I stumbled on a forecast released by McKinsey’s Advanced Institute on 12 technologies that will (might?) transform the world in the next decade in terms of impact on life and economics and I would like to share it with you with some comments from my side.
- Mobile Internet is already a reality. What is happening is that in the developing world where no fixed lines are available in the mass market (and most likely will not be widespread and pervasive also in the next decade) the access to Internet will be wireless, hence mobile. What I see, however, is the growth of a “mobile culture” in the sense that everybody will get used to be part of the Internet, will consider Internet (its information, services, links) as an integral part of their life. We will likely forget that we used to have manuals, and we will probably forget that we used to learn dates, how to do, and so on. Quite seamlessly we will just get what we need when we need it. Planning will be a thing of the past, in many areas of the everyday life.
- Automation of knowledge work is something that has been taking place in the last 200 years since the industrial revolution. The point is that we are shifting the meaning of “knowledge” (and intelligence). Centuries ago knowledge was about how to do things and it seemed at that time that a machine could not learn how to do thing, could only be a prosthetic augmenting the “mechanical” capability of a person, nothing more. Well it turned out that machines learned to do things and would increase their capabilities over time to the point of doing certain things better than an artisan, and for sure in larger volume at lower cost. We felt that playing chess was a matter of intelligence and that a machine would not be able to stand against a good player. We were proven wrong and we decided that actually playing chess is not based on “real” intelligence…. We have psychological problem in comparing ourself with machines because we are NOT machines. Well, in the next decade the major shift in my mind will be the cultural acknowledgment that we ARE machines developed through eons of evolution. The outcome of the Human Brain project will be disruptive in this cultural sense, even more than in a technical sense (enabling new computational structures…). Hence the automation of knowledge work will just be another step in the increased sophistication of machines. What the futurist Thomas Frey says “One common fallacy is that people are being replaced by machines. The reality is that machines don’t work without humans. A more accurate description is that a large number of people are being replaced by a smaller number of people using machines” does not resonate completely with me. My opinion is that this was true in the past, for the future I would say that the increased intelligence in machines will on the one hand replace people’s intelligence and on the other hand will challenge people to increase their intelligence, thus enabling new opportunities.
- Internet of Things is again already happening under our noses, although under the thresholds of our perception. More and more things are directly or indirectly connected to the Internet and the data generated are being used to create a larger map of connected objects that is virtualised on the Internet. This process will clearly continue in this and in the next decade and indeed I share the feeling that in the next decade we will have a mirroring of most of the objects made of atoms into objects made of bits and residing on the Internet. This mirroring is opening up a new dimension, the one of the Internet WITH things, IwT. We will be able to interact with both the objects made of atoms and the ones made of bits and the boundary of one vs the other will tend to fade away in our perception. Actually, most services will leverage the object made of bits because it is easier, and cheaper, to work on bits.
- Cloud technology is commoditising a good portion of IT and it will likely continue to do so in the rest of this decade. In the next decade what I see is that the pervasiveness of IT will create a global fabric where a significant portion of services and information will be spread out, thinly, at the edges, in objects and devices, in what is starting to be known as “the fog”.
I’ll continue to examine the remaining technology areas in the next posts.