Vision - 10 Key Digital Trends

When we talk about Digital Transformation, we are actually talking about a multiverse of emerging and accreting technologies that are fundamentally and irrevocably changing technology, work and society. 

Brilliant Screens and Immersive Reality

The viewer experience on the latest generation OLED 4k screens+ means that watching something on the screen is better than seeing it in real life. Combined with noise-cancelling headphones, it’s is clear that we are rapidly entering a new, immersive reality. This simply means that rather than being in the real world, we will increasingly prefer the digital world. This trend will only accelerate with the release of new technologies. 

Big Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

We are now on successive generations of technology and user data. Machine learning and AI are being used to sift through this data to understand predictive relationships and patterns. As this becomes refined, we will enter a push environment rather than a pull one. Right now, we pull services: what movie to watch, what book to read. In the near future, these will be pushed to us by intelligent agents. This is the semantic web, or Web 3.0. 

Gamification

 

The first two trends are perfectly illustrated by MMOGs like World of Warcraft, Fortnite, Counterstrike and others. The immersive and ultimately addictive gaming world is an early adopter of AI and machine learning for rendering and platform management. Users seek self-fulfilment and dopamine validation online. For many young people, the online world is better than the offline one. Many online sports champions make more money online than Olympic-level champions in the real world. Gamification is now being adapted in education, banking and other sectors. 

The Surveillance State and Population Control

 

Governments are using the digital world to implement a surveillance state: a system whereby 100% of all citizen activity is recorded and online. Part of this is seen through cellphone tracking and call recording, which is now standard in the West. Part of this is seen through the push to a cashless society, and putting all transactions online. There are multiple justifications for this—terrorism, public security, anti-money laundering, tax evasion—but they all move in the same direction. 

The Automation Revolution

The large majority of traditional industry and service professions will be overwhelmed by the automation revolution. Advanced, sentient software will transform the manual approach taken by lawyers or accountants. Robots will replace more and more humans in every sphere of activity. Entire classes of professions, such as taxi drivers, will be made irrelevant by automated technology such as driverless cars. Other professions, such as secondary and tertiary education or the medical sector, will be fundamentally transformed in terms of productivity and client interaction. 

Fake News and Deepfakes

 

The 2016 Brexit referendum and US presidential campaign, and the 2019 UK elections, show that fake news now dominate public discourse. Reality and history are no longer objective: they are actively interpreted by whichever political party or actor chooses to engage. This trend will be almost impossible to eliminate, even if the powers that be wanted to. Deepfakes and related technology will rapidly make it impossible for an ordinary citizen to make decisions in his or her best interest. This has grave implications on managing a democratic process or state, and a restriction or change to the democratic franchise almost seems necessary (although deeply unpalatable) in the future. 

Too Much Money / Overfinancialisation 

In the tech sector, we see that too much money is chasing too few investment opportunities. This means that finance is no longer a factor in development. The right opportunities will always be funded. However, this also creates a permanent market distortion (see below). 

Monopoly and Concentration

 

In a digital age where distribution cost are zero, the trend of overfinancialisation is resulting in over concentration. The digital world is fragmenting into monopolistic leviathans in the form of Facebook, Google (Alphabet), Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and others. These entities are rapidly concentrating industry power both due to their financial status, but also due to their ability to buy smaller competitors or add-ons. It remains to be seen how sustainable competition can work in a digital age. 

Personal Data Security 

The age of personal data security is over. Commercial services will increasingly consolidate personal data points and generate complex consumer and voter profiles. This will include content aggregation from social media, but also data points such as voting, property costs and taxes (based on registered addresses), newsletter and media subscriptions, vehicle registration, loyalty cards and much more. This dat will be used for predictive marketing and analytics, but also for a form of political analysis and, likely, control. This goes far beyond the privacy concerns we face on Facebook or other platform. 

The Digital Monopoly

The digital world is coalescing around a discrete set of strategic monopolistic players. These include Google (search and advertising); Microsoft (operating systems); Facebook (social media and communications); Amazon (e-retail and web hosting); and more. Different regions are promoting their own national champions: the emerging conflict between the United States and China over 5G technology is a case in point. This dominance by trillion-dollar-valuation companies of "too-big-to-fail" monopolies means that the future of tech will be very different from the last 25 years.