Within in the decade, quantum technologies are poised to transform communications, the next generation of AI technologies will understand human emotion, and screen-free “ambient” computing will make technology ubiquitous.
These three emerging technologies may be well over the horizon, but that doesn’t stop us salivating about the prospects. Industry consultant Deloitte suggests that these trends should be on the radar of large companies today. A decade is not a long time.
“By taking a wait-and-see approach, you could miss critical opportunities to test and experiment while your competitors gain a competitive advantage,” it warns.
Let’s take a closer look.
READ MORE: Field notes from the future (Deloitte)
Quantum research is gaining momentum and is expected to migrate from labs to real-world commercial environments within this decade. Technology giants, governments, and early-stage start-ups are investing billions in a race to achieve quantum breakthroughs, reports Deloitte.
Quantum computers will probably be used alongside conventional computers to solve specialized calculations at a fraction of the speed.
Another potential use is in ultra-secure communication networks that can detect interception and eavesdropping. Among several techniques for achieving this level is quantum key distribution (QKD), in which parties exchange highly secure encryption keys to transmit data across optical networks. Even though QKD technology is not fully mature, several quantum communication networks have either been deployed or are in development.
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It may also be possible to use the sensitivity of subatomic particles, to build quantum sensing devices which are way more responsive and accurate than conventional sensors. Researchers are working to make them cheaper, lighter, more portable, and more energy-efficient.
AI Gains Emotional Intelligence
During the next decade, affective computing — or emotional quotient (EQ) — will continue to grow as machines are trained to both recognize and emulate human traits such as charisma, charm and emotion. Further, deductive reasoning and logical inference capabilities will be embedded into AI networks.
“In our quest for efficiency and insight, we are now designing [AI] to have a level of emotional acuity that is erasing the traditional human-machine cognitive hierarchy.”
Deloitte’s futurists continue, “Soon, these technologies will be able to look at a statistical correlation and, much like the human brain, determine if it makes sense or if it is just a random feature of the supporting data that has no intrinsic meaning. In other words, machines will be able to appreciate the world more as humans do, and less as a context-free collection of zeros and ones.”
The next step might be, for example, creating a senior-care bot with sensors that can distinguish between a lamp falling off a night table and an individual who has fallen and needs assistance.
“As AI grows in both intuitive and emotional capability over the next decade, bots may begin working as educators, writers, physicians, and even chief information officers.”
AI development is on an exponential growth curve. This train is not stopping. Things that seem uniquely human today will increasingly be expressed as sequences of code.
That leads Deloitte to address the elephant in the room: how can we develop artificial intelligences that embody our explicitly shared financial, social, and ethical values?
The analyst has no answer other than for organizations, governments, and regulators to closely monitor the “curriculum.”
“We must teach our digital children well, training them to do as we say, not necessarily as we’ve done.”
Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
Ambient Experience: Life Beyond the Glass
IMAX, 100-inch TVs and giant LED signage tends to mask the trend that most of our screens are getting smaller, not larger. The smartphone’s functions are already being dissipated into wearable or environmentally transparent sensors. With smart speakers, for example, we interface with the cloud “without the intermediation of glass.”
“During the next decade, ambient computing — a catchall term for a growing field of technologies and techniques that make digital reality available to users anytime and anywhere — will become our standard modality and, in doing so, will usher in an era of life lived beyond the glass.”
Indeed, ambient interfaces “will lie in wait,” predicts Deloitte, patiently inferring what next steps are needed and proactively offering the most efficient way to accomplish them.
We are already seeing how smart glasses and VR/AR headsets overlay digital information onto our field of vision.
“Think of this as bringing reality itself online,” suggests the analyst, “or painting atoms with bits, albeit with somewhat primitive brushes.”
Researchers and entrepreneurs such as InWith Corp. are already exploring possibilities for using smart contact lenses and even implanted brain chips to augment our senses and (literally) read our minds.
“Think about it: Why wouldn’t it be natural to look at the sun and see how many hours until sunset? Or look at a bus stop and see how many minutes until the next bus arrives? Curious to be sure, but perhaps preferable to staring at our phones all day.”
Why M&E Leads This Future
According to Mike Bechtel, chief futurist at Deloitte, many of these technology innovations will first be manifested in art and leisure, “where people take more risks.”
“We’ve seen ideas such as the ‘like button’ embraced first in consumer circles and then implemented in workplace chat platforms. Similarly, viral videos on social media today could pave the way for new forms of workplace training and onboarding. In other words, tomorrow’s IT department might look to us like they’re playing games in the metaverse, but, to them, that might be optimal knowledge-sharing.”