Future trends

Sci-fi doesn’t have to be dystopian

The article explores the idea that science fiction doesn't always have to portray dystopian futures. It highlights authors who are crafting narratives that offer hope and optimism, challenging the prevailing trend of bleak visions of the future. By examining works of science fiction that focus on utopian or more balanced depictions of society, the article suggests that these stories can inspire readers to imagine alternative futures and explore the possibilities of human potential.

The article mentions several examples of hopeful stories in science fiction:

Will A.I. become the new McKinsey?

The article explores the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the consulting industry, particularly focusing on whether AI could replace traditional consulting firms like McKinsey & Company. It discusses the rise of AI-driven platforms and tools that offer data analysis, problem-solving, and decision-making capabilities comparable to those of human consultants.

While acknowledging the significant advancements in AI technology, the article also highlights the limitations and challenges AI faces in fully replacing human consultants. These include complexity of human interaction and the need for contextual understanding.

Ways of developing workers' skills

It is not a secret that our world is constantly changing, business strategies are continually developing, and technologies are evolving. So how can your employees keep up with all new knowledge and skills? Here are the ways a few big businesses are doing that:

School for employees at DBS bank 

DBS Bank, a multinational company with headquarters in Singapore, ensures that all 26,000 employees are encouraged to keep learning, no matter their age or seniority. 

DBS launched the “Back to School” program. It is a week-long program full of classes that employees teach. The decision not to hire professional teachers was based on research. It showed that people want to learn from their colleagues.

In addition to “Back to School”, the company launched a program that gives the employees a chance to do a different job. For example, a project manager can become a salesperson for a period of time and develop a very different set of skills.

Tech trends for the next 10 years

In a Forbes article, Bernard Marr predicts the 25 most important technology trends that will define the next 10 years. Not surprisingly, a number of them involve A.I. and IoT. Others will come from things like virtual, augmented and mixed realities; nanotechnologies; 3D printing; and Big Data.

The past 20 years have given us major technological game-changers, like Bluetooth, social media, and, of course, the iPhone. Other innovations include flash drives, hybrid cars, GPS, and the Cloud.

The speed of change in technology is increasing exponentially—every new development drives a number of others, each of which drives more, resulting in faster and faster change. It looks like this:

What technology trends do you think will drive the next 10 years?

Which 2020 predictions came true?

The year 2020 has served as a benchmark for many predictions, from business markets to technological advances to climate change. In 2015, Factor magazine published a list of ten predictions for 2020, most of which have come true.

  1. Same-day cancer treatment: YES

  2. Self-driving cars on the road: YES

  3. Cannabis market legalized and booming: YES

  4. 4 billion internet users: YES (almost 4.5 billion)

  5. Virtual reality market worth US$15.89 billion: YES (over US$18 billion; current predictions suggest it will reach US$120.5 billion by 2026)

  6. Mars 2020 rover mission: YES

Saving the world with batteries

The 2019 Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to three scientists who played a large role in developing lithium-ion batteries: Stanley Whittingham of the U.K., American John Goodenough (at 97, the oldest Nobel laureate ever), and Japan’s Akira Yoshino. Whittingham created the first functional lithium-ion battery in the 1970s, then Goodenough increased its capacity two-fold over the next 10 years. Finally, Yoshino removed the pure lithium, making it much safer to use.

Lithium-ion batteries are indispensable in today’s world, used in everything from cellphones to cordless power tools to electric cars. Rechargeable and able to store large amounts of energy, they have revolutionized electronics. As the Nobel Committee put it, "...this year’s chemistry laureates have laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society."

The World Wide Web turns 30

In 1989, physics researcher Jim Berners-Lee began writing code for what would become the World Wide Web. Thirty years on, and Berners-Lee’s invention has more than justified the lofty goals implied by its name. But with that scale has come a host of troubles.

Every year, on the anniversary of his creation, he publishes an open letter on his vision for the future of the web. This year’s letter, on the 30th anniversary, expresses a rare level of concern about the direction in which the web is moving.

“While the web has created opportunity, given marginalized groups a voice and made our daily lives easier,” he writes, “it has also created opportunity for scammers, given a voice to those who spread hatred and made all kinds of crime easier to commit.

The World Wide Web is broken

The internet today isn’t what Tim Berners-Lee pictured when he invented the World Wide Web nearly three decades ago.

Berners-Lee says the web is “at a tipping point” as it faces threats like market concentration, data breaches, user frustration with ads and privacy, hate speech and so-called “fake news.”

“If you’d asked me 10 years ago, I would have said humanity is going to do a good job with this,” he said. “If we connect all these people together, they are such wonderful people they will get along. I was wrong.”

Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web Foundation has unveiled a “Contract for the Web” outlining principles to protect the internet as a basic right for everyone. One key pillar of this initiative is that companies respect consumers’ privacy and personal data.

The future of A.I. voice technology

There are few technologies being more rapidly adopted and expanded in 2018 than voice A.I. In just a few years, the use of voice systems has evolved from simple voice commands to entire ecosystems of applications and interactions.

We’ve only begun to predict the ways voice A.I. will influence interactions between humans and technology in the decades to come. For instance, consumer behavior may shift to verbally purchasing items through smart speakers as they realize they’re running low, rather than creating a shopping list and then purchasing them all at once later. One possibility in the health care space is self-directed physical and occupational therapy done through A.I. voice assistants.

In a survey by Edison Research and NPR, 39% of respondents indicated they're very interested in having smart speaker technology in their televisions and 24% want it in their cars—two environments that are not conducive to using smartphones.

5G: What is it good for?

5G, or 5th generation mobile, is the next big leap in wireless communications. 5G will radically improve the bandwidth, capacity and reliability of mobile broadband, and will push mobile speeds from 100 Mbps to upward of 10 Gbps.  

But the real excitement over 5G comes with new uses that simply aren’t possible with today’s networks. Many of these involve the revolution in sensors, low-cost transmitters and cloud-based software known as the Internet of Things (IoT).  

As billions more things go online over the next several years, they will be using 5G networks to send and receive massive amounts of new data. Uses for that information will scale up from the personal to the global — connecting you, your home and your community.  

World's best chef feeds the hungry

Massimo Bottura is one of the world's greatest chefs. He has made it his mission to put an end to global hunger and believes that technology can make this a reality.

"The refrigerator and freezer revolutionized how we use food. They keep food fresh for much longer, but they’ve also made the visible, invisible." he explains. When you can’t see the food, it’s easier to let it go to waste. “Increasing the supply of food is not what we need. What we need to do is stop wasting it." Currently, about one third of the world's food is thrown away while 800 million people are malnourished.

Bottura founded the nonprofit organisation “Food for Soul” to help communities around the world put an end to food waste. Food for Soul has set up community kitchens, called "Refettorios," in several cities around the world where renowned chefs cook healthy meals for guests using surplus ingredients. 

Online shopping and crowded streets

Online shopping is skyrocketing. So what are cities going to do about it?

The rising numbers of deliveries are adding to concerns about traffic and pollution in rapidly growing cities around the world. In Europe and Asia, cities have barred deliveries during certain hours, built warehouses to centralise distribution and provided millions in funding to encourage firms to switch to quieter, greener equipment. In the U.S., discussions about how to handle the glut of online shipments were somewhat slower to start, but they're happening now.

In response to the increasing congestion, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a test ban on deliveries during commuter hours on some of the city's most crowded streets. Cities in Europe have taken other kinds of steps. Paris, for example, has sponsored logistics hubs, while one of London's bus operators is looking at the possibility of using buses for parcel delivery.

Exchanging desk jobs for farming

After more than a decade working in tech, Kimbal Musk (brother of famous technologist Elon Musk) decided to lean into his true passion: local food. He now runs a chain of local food-focused restaurants called The Kitchen, as well as Big Green, a national nonprofit that builds educational gardens in public schools.

So it might not be surprising that he expects a growing number of young Americans to join him in the local farming movement.

When asked to name a big food trend looking forward into 2018, Musk said he sees millennials flocking to careers in agriculture rather than traditional office jobs.

Senate passes self-driving car bill

In America, on a unanimous voice vote, a Senate committee approved legislation that authorizes self-driving car makers to sell as many as 80,000 vehicles a year within three years that would be exempt from current safety standards as manufacturers develop technology for autonomous vehicles.

The legislation only allows for the exemption—which gives car makers the chance to test and design new technology while potentially foregoing traditional standards for items such as the placement of controls and displays, rear-view mirrors or protection from the impact of steering wheels in a crash—in cases where manufacturers can show the exempted car or component is as safe as that already on the road.

 “This is cutting-edge technology that is advancing extremely fast,” said U.S. Sen. Gary Peters. “It’s going to happen a lot sooner than people realize. This is not decades—it’s a matter of a few years.”

Amazon and Microsoft to team up

Amazon and Microsoft are teaming up to get their virtual assistants to talk to each other.

Someone with an Amazon Echo smart speaker might use Cortana to book a meeting or to check a calendar, Amazon suggested in a press release announcing the news on Wednesday. Or Cortana users could control their smart home via Alexa.

When the feature becomes available later in 2017, users will access one virtual assistant via the other (at least at first) by saying "Alexa, open Cortana," or "Cortana, open Alexa," then give their command.

In a statement, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said: "Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us. Bringing Cortana's knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments, and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal."

Softbank to invest big in A.I.

At SoftBank Group's annual shareholders meeting in Tokyo on Wednesday, founder and chief executive Masayoshi Son said: "Some say SoftBank is a mobile phone company, but that's wrong [...] We are an information revolution company. A cellphone is just a device. From now on, we will be in an age where all infrastructure will be connected by information networks."

Son has about 30 targets lined up in emerging sectors such as artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things. SoftBank, he made it clear, intends to be at the forefront of all these fields.

Bike-sharing in urban Japan

The so-called sharing economy has spread to a variety of fields such as cars and homes, and Japan has seen another rising trend in recent years—bicycles.

A growing number of municipalities and private firms are providing bikes to gauge whether such services will catch on.

According to NTT Docomo Inc., which has been teaming up with municipalities to offer a bike-sharing service on an experimental basis, its bicycles were used about 1.8 million times in fiscal 2016, which ended March 31, up from 20,000 in fiscal 2012.

Docomo, Japan’s largest mobile phone carrier, is partnering with Koto, Chiyoda, Minato, Chuo, Shinjuku, Bunkyo and Ota wards in Tokyo. Around 4,200 two-wheelers were available at 281 “stations” as of March. Docomo also offers bike-sharing in the cities of Yokohama, Sendai, Hiroshima and Naha, Okinawa Prefecture.

Why is Amazon buying Whole Foods?

Amazon swooped in to buy the high-end grocer Whole Foods on Friday, paying $13.7 billion, or $42 a share—a healthy 27% premium on the previous day's closing price.

So what's in it for Amazon?

There are a couple of strategic plays at work for the online retail giant.

For starters, acquiring Whole Foods' 440 US stores—many of them in prime locations—could bolster the network for AmazonFresh, the company's grocery delivery service.

"To efficiently ship groceries to consumers, you need physical distribution (item-picking to put parcels together, click-and-collect points) close to the consumer," analysts at Bernstein wrote in a research note. "Stores are ideally located for that. They won't look like stores in five years' time, but they will be in those locations."

Singularity will occur by 2047

Singularity—the point when machine intelligence surpasses our own and goes on to improve itself at an exponential rate—will happen by 2050, according to Masayoshi Son, the Japanese tech mogul leading SoftBank.

In 2017 he said: "I totally believe this concept. In the next 30 years, this will become a reality."

Son went on to say that our world will fundamentally change as a result of so-called superintelligences that will be able to learn and think for themselves, TechCrunch reports.

Son added that he expects one computer chip to have the equivalent of a 10,000 IQ within the next 30 years, Bloomberg reported.

When will robots replace workers?

The falling cost of industrial robots will allow manufacturers to use them to replace more factory workers over the next decade while lowering labor costs, according to new research.

Robots now perform roughly 10 percent of manufacturing tasks that can be done by machines, according to the Boston Consulting Group. The management consulting firm projected that to rise to about 25 percent of such "automatable" tasks by 2025.

In turn, labor costs stand to drop by 16 percent on average globally over that time, according to the research.

The shift will mean an increasing demand for skilled workers who can operate the machines, said Hal Sirkin, a senior partner at Boston Consulting.

Factory workers "will be higher paid but there will be fewer of them," Sirkin said.