For the last 28 years, I have written a prediction column for the new year. I study our research and look for trends that provide hints of what might impact the tech industry in the near future.
In 2017, be on the lookout for augmented reality products (more so than VR), the further development of autonomous vehicles and smart cities, and the impact of the Internet of Things in the business world.
But for all the wonderful advancements on the horizon, there are things that concern me, too. Here are the top three things the tech industry needs to start thinking about sooner rather than later.
The Impact of AI, Robots on Jobs and Education Reform
The more I study AI and robots, the more concerned I am about them replacing jobs in all types of industries. Manufacturing jobs will be affected, of course, but AI could result in the elimination of jobs in every sector of business.
I have seen research reports that suggest as much as 35 percent of all current jobs could be replaced with AI-based robots by 2050. The one key problem I see with this trend, besides the fact that it would eliminate millions of jobs, is that our current education system is not preparing our youth for this inevitability.
When I was in middle school 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 working besides the basics of math, english, history, and science. 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 in to everything where repetitive tasks dominate the job.
Our educational system, which still has an emphasis on liberal arts, needs to focus 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 programming, data mining, digital security, and more. But our educational system is not even close to preparing our youth for the jobs of tomorrow. Tech leaders and educators must start now to craft an educational roadmap that gives our kids the skills needed to fill the jobs of tomorrow.
The Uber-fication of Transportation
Many of us watched with interest as the Uber-owned Otto showed off a self-driving truck hauling 2,000 crates of Budweiser through Colorado in October. And many of us love the convenience and ease of use of Uber and Lyft.
But these firms will, over time, move way from hiring drivers and roll out a fleet of self-driving vehicles and big rigs. Truck drivers could be hit the hardest, as this form of automated transportation will prove to be very cost effective for companies that previously paid drivers to haul their goods.
Also think about the hundreds of thousands 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 it is more cost effective to call up a self-driving car to take you to a destination when needed. If this happens, it also impacts car makers and dealers, as well as taxi and limo services.
AI, Cyber Security, and ID Theft
I have written about my grave concern regarding AI and how it could be used for various nefarious reasons.
As John Markoff of the New York Times noted recently, there are programs one expert called a “criminal franchise in a box,” which allows “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,” Markoff wrote. “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. I realize tech security experts 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.