Insights December 16th, 2020

Each year I provide two lenses on what is to come. 

The first is about the big predictions of our shifting world, its power struggles and path to transcendence through shifting platforms and algorithms, transcendent social media, and emergent geopolitical theatres. That’s the cultured steak dinner for futurists.

And, the second looks at the Futurist Speaker 2021 Future Technology Trends that I see as shaping the world and gaining pace, namely accelerating mobile ecommerce, Augmented Reality, and our collective pace towards AI ‘hyperautomation’. This is the garnish and sides to the cellular rib eye.

Let’s get into it.

Accelerating mobile ecommerce

If there’s one thing that the pandemic has shown us is that people will turn to eCommerce to get the goods they need and desire. The great offset I’ve seen in my own life from not flying has been replaced with the carbon footprint of eCommerce.

Earlier in 2020 we saw that mobile has eaten the world with over 1.6tn hours spent on mobile in 2020 (source). That had an incredible knock on effect on eCommerce:

“Ecommerce began taking root in 2000. Since then, ecommerce’s share of retail has grown approximately 1% every year. At the beginning of 2020, approximately 16% of retail was transacted via digital channels. Eight weeks after the pandemic reached the U.S. (March to mid-April), that number leapt to 27% . . . and it’s not going back. We registered a decade of ecommerce growth in eight weeks.” Scott Galloway – ‘Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity’

Obviously the big players like Amazon have benefited greatly but so have smaller players enabled by empowering platforms. From November 27th to November 30th 2020 – the Black Friday-Cyber Monday (BFCM) stretch – Shopify’s merchants collectively made $5.1 billion in sales, up 76 per cent from 2019’s totals. Shopify also recorded more than $2.9 billion in total sales on its platform during the 2019 BFCM, a figure its merchants reach (source).

And, researchers are seeing this kind of behavior accelerate and for us to expect 4900 digital data engagements per person each day by 2025 – that’s approximately 1 digital interaction every 18 seconds (source). 

The battleground of offline-online ecosystems is certainly going to heat up and consumers are going to have to step up to choose to keep local culture alive by not completely relying on online purchases. On the other side of that we need to see every single store create an online presence and have the ability to reserve and buy goods. The struggle is real when you realize that in the United States approximately 50% of retail stores do not even have a website. 

That leads us onto the next trend…

Augmented Reality (AR)

In many of my talks I demonstrate what AR could be by showing a clip from Keichii Matsuda’s HYPER REALITY to indicate a world that we are fast traveling towards: 

HYPER REALITY presents a provocative and kaleidoscopic new vision of the future, where physical and virtual realities have merged, and the city is saturated in media and gamified clouds of information. It’s one spectral view of what may be if the model of capitalism and free information access if monetized through interaction and advertising.

Maybe this is what Apple’s nascent AR tech stack, Microsoft’s Hololens, and Facebook’s Project Aria may quietly be focusing on:

But, many are looking to useful and utilitarian applications to empower uses.

One company that I am excited about is Mojo Vision who promises ‘AR contact lenses that give your eyes superpowers. Using a display the size of a grain of sand to project images onto the retina, this startup could help everyone from firefighters to people with poor vision’. Aside from this PR/Marketing spin there is he opportunity 

Ethical Artificial Intelligence and ‘hyperautomation’

The conversations around ethics are heating up and the hot topic in December 2020 was about recognized and respected AI Research Timnit Gerbu was fired (not if you believe them) was fired by Google after it took issue with an academic paper she had co-authored on the ethical considerations of AI development research and development of large language models – one of which was bias. You can read MIT’s summary of that here.

The truth is that big data, analytics and machine learning is fraught with challenges in the data it uses to train itself. And, it’s been largely unchecked for years with companies and the developers of models driving progress over ethical oversight and the big questions on value vs. human rights and recognition.

 In 20201 we’ll see significant efforts made to align machine learning, unbiased data and equality in application – facial recognition, surveillance, and full automation of everything. The idea of ‘hyperautomation’- the fact that absolutely everything has the potential to be, and will be automated – will be heavily debated. See a little more on the concept here:

I look to the military to see what’s happening often. To be honest, it’s because they have the most research funding and I like to think that they can have the most impact in the world. Yes, I know that the ‘good people’ in the world are pacifistic and righteous in their intentions. It’s a delicate balance of progress and intention.

Anyways, the US Department of Defense (DoD) is increasingly adopting AI technology (as it’s done for decades) in a wide variety of use cases ranging from back-office operations to the theatre of the battlefield. The DoD have come to the realization that despite the numerous benefits that AI can bring, there is also a risk of fairly significant harm by applying and embedding these various technologies. 

As a result, the DoD takes the topics of topics of ethics, transparency, and ethics policy very seriously. 

A few years ago, the DoD created the JAIC – known in it’s longform as Joint Artificial Intelligence Center – to enable researchers to help figure out how to best move progress by balancing humans and the machines in modern life. Earlier this year the DoD adopted a set of AI ethical principles that encompass five major areas including Responsible AI, Equitable AI, Traceable AI, Reliable AI, and Governable AI.

You can take a deeper look at The Department of Defense AI Ethical Principles here. These ethical principles encompass five major areas:

  • Responsible – DoD personnel will exercise appropriate levels of judgment and care, while remaining responsible for the development, deployment, and use of AI capabilities.
  • Equitable – the DoD will take deliberate steps to minimize unintended bias in AI capabilities.
  • Traceable – the DoD’s AI capabilities will be developed and deployed such that relevant personnel possess an appropriate understanding of the technology, development processes, and operational methods applicable to AI capabilities, including with transparent and auditable methodologies, data sources, and design procedure and documentation.
  • Reliable – the DoD’s AI capabilities will have explicit, well-defined uses, and the safety, security, and effectiveness of such capabilities will be subject to testing and assurance within those defined uses across their entire life-cycles.
  • Governable – the DoD will design and engineer AI capabilities to fulfill their intended functions while possessing the ability to detect and avoid unintended consequences, and the ability to disengage or deactivate deployed systems that demonstrate unintended behavior.

In 2019 I had the opportunity to meet Ben Goertzel – a world leader in the area of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) – the coming of sentient machines.

He argues that it’s all good to be super-intelligent but if you don’t have rationality and empathy to match it the results will be wasted and we could just end up with an incredible number-cruncher. See what he says here:

Emotion, creativity and compassion are incredibly hard to encode so remember that while algorithmic tasks will be 100% automated (eventually) we will need humans to control and steer the system. 

So, that’s the Futurist Speaker Technology Trends for 2021 that I see as shaping the world and gaining pace, namely accelerating mobile ecommerce, Augmented Reality, and Artificial Intelligence and ‘hyperautomation’.

Think bigger than tech, and remember, always start with humanity. 

If you’d like to discuss any of these trends further with me, or have me come and provide thought-provoking insights for your event or organization then please do reach out.

The futures that are coming are bright. Step forward and imagine what you can achieve. 2021 will be the ‘Year of Transcendence‘. Ask yourself how are you going to contribute to a stronger world?

See you in 2021.

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Nikolas Badminton is a world-renowned Futurist Speaker, Author and Executive Advisor that shows the future trends that shape impactful organizations, trillion-dollar companies, progressive governments, and 200+ billion dollar investment funds. Nikolas will shift your mindset from what is to ‘WHAT IF..?’ and into brighter futures.

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Nikolas Badminton

Nikolas Badminton is the Chief Futurist of the Futurist Think Tank. He is world-renowned futurist speaker, a Fellow of The RSA (FRSA), a media personality, and has worked with over 400 of the world’s most impactful companies to establish strategic foresight capabilities, identify trends shaping our world, help anticipate unforeseen risks, and design equitable futures for all. In his new book – ‘Facing Our Futures’ – he challenges short-term thinking and provides executives and organizations with the foundations for futures design and the tools to ignite curiosity, create a framework for futures exploration, and shift their mindset from what is to WHAT IF…

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