20th January 2025. Your smart watch wakes you out of slumber as your world comes alive in a matter of seconds. The lights come and go out automatically; the water is ready at a pre-set temperature. The smart watch also records the number of steps you walk and the amount of water you drink, keeping fitness levels in check. Your preferred breakfast is delivered to your doorstep and a notification informs you that you need to be in office. As you leave, the smart door monitoring system locks the door and secures the home, as garage doors open and the car swings out. Lo and behold, your reality has become automated.
We all stand on the brink of a complete transformation, in all spheres of life. Tomorrow’s life looks very different from what we experience today and will revolve around customizable solutions designed to suit individual lifestyles. There are three major factors that are driving this transformation:
1. Linkage between Physical and Digital - The total number of connectable devices owned across the world is estimated to touch 212 billion across the world by 2020. Yet, the average office worker continues to consume about 2 pounds of paper per day. This essentially means that although Artificial Intelligence will take over most processes and quantum leaps will happen in technological aspects such as Robotics, Internet of Things, energy storage, and 3D printing, the physical world will continue to remain enmeshed with the digital, creating diverse opportunities and challenges.
2. Time Travel - While the first industrial revolution took a century or more to actually happen, the second merely took decades. The third was even faster while the fourth is happening every minute around us. In fact, the number of technological changes that have occurred in the last decade has outstripped the number of changes that have taken place in the past five decades. The rapid pace of change impacts the functioning of industries, economies and government, giving each of these units subsequently lesser time to respond to needs of tomorrow.
3. Individualization – With search technologies and navigation capabilities continuously improving, each person is now a world by themselves. Customized solutions tailored to meet the needs of a particular person have become a norm. With automation seeping into all spheres, technology can now be adapted to not just meet but also excel at understanding and working around an individual’s preferences.
From self-driven cars to drones capturing and processing petabytes of information, the future definitely looks to be disruptive. However, each opportunity also brings with it its own challenges. While all these technological changes are productive, they have given us questions to ponder upon as well. In an individualistic society, what happens to human values and nature? With physical and digital coming together, what is the impact on issues such as sustainability and grass root development? What happens to problems such as inequality? Where do lines blur between the digital and the biological?
These challenges are some of the focus areas of discussion at this WEF 2016. Stay tuned to these blogs for further updates.