2017 Forecasts – Technology

Please notice that the title of this column is not Technology Trends for 2017.  Trends do not happen within a year.  Any such titled column is really about new gadgets, products and iterative improvement to existing technologies.  We have recently experienced the flood of “here’s what’s cool at CES” stories. Fodder for consumers and hipsters.

The topics listed below are major technology trends that are already manifesting and that will be significant in our future.  They will of course show up in 2017 as products or as announcement of developments or deals.

I will write full columns in the months ahead about the technologies below that have an asterisk * next to the title.

Smart Phones

Smart Phones have basically run their course in terms of being a handheld device.  There is no one reading these words that has major complaints about experiencing extreme limitations of their device.  The two trends that will continue are the ever-growing popularity of the larger screen phones and the increase in storage capacity.  These two developments move us ever closer to the need of just two devices, our laptop or laptop/tablet computer and our phone.

As someone concerned about climate change, the resurrection of planned obsolescence that Apple and Samsung have created by contriving a new model each year has been frustrating.  It was tail fins in the 1950s and it is megapixels now.  I will use my current Apple 6+ until it stops working.

Robotics*

We will see lots of robots in 2017.  Robotics have now come into their own and when combined with machine learning will become a technology that will truly disrupt the workplace and how we live in the next 10 years.

Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning*

This of course is a big one.  It will affect almost every smart technology and will bring about as much change as has the computer.  When combined with robotics and voice/computer interface, AI/ML will rapidly change our living environment.  In 2017, there will be some “man versus AI” events similar to Google’s AlphaGo’s victory last year against the best Go player in the world.

DeepMind and Watson will continue to dominate the headlines in this category.

We are the first iteration of humanity that will have to make the psychological adjustment of sharing the planet with an equal or superior intelligence.

There will be much written about artificial intelligence this year, including a column I will write suggesting that the name is, in fact, an incorrect one for this emerging machine intelligence.

Voice Recognition Software*

This is now and will be the big consumer tech trend for 2017.  Apple brought this first to market with Siri and of course left a bad first impression.  Amazon with Echo and Alexa is the current leader and seems to be improving the product on an on-going basis.  This is one of the areas where Apple opened the door and others stormed through with superior products and services.

Humans first wrote, then typed, then keyboarded, then used touchscreens and now voice.  We are entering the new era of the voice-activated environment.

Of course this presents the next major question about privacy and “big brother.” An Echo has already been the subject of a warrant in a murder investigation.  If your environment is always on and ready to respond to your next voice command, what else might it hear and where is that information going to be stored?  This leads me to the next big tech issue for 2017:

Hacking/Cybersecurity*

It was hard to miss hacking stories in 2016 due to the presidential election. As a futurist I kept wondering why there was so much surprise in the media about hacking.  In a column in February 2013 I stated that the current enemy of the U.S. would be cyberattacks and that cyberspace is where future wars will be “fought.”

In March 2015 I forecast that for at least the next few years we will live in a “hacked world.”  In 2013 I wrote a short eBook titled Is Privacy Dead: The Future of Privacy in the Digital Age. The two basic ideas were and are:  as technology increases privacy decreases, and convenience wins over privacy. We no longer have privacy as defined prior to the digital age.

IoT/Big Data*

The euphoria around this hit a big bump in the road last year when it was shown how easily sensors and monitors can be hacked.  Again as the communications, energy and logistics Internets grow explosively, we are confronted with reality of ever-less privacy.  The obvious offset is the transformation to ever smarter and efficient global systems, and the move from hierarchies to collaborative commons.  The move to an ever-lower marginal cost economy will bring incredible savings but at the above stated loss of privacy.

Automobiles*

This category is and will be forever listed under technology.  2016 was the year when what has been going on for years became a reality: the gear heads of Detroit collaborating with the tech heads of Silicon Valley.  The first major deal is the Google-Fiat Chrysler one in which Google provides all the technology for the autonomous automobile -- the driverless car -- and Fiat Chrysler provides the vehicle.  Of course the vehicles are all internal combustion engine vehicles, but the move to electric plug-in vehicles is the next step, hopefully in 2017.

The transformation in the automotive sector cannot be over-estimated: Safer roads, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, fewer cars, ownership to shared transportation and a fundamental change from the first era of automobiles that began 100 years ago with Henry Ford. We have entered the second era of the automobile.

In the near future I will write more extensively about these major technology trends as they will alter how humanity lives, works, thinks and redefines itself.

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David Houle

David Houle is a global futurist, strategist and speaker. He has always been slightly ahead the curve. Houle spent more than 20 years in media and entertainment. He has worked at NBC, CBS and was part of the senior executive team that created and launched ... read more