, excitement, and skepticism in the biotechnology sector have never been higher. Although much of the money was targeted toward technologies and logistics to meet our imminent healthcare crisis need, as with everything when government money is involved, “the rising tide will lift all boats”. We like to focus on the direct investments made into a handful of companies but the equity markets are at all time highs along with the flow of cheap credit to “risk on” asset classes and sectors. These notable financial metrics allowed for many early stage and cash burning life sciences companies to not only get capital in the first place but also at a historically low cost.
Biotechnology development is a risky business and historically, huge innovation has come after events that have gotten average people interested in the sector. These periods have come in many forms, whether the above excitement that comes with visions of miraculous cures or technology paradigm shifts or when we as a people are fighting for our lives and days and even hours matter.
So, in early 2020, when a global pandemic posed unprecedented challenges to the world and scientific innovation had to step up to meet this viral menace, our ability to pull together scientific miracles was put “center stage” for our species to scrutinize. Quickly this virus, no matter what its origin was or where it came from or why it was here, was the world’s problem and we hoped our scientific progress had culminated into something useful which was “game ready” right now. Despite the massive losses from COVID-19 in both human and economic terms which we will suffer from for years to come, the biotechnology arsenal that was brought to bear here must be appreciated. Whether it be the isolation of the viral genetic code, targeting of the appropriate protein, creating safe and very effective vaccines, massive manufacturing scale-up, global coordination, or the accelerated time-line with which the above was achieved, we all should be somewhat in awe.
You may not likely become a Crypto billionaire anytime soon, but this technology will probably be part of how you invest, transact and so much more in the next decade.
At least, that’s what Joe Duran, founder and CEO of United Capital, thinks of the Blockchain, the nascent technology that underlies cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin. Blockchain acts as an open ledger that tracks every transaction that has taken place with a given cryptocurrency. It can’t be altered.
Cryptocurrencies hold significant potential, and their disruptive power is undeniable. So far, they are altering how payments are processed, the methods by which documents are verified, and a number of other areas. And this is only the tip of the iceberg when considering the many possible applications of crypto and the blockchain.
Crypto’s revolution is just beginning, which means change is the only guarantee. Some economic analysts predict a big change in crypto is forthcoming as institutional money enters the market. The internet of money is really here so you best not bet against it. If you are watching this space, you are watching the future literally being built before your eyes.
The Blockchain on the other hand, is a system of recording information in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to change, hack, or cheat the system.
A blockchain is essentially a digital ledger of transactions that is duplicated and distributed across the entire network of computer systems on the blockchain. Each block in the chain contains a number of transactions, and every time a new transaction occurs on the blockchain, a record of that transaction is added to every participant’s ledger. The decentralised database managed by multiple participants is known as Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT).
Every person with a copy can add new records to this database but cannot change any record once it’s in there. This property makes a blockchain great to record data in a transparent way because everyone gets to see what’s in it.
Blockchain is great at keeping track of things over time. Blockchain is making the impossible possible by allowing people to secure digital relationships. If your industry deals with data or transactions of any kind it’s likely a field that can be disrupted by blockchain technology, the space is wide open and full of opportunities in the foreseeable future.
The continual and rapid progress of artificial intelligence, combined with readily available large data sets, lower prices for sensors and electronics, and a steady demand for efficiency, could be paving the way for a coming “robot revolution.” In fact, in some ways, it is already here. Think of the adoption of robotics across industries as two distinct phrases. We can think of the “first phase,” as when the world was introduced to machines that could perform repetitive tasks. One example of this is seen in automobile manufacturing assembly lines.
The second phase, which has already started, could be described as involving industrial robots that can not only perform simple tasks but also respond to new information and adapt in real-time, performing more complex tasks traditionally reserved for humans. Businesses in industries ranging from agriculture to the military are embracing this incoming wave of innovation.
The machines promise to change virtually every aspect of human life, from health care to transportation to work. We’ve seen this throughout history: automation and mechanization boosts the overall standard of living. We’ve seen it with the Industrial Revolution, and it’s going to happen again. With software automating all kinds of work, we’re looking at a more comfortable future for ourselves.
One thing is abundantly clear: The machines have arrived. Now we have to figure out how to handle the responsibility of having invented a whole new species.
With countries and companies racing to explore space, the sector is likely to see massive changes in the next few years. China has just become the second nation to plant its flag on the Earth’s moon, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced his space company Blue Origin will take the first woman to the moon, and Japan’s Hayabusa-2 capsule has returned safely to Earth with asteroid samples.
This buzz of space activity is unlikely to abate. SpaceX has launched nearly 1,000 small satellites for its Starlink constellation to date and is reportedly planning a crewed mission to Mars by 2026. NASA has also announced a mission to send astronauts to the moon by 2024 with plans to set up a lunar base camp.
Space continues to be an inexhaustible source of new business opportunities. New and promising technical advances are appearing in the future of small satellites that will help boost its practical applications. Space travel already has exploded centuries-old myths and promises to continue to confront our long-held assumptions about who we are and where we come from. The next decade promises to be an exciting period as scientists mine new data from space telescopes, space travel, and robotic exploration.
One of the most crucial features of humanity is our curiosity about life, the universe, and how things operate. Exploring space provides a means to satisfy our thirst for knowledge and improve our understanding of ourselves and our place in the universe. Ten or twenty years from now, we may have answers to basic questions that have eluded humans for centuries, such as how ubiquitous life is outside of Earth, whether it is possible for humans to survive on other planets, and how planets evolve over time.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a vision to connect all devices with the power of the internet. Consider This: In 2016, there were more than 4.7 billion things connected to the internet, according to IOT Analytics. By 2025, it is estimated that there will be more than 21 billion IoT devices (more than double the number of the human population). And by 2030, the growth would be exponential.
The internet landscape is burgeoning. It’s not just about computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones anymore. Now a multitude of devices are internet-connected. The list of “smart” devices includes washing machines, robotic vacuum cleaners, door locks, toys, and toasters. The Internet of Things is the umbrella term — and, yes, you can now buy a “smart umbrella” — for anything that connects to the internet.
The IoT is empowered by three key emerging technologies:
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Programmable functions and systems that enable devices to learn, reason, and process information like humans.
- 5G Networks – Fifth generation mobile networks with high-speed, near-zero lag for real time data processing.
- Big Data – Enormous volumes of data processed from numerous internet-connected sources.
The future of IoT looks bright and promising. With all the predictions and concepts in the works, our lives are about to turn much easier and efficient whether we are talking about navigating around our cities, interacting at work or lodging in the comfort of our own homes.
However, there’s one constraint IoT devices face in all these sectors — the problem of connectivity and communication between all the devices. If companies manage to overcome this obstacle, the way we live now will be an ancient past.
9. 3D Printing
Since the beginning of time the act of creating something using tools is one of the most defining traits of humans. When people look back on the fourth industrial revolution and what was the enabling technology, it’s going to be manufacturing with total freedom.
3D printing has come a long way from the early days of desktop figurines. As technology continues to evolve, the future is brighter than ever.
3D printing, or additive manufacturing, has the potential to democratize the production of goods, from food to medical supplies, to great coral reefs. In the future, 3D printing machines could make their way into homes, businesses, disaster sites, and even outer space as self printing space-craft. On a larger scale, this technology could “print” the very homes and cities we would live in.
And with 3D printing, it’s interesting because science fiction really does predict many times real science. In a way that’s what you’re seeing right now – coming full circle. Science fiction becoming science fact. In short, 3D printing is here to stay and will disrupt our everyday lives in the very near future.
Clean and green technologies are nothing new, but their adoption is increasing as municipalities seek to improve air quality and businesses seek to improve their stewardship of the environment. Technology advances and the Internet of Things are driving massive improvements in environmental practices today, supporting initiatives that contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable world.
There is a global drive to adopt clean technology solutions due to the current climate emergency being declared by governments globally. This is a direct result of our reliance on fossil fuels for energy since the Industrial Revolution. Governments are adopting regulatory regimes that require industry and individuals to reduce their environmental impact.
In order to use less and cleaner energy in power plants, buildings, industrial facilities and transport systems, many energy-efficient enabling technologies are applied. These technologies could slash costs by up to 80 per cent, ensure energy savings by up to 30 percent and help to slow global warming in the future. Thus, the countries could stay cost-effective and make sustainable progress.
All clean technology solutions seek to positively impact anthropogenic climate change. It is also important for clean technology solutions to be economically viable and have the potential to become profitable enterprises to attract investment and further development.
Clean technology solutions are therefore considered profitable against a wider variety of criteria compared to other types of technology investment. Market, as well as climate forecasts, are brought to bear on clean technology investment, and the ultimate cost to life on earth of doing nothing can outweigh risks and outlays for some investors and funding agencies.
- EV – ps://www.pocket-lint.com/cars/news/140845-future-cars-and-upcoming-electronic-cars-of-the-future-coming-soon
- AR / Augmented Reality – https://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-augmented-reality https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/augmented-reality
- VR / Virtual Reality – https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2020/12/18/the-future-of-virtual-reality-vr/?sh=3249ee7727be
- Cryptocurrency – https://www.intelligenthq.com/will-cryptocurrency-impact-future-business/
- Blockchain – https://www.blockchain-council.org/blockchain/top-10-promising-blockchain-use-cases/
- Robotics – https://interestingengineering.com/robots-will-not-take-over-the-world-yet-but-they-may-take-over-some-industries
- Space – https://www.itu.int/en/myitu/News/2020/12/14/11/23/Future-space-sector-2050-Web-Summit https://www.brookings.edu/blog/techtank/2020/08/18/five-reasons-to-explore-mars
- IoT – https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/ai-is-fusing-with-the-internet-of-things-to-create-new-technology-innovations/ https://perfectial.com/blog/future-of-iot/
- 3D Printing – https://www.autodesk.com/solutions/3d-printing
- Cleantech – https://www.digi.com/blog/post/what-is-clean-tech-and-how-is-iot-enabling-it