For the last 28 years, I have written a prediction column for the New Year. I study our research and look for trends and information that gives me hints of what I believe might be the hot topics or issues I believe will impact our tech industry in the near future.
As I looked closely at our research for our current year, I did see some important trends developing. For example, we believe AR will be more important and develop faster than VR in 2017. The development of autonomous vehicles will accelerate in the New Year and we should see even more of a tech focus to try and automate cars and the smart cities that need to develop to make self-driving cars possible. We also expect IoT to begin having a bigger impact in industrial IoT while the consumer market will slow down until the industry gets its act together in developing communication and interconnecting standards that allow these devices talk to each other easily and more accurately. And don’t get me started on predicting new security breaches and ID theft. I have not doubt we will see even more in 2017.
While there are other trends I see developing and will address them in the New Year, our research has also allowed me to see major issues I believe the industry needs to start factoring into their next wave of technology development. Here are some of the major concerns I think the tech industry really needs to start thinking through and acting on sooner than later.
AI and Robots’ mpact on jobs and the need for education reform
The more I study AI and robots, the more concerned I am about them replacing jobs in all types of industries. A lot of manufacturing jobs will be affected but I can now see AI being used in ways that could cause the elimination of jobs in just about every sector of business in one way or another. In fact, I have seen multiple research reports that flag this issue. A couple of them suggest that, by 2050, as much as 35% of all current jobs could be eliminated in favor of AI-based robots taking over in one form or another. The one key problem I see with this trend, besides the fact it would eliminate millions of jobs, is the fact our current education system is not preparing our youth for this inevitability. When I was in Junior High and High School, my educational track was pretty basic but it also had a strong emphasis on traditional vocations. I had electives such as auto shop, drafting and metal work besides the basics of math, english, history, etc. While I don’t think some of these vocations will go away, especially the need for teachers, electricians, plumbers, construction workers and other infrastructure-related jobs, AI and robots will expand their reach to everything where repetitive tasks dominate the job.
I see our educational system that still has an emphasis on more liberal arts needing to have a stronger emphasis on STEM as well as dedicated classes that prepare kids for a knowledge=based economy where technology will drive the jobs of the future. This includes key skills like programing, data mining, digital security and many others that will be needed to prepare them for the jobs of the future. This is a huge issue and, while the impact on jobs has been flagged, I don’t see enough discussion of the kind of education our kids will need to be prepared for the jobs of the future. Even though the impact of AI and robots on the job market will take time as it relates to the future job market, the current track of our educational system is not even close to starting the move towards preparing our youth. This will need the input of tech leaders and educators starting now to craft an educational roadmap that gives our kids the skills needed for tomorrow.
The uberification of transportation and its impact on related businesses
All of us watched with interest the Otto demonstration of a self driving truck delivering beer to a distributor recently. Many of us who use Uber or Lyft love its convenience and ease of use but Uber and Lyft will, over time, move away from hiring drivers to having fleets of self-driving vehicles and self-driving big rigs that eliminate the need for a driver. The truck industry could be hit the hardest as this form of automated transportation will prove to be very cost effective but it could mean that, within 10 years, close to two million truck driving jobs may be eliminated.
And think about the hundreds of thousand of parking garages around the US that could be impacted by self=driving services. Yes, some people will buy automated cars and need parking spaces but, over time, if it is more cost effective to just call up a self-driving car to take you to a destination, owning a car, even a self-driving car, may not be worth the cost. If this happens, it also impacts car makers and dealers as well as taxi and limo services.
AI, cyber security and ID theft
I recently wrote a piece in Tech.pinions about my grave concern reagrding AI and how it could be used for nefarious reasons. I quoted my friend, John Markoff of the New York Times and included this quote from the story:
“The thing people don’t get is that cybercrime is becoming automated and it is scaling exponentially,” said Marc Goodman, a law enforcement agency adviser and the author of “Future Crimes.” He added, “This is not about Matthew Broderick hacking from his basement,” a reference to the 1983 movie “War Games.”
The alarm about malevolent use of advanced artificial intelligence technologies was sounded earlier this year by James R. Clapper, the director of National Intelligence. In his annual review of security, Mr. Clapper underscored the point that while A.I. systems would make some things easier, they would also expand the vulnerabilities of the online world.
The growing sophistication of computer criminals can be seen in the evolution of attack tools like the widely used malicious program known as Blackshades, according to Mr. Goodman. The author of the program, a Swedish national, was convicted last year in the United States.
The system, which was sold widely in the computer underground, functioned as a “criminal franchise in a box,” Mr. Goodman said. It allowed users without technical skills to deploy computer ransomware or perform video or audio eavesdropping with a mouse click.
The next generation of these tools will add machine learning capabilities that have been pioneered by artificial intelligence researchers to improve the quality of machine vision, speech understanding, speech synthesis and natural language understanding. Some computer security researchers believe that digital criminals have been experimenting with the use of A.I. technologies for more than half a decade.”
This is a major threat and will only accelerate unless the tech market can find a way to control the role of AI in security and create the kind of tools and mechanisms to thwart these criminals from using AI for for these purposes. I realize tech experts in security are working hard to prevent any type of cyber attack but, if the crooks start automating the process, these types of attack could be massive and cause great damage in ways we could not have imagined even five years ago.
Although our research has uncovered other concerns, these three were at the top our list as we dug through our data and tried to get a sense of both the top trends and industry concerns for the New Year.