Technology Trends of 2020

At the Last Futurist, we enjoy looking at AI Trends and digital transformation trends. In between those two are more broad technology trends.

In fact these topics make up the mission statement of this new news site.

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Digital Transformation
  • 4th Industrial Revolution
  • Technology trends / Futurism

However the last decade had a lot of technology and gadgets that didn’t fare so well in the real world. Ring a bell?

  • Virtual Reality VR
  • Chat Bots
  • Augmented Reality
  • Blockchain
  • IoT
  • Quantum Computing

The decade was mobile all the way, with mass adoption taking place the way we might expect the brain-computer interface (BCI) to achieve mass adoption in a future decade years from now. In the decade ahead the move to automated stores and electric vehicles are real trends, but it’s important to differentiate the hype from the reality.

Autonomous vehicles, quantum computing going mainstream, better self-learning AI, hang on a second! Even mass adoption of digital currencies is coming faster.

From computers to the internet and smart phones, a few generations shows a lot of progress. But technology never stands still. Advertising has scaled a world of surveillance capitalism normalization and an AI-arms race is now taking place.

Most technology trends and AI listicles only touch the surface of how humans are embedding technology increasingly into their lives. However looking at it from the perspectives of many industries and across technology and innovation stacks gives a more complete picture.

The real world and customer experience are the real tests for new technological innovations and pivots. It will take decades for 3D printing, quantum computing and an AGI to even become mature, but an age of biotechnology and AI in healthcare, education and finance is inevitable.

1. Chinese Tech Firms Grow in Global Scale

From Huawei, to ByteDance (TikTok), to Didi, China will wage major battles for global market share in 5G, consumer apps, E-commerce, mobile payments and ride sharing, among others. Chinese led tech companies — with the support of the Chinese Government and venture funds such as Softbank Vision Fund — can mean that in the 2020s China’s ecosystem fully replaces Silicon Valley as the leader of innovation. In 2019, some believe this has already occurred.

2. Competition in the Cloud Heats Up in 2020

Many talk about the race to AI or streaming wars as notable markets to watch, but at the Last Futurist, smart speakers and the Cloud seem more pragmatic races and markets to watch. In 2020, Google Cloud and Alibaba Cloud have breakout years while Microsoft Azure continues to make headway on Amazon’s AWS even though, technically speaking, in terms of production maturity and features, AWS is years ahead of the pack.

3. Autonomous Driving Pilots Continue Slow Progress

The early 2020s will see notable self-driving car pilots by Waymo One and a variety of other players as the entire automobile industry consolidates towards EVs and the future autonomous vehicle market of the 2030s.

  • You can read LinkedIn’s 20 things to watch.

4. Demand for Cybersecurity Professionals Becomes Critical

One of the most hyped job-skill shortages is in cybersecurity, and that should increase in 2020 since cybersecurity will be a major issue for 5G, IoT and consumers having more connected and smart devices in the home.

Demand for expertise will rise as companies realize that their current IS strategy is not sufficient. Additionally, data breaches, data manipulation, cyber fraud and identity theft are on the rise.

5. Retail, Finance and Transportation Are Increasingly Impacted by Machine Intelligence

When we think of the advent of smart stores, algorithms in Finance and autonomous driving, the retail, finance and transportation industries will continue to be impacted by more disruptive technology that will morph these industries into examples of the smart automation economy (SAE).

In terms of machine intelligence and customer and client experiences in retail, finance and transportation & logistics, as well as healthcare, banking, law and human resources, all will continue to show the increasing impact of AI.

6. Social Media Continues to Evolve

According to a report by the WOM Protocol, a blockchain product listed in South Korea, where one token is worth $0.07, 2020 will be an important year for social media’s evolution. They list:

  • The social meme will evolve
  • Blockchain content channels will arrive with more engaging incentives
  • Encrypted chat ecosystems will improve
  • Influencer marketing will become more honest & trustworthy
  • Self sovereign marketing will enable a new kind of word of mouth to occur online
  • Ephemeral content and micro video will continue to be more experiential & interactive.
  • Social commerce will become more common as social media and in-app purchases fuse together more (e.g. TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc…).

You can read the full trend analysis of social media trends of 2020 here.

Our relationship to AI will change fundamentally between 2020 and 2040.

7. Artificial Intelligence Will Help Reduce Healthcare Costs and Improve Personalized Care

2020 is a big year for smart healthcare with more companies getting in on how to reduce medical costs, improve personalization in the patient care journey and in the use of machine intelligence on early diagnosis, telemedicine adoption and smart devices harvesting medical data that will be consolidated into better healthcare services.

Companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others will begin to truly ramp up their investment in health related technology, which will have a significant impact on how consumers experience healthcare and how they share their health related data for benefits. The AppleWatch and Alexa skills are examples of that today.

8. Geopolitical and Ethical Implications of AI in the Spotlight

2020 is a major year for the regulation of machine learning, data harvesting, and the impact of AI on a variety of industries, groups and applications. In particular the ethical use of surveillance, facial recognition, data harvesting practices, geo-targeting and others will be hotly debated. This coincides with Congress looking into Google and Facebook with greater scrutiny in 2020 than ever before.

BigTech is likely to put more emphasis on AI regulation and corporate social responsibility in the use of AI as employees have become activists for such. We’ve seen this in companies such as Google and Microsoft where increasingly employees have a significant voice in how these companies use AI that could have significant consequences on large groups of people for years in the real world.

9. RPA Becomes more Mainstream

As the automation economy is still nascent, technologies like RPA, 3D-printing, quantum computing and nanotechnology continue to evolve in 2020. However RPA could achieve much more mainstream recognition.

RPA stands for robotic process automation. In 2020 more CEOs will turn to robotic process automation to eliminate tedious tasks, freeing corporate workers to focus on higher value work. RPA requires proper design, planning and governance and could experience a significant boost in 2020.

This additional capacity can be used to up-skill teams to drive further innovation, R&D and digital transformation business improvements in efficiency. RPA emerges just as AI continues to augment many of the tasks of white collar professionals at large in the 2020s.

10. 5G Will Experience Security Challenges and Be Slow to Improve

While 5G is rolling out in 2020, it could be a messy start. It will eventually create a new demand for hardware and smartphones, but the risks are also considerable from a security perspective.

When an increasing number of devices are connected to 5G systems, it could get overwhelming. Elevators, HVAC, CCTVs, and smart speakers start connecting directly to the cloud via 5G and that will present hacking opportunities, as we have seen already in late 2019 with Amazon’s Ring device. From smart TVs, to more CCTVs in smart cities, to the smart car, 5G will take a few years to consolidate its security and cyber risk measures.

11. Platform Moderation and Trust & Security Will Continue to Be Broken

Platforms like Facebook, Airbnb, YouTube and Uber will continue to have significant issues with regards to bad behaviour, fraudulent activity and inept moderation causing more scandals. Platform governance will be a big focus in 2020 and is also related to the antitrust probes of huge ad-firms like Google and Facebook that promote their own products and services in a monopolistic way as well as having made acquisitions historically that stunted innovation and competition in an unfair way.

12. Softbank Vision Fund Learns from Its Multiple Errors

The biggest technology venture capital fund in the world made many mistakes in its first round with WeWork and others. In its proposed $108 billion that’s more AI-focused in 2020, it will have to make better choices and bet on companies and startups with more valid business models that are profitable to get things right.

At the Last Futurist, we believe significant investments in the AI/consumer apps platform ByteDance will enable that company to make significant advances in 2020 to its value proposition, AI-as-a-Service products, diversification of app products and gain further mobile advertising and search market share.

Softbank Vision Fund’s emphasis on WeWork, Uber and autonomous driving in particular seem like over-earnest bets as of 2020, considering what we know today. Masayoshi Son will have to overcome bias in how he invests the fund’s $ Billions. WeWork and Wag in particular demonstrate the lack of sophistication of Son’s high-risk approach to vetting companies.

However some companies besides ByteDance to bear watching:

  • Robot delivery startup, Nuro.
  • GM’s self-driving arm, Cruise.
  • Facial recognition startup SenseTime.
  • Home healthcare startup, Honor.

As for ByteDance, I personally think an IPO in 2021 makes the most sense.

13. Biotechnology Intersects with AI

For the pharma sector, AI and machine learning will continue to become more involved in the process of drug discovery. The 2020s is a bright age of biotech startups and some of those will rise to become huge companies of the 2030s.

Currently, years are wasted in clinical trials because drug researchers are taking notes, then entering those notes in spreadsheets and submitting them to the FDA for approval. Instead, highly accurate analysis driven by AI can lead to radically faster drug discoveries. As AI begins to fast track pharma R&D, biotech companies rise to greater dominance in a new era of healthcare augmented by technology.

14. Remote Work, Gig-Economy Jobs and Contractors Will Increase

As phase one of the automation economy begins, changes to the labour market including a skills shortage will mean more contractors, self-employed and remote workers as the trend continues into the 2020s.

As the perks of remote work become more mainstream, it will increase adoption since workers under 25 in particular are embracing this approach. It’s a major part of the future workforce. Less time commuting, feeling trusted, being more productive, and having more control over work-life balance are just a few of the perceived benefits for workers. However, they are not without their risks as well for both individuals and companies.

15. The Streaming Wars Will Continue to Challenge the TV and Movie Industry

The Streaming wars with Disney, Apple, Peacock, WarnerMedia and others entering the streaming era of Netflix means new forms of competition, advertising and content quality at lower prices will continue to disrupt the TV, entertainment and movie industry.

Disney plus is increasing its user base faster than anticipated while Netflix pushes its global originals strategy hard in 2020.

16. Magic Leap is the Next WeWork

The one major startup that has gotten a lot of hype that will completely implode in 2020 is Magic Leap. There are many reasons, but poor sales and an unfinished product show a tremendous risk of this occurring sooner rather than later. The hype of creating an AR/VR platform was so risky even Facebook appears to have failed in it.

With 6,000 headsets sold in the first 6 months, you just have to shake your head. Magic Leap will need some magic to survive the years ahead, with a product that’s delayed at best, scrapped more likely.

17. Some 2019 IPOs Saw Epic Failures, 2020 Will Be Better

In what was supposed to be a great crop of startups in 2019, Uber, Slack and so many others disappointed. The market did not treat unprofitable companies kindly, rejecting Uber and WeWork outright.

This is also changing when and how startups go public.

For every Zoom and Luckin there’s a Smiledirect and a Douyu or Lyft. What lessons can we learn from it all? Timing is everything.

So who is on deck in 2020? Airbnb, Palantir, Ant Financial, DoorDash, Didi Chuxing, and already those names point to an even better crop of IPOs for 2020.

Who else would not surprise me? GitLab, Credit Karma, Instacart, Droom and many others. All respect to Crowdstrike and Beyond Meat, but 2020 could have more companies that will still be around in 30 years.

18. As the Internet Gets Bigger Tech Adoption Rates Speed Up

How companies scale and can go to market globally is also increasing in speed due to digital transformation. As more people on the planet join the internet it means places like India, China and SouthEast Asia become more valuable to the future of technology. A good example will be the rise of E-commerce in the next five years in South East Asia and India.

When TikTok grew in India in 2019, it didn’t just grow, it exploded in popularity to become an existential threat to Instagram nearly overnight on the global stage. With 5G and mobile continuing to evolve, the next tech companies could be health tech and ed tech companies. ByteDance, for example, started off in consumer apps and AI, but could end up becoming a music, mobile search, education and entertainment platform.

Increased speed of global scale means the best tech companies become AI-native companies faster, promoting new kinds of innovation, R&D and patents at the level of what Amazon or Huawei are capable of doing today.

The best among tomorrow’s technology companies become platforms with diversified business models and subscription based recurring revenues, as well as having significant B2C and B2B elements (e.g. Microsoft and Amazon).

19. In 2020 Hype of AR/VR, Blockchain and Quantum Computing Will Give In to IoT

With 5G in the real world the future of omnichannel begins to shift, as technologies that didn’t live up to the hype such as augmented reality, virtual reality, blockchain and quantum computing are talked about less.

IoT is the hybrid of devices, digital transformation and machine learning and fuels the beginning of an era of automation robotics, personalization, personal assistants, micro interactions via voice interface, the smart home and more augmented, smarter cities.

20. The Role of Technology in Capitalism Reform Will Be Talked About

2020 is after all an election year and the role of technology and AI in the persistent and increasing wealth inequality in American capitalism will be talked about more as the democratic socialism movement begins to build up steam.

However Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez do in their politics, they have brought new questions about the role of technology in social mobility, affordability, and life, wealth and income inequality in the United States. There’s a growing consensus that “Capitalism” itself needs a makeover and to be augmented by technology to improve its efficacy, fairness and experience for citizens.

“The system of making capitalism work well for most people is broken.” No, this quote doesn’t come from U.S. Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders; it’s from a viral LinkedIn article by Ray Dalio. The backlash against the Billionaire class is growing, and even they realize what’s coming.

The role of AI and BigTech in hastening the acceleration of wealth inequality is one of the most important issues of our times and impacts how the world of business and technology continues to function as well as the prospect of a “cold tech war” between the U.S. and China’s rising superpower status.

21. The Voice Interface Matures in 5G Integrated IoT

We’re only in the beginning stages of IoT: the number of IoT devices reached 8.4 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach 30 billion devices by 2020, famously according to Gartner. How Google, Amazon, Alibaba and Baidu are also scaling the voice interface to the smart home and to earbuds is important and will continue to transform how we relate to technology.

Voice-AI will be the interface of the 2020s, just as mobile was for 2010s. IoT means new layers of connectivity, interoperability and data harvesting take flight, changing our essential experience with technological speed, convenience and personalization.

22. Human Beings Will Start to Augment Themselves

Being augmented by AI once seemed like a trans-humanist’s dream. However in 2020, it will start to occur. The success of Apple wearables, earbuds with AI assistants, less invasive apps, real-time language translation — all these things change us on a fundamental level.

Machine learning as a partner at work, automating many of the tasks we once spent time on daily will become the new normal. AI begins to alter us from stages of enhancement to augmentation that makes a real difference. This also creates a new class warfare: those who will be able to afford “augmentation” vs. those who cannot.

What is the technological equivalent of having laser eye surgery? Will it be access to premium personal assistants that are ad-free? That’s indeed quite likely. What other new forms of augmentation will take place?

23. Ads Will Arrive on Smart Speakers

As Amazon cuts Google off at the pass for the future of advertising, Alexa will be the first to debut voice ads. This also makes sense since Amazon products have so much appeal, Google will struggle to compete since it doesn’t have a great consumer relationship.

As voice ads become more common, Amazon continues to steal more ad market share from Google and Facebook. Will Ads come to smart speakers in 2020? I think that may be premature. A more likely date is in 2021. However, make no mistake, Alibaba and Amazon are the big winners of ads tethered to voice and personal assistants since they will be the new kind of “notification” as we spend less time on mobile and more time in the AI-voice interface in the 2020s.

24. Edge Computing Operations Boost Efficiencies

Edge computing brings data storage and computation closer to the target and thus improves response times and saves bandwidth. The so called “empowered” Edge brings new efficiencies.

As of now, edge computing is being fuelled by the rapid evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT) and in the future, it will create an unstructured architecture over a set of distributed cloud services. As the hybrid cloud and AI in the cloud evolves, this becomes more important.

There is an increasing rise in the use of storage, sensor, computer, and advanced AI capabilities. One such example is the latest package delivery drone by Amazon. Edge computing allows for better real time and customer experiences across the board in thousands of human-technology interactions.

Some stores don’t have such a bright future.

25. The Retail Apocalypse Accelerates

Those retail analysts and journalists who told you the retail apocalypse was a myth are lying. It is a real trend backed up by numbers of store closures and increasing E-commerce adoption.

Retail and technology research firm Coresight recently reported that retail store closures hit an all-time high in 2019. As of this month, US-based retailers clocked 9,302 store closings, following a lower 8,000 store closings just two years ago in 2017.

Including store openings, the net loss is still significant at nearly 5,000 brick-and-mortar stores. This is also due to a bloated U.S. store infrastructure, higher rents and changing consumer behaviors. In 2019, we witnessed similar losses in the media jobs sector. These are early signs of the disruption and industry shifts of the early automation economy and increasing centralization among the top players.

In 2019, EMarketer Inc., among the most widely cited sources for estimates of U.S. online retail sales, says it now expects Amazon to account for 37.7% of online commerce this year, down from a prior estimate of 47%. In 2018, Amazon’s share of the US ecommerce market hit 49%. That’s 5% of all retail spending across the entire country.

Given the momentum of the retail apocalypse (2017-2020), 2020 should be another dire year for store closures, even as the U.S. economy is likely to overheat in a pivotal election year.

26. The Electric Vehicle Sector Takes Off

Tesla, Rivian, NIO and mainstream adoption by the automobile sector of EVs is the new trend. Even in late 2019 recent developments show how quickly things will change.

Tesla has reportedly secured more than $1.4 billion in financing in the form of loans from multiple Chinese banks in order to help fund the construction of its new gigafactory in Shanghai. Tesla’s stock as of December 23rd is soaring to new highs.

Rivan is Amazon backed. Now Ford is also in. Today Rivian announced $1.3 billion in a new funding round. Here we are talking about Tesla cybertruck’s closest rival. Other big numbers this year include a $350 million investment from Cox Automotive. Founded in 2009, Rivian has now raised over $3 billion, according to Pitchbook. Rivian plans to release an electric SUV, the R1S, and an electric pickup truck, the R1T, next year.

What this means is Tesla and Rivian could end up being the North American early duopoly of EV startups. Tesla could mature as a company and appears to be attracting high level talent. Its progress in China looks significant.

27. Stock Market Hits All Time Highs

The stock market had one of its best years ever in 2019, with a stellar 2019 IPO crop in spite of some epic failures. 2019 was the year of the tech stocks, and stocks such as Apple, Tesla and Roku were some of the big winners and show continued strong trajectories going into 2020.

However, 2020 is an election year and due to the lack of a recession since the great recession, financial uncertainty is very likely in a contrasting election year that could decide America’s place in the 21st century. Trump has done a great job at boosting confidence in the economy, consumer sentiment and the stock market generally with trade war tweets, but all cannot end well for one of the least popular Presidents with young people in recent memory.

Apple’s stock is up 80% so far in 2019, showing a stock market that is essentially stronger than ever.

The Renaissance IPO Index is up 34% — outperforming the S&P 500 in what could be a historic year for stocks. Healthcare and technology were the top IPO performers for the fifth straight year.

As technology platforms scale into healthcare and new healthtech and biotech companies emerge, 2020 will be a formative year for the decade ahead.

28. The Cloud Matures in 2020 Consolidating Tech’s entry into Healthcare

If you thought the Cloud had a good decade in the 2010 to 2019 period and that biotech had a good 2019, you haven’t seen anything yet.

The Cloud is really just beginning with room for many players. Amazon and Microsoft built the infrastructure that spawned a new generation of companies and helped others develop new services. On the backs of giants, new companies are born. Slack, Twilio, Okta and Zoom are each worth more than $10 billion, thanks to the growth of the cloud. The B2B space is increasing in its importance.

So much has changed, and so much has stayed the same. Adobe and Autodesk have revitalized their businesses through subscriptions.

Salesforce and Azure have gone mainstream, while what was formerly a side project, Amazon Web Services (AWS) now generates $35 billion in annual revenue by allowing clients to offload their storage and computing needs to a third party. AWS is getting into AI-as-service, not to mention blockchain and quantum computing as well.

What does it all mean? Content isn’t king, Cloud is king.

29. Omnichannel Robotic Delivery is Invented

In the 2020s Amazon, JD and Alibaba among others will invent autonomous delivery systems. Here drone delivery will work in tandem with autonomously driven vehicles, robots and new kinds of logistics governed by AI and optimized by various kinds of delivery robots.

Amazon recently made a patent similar to this concept:

The top E-commerce players are learning to perfect logistics and robots and AI will be required to automate it in the years ahead.

Companies like Nuro have raised more than $1 Billion in recent times. Startups like Nuro might contribute to the advancement of local delivery robots and autonomous mechanisms for last-mile delivery which would be huge for the future of retail and consumer fulfilment.

Nuro is one of the few companies to be operating fully driverless vehicles on public roads today.

30. Disney Plus will Gain Subscribers Faster than Netflix Did

For global growth Disney Plus ($7 in the U.S.) should grow to the 100 million mark faster than Netflix did with its brand name and extensive kid friendly library of content.

Netflix hit 100 million subscribers in April, 2017. If you are counting, that’s 20 years later. Disney is so dominant at the box office, it doesn’t matter that its latest Star Wars trilogy was a deeply flawed narrative.

Disney’s stellar 2019 hits means Disney Plus has the best possible beginning imaginable, with 10 million subscriptions on the first day itself. But I think it’s in global subscriptions that Disney will really shine with the brand name recognition it already has.

How popular was Disney Plus’s launch on November 12th exactly? Disney Plus subscriptions ballooned to an estimated 24 million subscribers three weeks later, according to Cowen analysts. Disney Plus was 2019’s top trending Google search term. It should hit 100 million subscriptions by 2022, much faster than originally expected.

The service costs $7 a month in the US, or $70 if you prepay for a full year. For cable cutters it’s an attractive proposition. As Netflix bleeds cash, Disney, Apple and Amazon, who have bigger pockets, can really learn to produce better content. Keep in mind in 2019, Disney had a year for the ages where it produced a staggering 80% of the top Box Office hits.

31. Video Gaming is Going More Mainstream

While the 2010 to 2019 decade was pretty huge for video gaming, the rise of Esports, streaming and such, the decade ahead will be even bigger. This is partly due to the emergence of mobile gaming, cloud stream gaming, game streaming platforms and more consumer confidence in the video gaming industry broadly speaking.

With even platforms like Snap Inc. and Apple getting into gaming and Twitch and Xbox Game Studios becoming so successful for Amazon and Microsoft, it’s clear there will also be “gaming wars” in the 2020s. From Tencent to Google, everyone is getting into gaming.

The video games market is expected to be worth over 90 billion U.S. dollars by 2020, from nearly 78.61 billion in 2017. Our love of games is nothing short of a virtual reality movement towards mobile and screen immersion which, funnily enough, has little to nothing to do with VR/AR.

While old school online PC games were expected to take up 47% of the global PC and console gaming revenues in 2019, mobile gaming and game streaming will mature. Gaming will also take time away from online media, social media, TV and video consumption as “screen” natives grow up and continue to challenge the old status quo.

Video game sales increased about 8.7% to nearly $150 billion in 2019 and are expected to reach about $189 billion per year by 2022. For video consumption, watching gaming via Twitch, Douyu, Huya, Kuaishou and Mixer all show very favorable trajectories.

As for actual game streaming, it’s not just Google Stadia but Sony, Microsoft, Amazon and others. Ubiquitous interoperable game streaming on any device is coming.The future of game streaming and Esports is very bright.

32. The Shift to Voice Interface Will Continue

With Apple becoming a bonafide wearables company with AirPods demand high and a stellar AppleWatch (with a significant lead on Xiaomi in the wearables market), the transition from mobile to voice should continue with smart speaker penetration moving into the mainstream in 2020 with Google, Amazon, Alibaba and Baidu as the leaders.

The Voice-AI interface is slow to improve, but as it does it will become more convenient. A 5G world is not one where we are glued to our smartphones necessarily as much as we once were. The AI driven world means voice recognition everywhere and in everything.

Thanks to advances in speech recognition, artificial intelligence and processing power, voice computing will continue to evolve and influence customer experiences, E-commerce and experiences in the smart city and smart car, as well as in the smart office and smart home in increasing variety and multiplicity of interactions.

33. AI’s Role in Customer Service Will Increase

AI is becoming more involved in customer service interactions and will take on more tasks and new roles. In the last year, contact centres and organisations focused on customer engagement have moved beyond the AI hype into practical implementation. There are tangible examples of AI applications already in full swing in the contact centre industry, ranging from Natural Language Processing (NLP) to image recognition.

Research from industry-leading analyst Gartner suggests that in 2020, 80 percent of customer service interactions will be handled, at least partly, by AI. This is hardly surprising, as around a quarter of customer interactions are already handled through an automated chatbot, and the customer engagement technology sector is constantly expanding the very definition of what AI is and what it can do.

AI can optimize a lot of queries and fast-track humans to better serve customer service requests in both speed and quality.

Cybersecurity risks escalate in an IoT and 5G world.

34. AI Will Begin to Be More Impactful in Cybersecurity

Better deep learning combined with more demand in cybersecurity will mean AI will become more important and involved in cybersecurity — a resurgence of artificial intelligence embedded into the fabric of our security frameworks. Expect to see some exciting machine learning (ML) developments in the seemingly ‘ad infinitum’ war on cyber threats and bad actor group attack circuits.

35. The AI Chip Market Will Explode

As AI hype continues into the 2020s, the AI Chip market is heating up. So many things now depend on these algorithms of the last decade. Think about it, everything from the smart replies generated by your email or smartphone, the tagging of photos on social media, product recommendations on e-commerce sites, the directions provided by mapping apps, and the music and video recommendations on streaming services all use the predictive power of AI.

NVIDIA, Intel, AMD, there are so many players in the space and now tech companies are also producing their own AI chips. The 2020s is really the intersection of AI in the Cloud. Companies like Microsoft and Baidu can therefore do great things here. Samsung is making Baidu’s new AI chips.

Amazon announced it would make its custom-designed Inferentia chip available to AWS customers. This chip was specifically developed with inference in mind — as the name implies — so GPUs are still necessary during the training phase. By making it available to its customers, Amazon is helping to bring cost-effective AI to the masses.

The battle of AI chips in the Cloud will be worth watching, with Azure, Google Cloud and AWS all formidable.

36. Screen Addiction Will Be Combated by New Products and Regulation

It appears that in 2020, the adverse impact of digital dopamine and social media apps has taken a new turn with even TikTok being banned by the military for cybersecurity risks. A new wave of analytics on how we use technology, apps and screen time is coming to better equip people with a way to use technology more responsibly.

One tech CEO famously calls Facebook the new cigarettes. While this issue has been rehashed it is clear that mobile addiction and use time are increasing and dangerous to the well being of the planet, especially its youth where sleep quality, mental health and technological loneliness are starting to make them suffer more seriously.

If tech cannot regulate itself and help consumers use their products more conscientiously, the state will have to do it. In 2019, video game addiction as a threat to social welfare is recognized and curfews now exist in China.

From Netflix to YouTube, people are consuming apps more and differently and if it continues to increase it could further harm society and Technology won’t be able to say it’s been for the social good.

37. AI is becoming a Cold Tech War Pivot

In 2019, the AI arms race picked up its pace and AI became a political, human rights and trade issue. It has become a sticky issue in the fight for future supremacy between China and the United States. These strategic rivals also approach data harvesting and human rights differently with regards to the future of artificial intelligence.

However even Western companies like Google are behaving like China. Google’s former head of international relations claims he was boxed out and then essentially forced out because of his demands on human rights. Dark times are ahead for how AI is weaponized for profit and for national warfare both economic and technological. China’s own variety of state control is concerning in the shifting ethics around AI.

The politicization of AI threatens to further widen the divide between the world’s two biggest economies and to increase wealth inequality’s acceleration and AI hype in ways that might threaten the future of human rights globally in the age of the internet of things and the 4th industrial revolution.

When Beijing declared plans to become the world leader in artificial intelligence in 2017, it alarmed the US and the rest of the world. Since then China appears even more aggressive and capable of prioritizing AI far more than the countries lagging behind — like Germany, the U.S. and dozens of others.

38. Huawei’s Android Harmony OS Will Launch

China’s digital blockchain currency and Huawei’s new alternative OS designed to compete against Android will launch in 2020 and both could change the world. Huawei has revealed some details of the new Harmony OS software that it could use in smartphones, smartwatches, and other devices as a potential replacement for Android.

One of the company’s execs has reportedly claimed that replacements for Google apps, including mail, messaging, maps and payments, as well as key underlying services will be ready soon. This follows other claims last week that the forthcoming flagship, the P40, which is due to launch in March, will ship with the company’s Google replacement services onboard.

With significant pressure from the U.S. in 2019, Huawei has accelerated plans for its interoperable mobile OS.

In China, the software will be known as Hongmeng. The company says the operating system, a microkernel-based distributed OS, can be used in everything from smartphones to smart speakers, wearables and in-vehicle systems to create a shared ecosystem across devices.

It’s not clear if Huawei was able to fast track this project with the help of the Chinese Government. The U.S. blacklisting Huawei occurred around 5 years too late, in reality, when Huawei’s revenue for the first quarter of 2019 totaled 179.7 billion yuan ($26.8 billion), a 39 percent year-on-year increase even with the added pressure.

The pressure also accelerated China’s ability to innovate in response to trade sanctions, IP theft accusations and warnings about Huawei creating state sponsored back doors in its technology.

There’s been a lot of speculation about Huawei’s in-house operating system ever since Google suspended the company’s Android license back in May 2019, following the US government’s decision to put Huawei on the Entity List.

China having an Android competitor will be very significant and will make Huawei, which is already incredibly profitable, even more profitable. For 2019, Huawei said its estimated sales revenue will top 850 billion yuan ($121.66 billion), up about 18% year-on-year but still lower than the company’s initial projections.

While Huawei has signed a number of 5G commercial contracts, there are still some significant markets that have not yet decided whether to let the Chinese giant into their next-generation mobile networks. Only Australia and Japan, on pressure from the US, are sure they won’t go with Huawei. But Canada, the UK and Germany are more than likely to side with Huawei to build these new 5G networks.

Over the next three years, Harmony OS will spread across a broader range of smart devices and could become Asia’s version of Android with a Chinese-led ecosystem for apps the likes of which we have literally never seen before.

Huawei’s New Year’s resolution for 2020 is to build HMS, the Huawei Mobile Services. They aim to replace the functionality of Google Mobile Services as well as add new features, which will allow Huawei and app developers to be less dependent on Google. HMS is made up of 14 services – 9 core and 5 “growth” services.

39. The Global Stock Market will Reach New Heights

2019 was an incredible year for the stock market, especially in the United States. The global stock markets gained $17 trillion in value in 2019, approaching $90 trillion. That’s 18% YOY growth if you are counting.

Since there are no concrete signs of global economic recession on the horizon in 2020, the stock market, in spite of political uncertainty, can still do well. Central banks and political developments around the world have boosted equities. Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google will become even more powerful and race for the $2 trillion valuations which could occur as early as 2023.

The value of global equities began the year just under $70 trillion but has now surpassed $85 trillion, according to a chart from Deutsche Bank’s Torsten Slok.

The Federal Reserve has cut its benchmark interest rate three times in 2019, and the European Central Bank cut its already negative rates even further. The world has survived Trump and will survive Brexit too. The stock market will further increase wealth inequality while boosting and protecting the global economy in 2020 from the end-of-cycle signs that a recession is near.

40. Significant Social Unrest in Latin America Will Lead to Chinese Technology There

South America has seen better days. Even with a political right wing movement, Chinese companies like Didi and others will do better there, by gaining influence under those conditions.

Much of Latin America has experienced a political realignment over the last decade. The so-called pink tide of democratically elected left wing governments which washed over the region in the first decade of the 2000s has now receded.

As China sets up shop in Canada with Huawei, China broadly speaking will do the same in areas of the world that are experiencing political and economic unrest, expanding its technology and cultural influence game.

The end of the commodities boom which devastated Latin America’s leading extractive economies — and consequently crippled the social welfare programs championed by leaders such as Evo Morales of Bolivia, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela — is actually a boon for Chinese tech firms and increasing Chinese influence in the region.

41. Coming Skill Shortages, Housing Shortages and Healthcare Cost Unaffordability

The U.S could face a massive skill shortage as workers retire and new skills are in demand, while Africa is liable to face a very serious housing shortage. If the student debt crisis colored the last decade, healthcare unaffordability is likely to become a mainstream issue for the American middle class, if it isn’t already.

In Africa, Nigeria and DRC are particularly vulnerable to a housing crisis. In the U.S. wage stagnation and a lower quality of jobs means retail and restaurant workers are more in demand than tech workers, even as those same jobs are more vulnerable to the impact of automation.

The labor shortage in the U.S isn’t talked about much. But the reality begun in 2019 will continue more seriously now. Employers have been complaining about a shortage of skilled workers, particularly workers with advanced degrees in STEM fields. Nearly every industry now has a labor shortage, but here’s the twist: employers are having a harder time filling blue collar positions than professional positions that require a college education.

So who is getting harder to find? The likes of home health care aides, restaurant workers and hotel staff, among others.

42. China Begins to Catch Up in AI and R&D

China is expected to surpass the U.S. first economically and then technologically. This is inevitable by the mid 21st century. We’ll have a new super power in sole position in the future in how technology, innovation, venture capital and collective organization take place.

While we can debate when China overtakes the U.S. in AI, in apps, mobile payments, E-commerce and retail, and in urban planning and the smart city, it’s likely already happened.

However as for AI talent and R&D it could take as long as 2040, although that’s a mere 20 years and will pass quickly. China is investing enormous resources to develop the next generation of critical technologies and is well on its way to becoming the world’s largest spender on research and development.

It’s no longer realistic to expect the United States to lead the world in total R&D spending or AI implementation. This is because of different values, public debate, an outdated democracy and over spending on the military as opposed to artificial intelligence and corporate sponsorship.

43. Aging Populations Lead to New Innovation

Aging populations, especially at first in Asia, will lead to significant advancements in healthcare technology.

Asia has become the engine of the global economy, but the region’s dynamism could fade as some powerhouses face aging populations. The region’s largest economies — China, Japan, and South Korea — will need to manage a profound demographic shift in which their work forces steadily shrink and are potentially surpassed by the nonworking populations.

This will require significant re-thinking around healthcare, apprenticeships, robots, smart home and critical new technologies to enable the demographic inverted pyramids not to lead to economic disaster. It will mean automation will have a reason to come into being.

Many analysts believe that a likely occurrence would be the following: more women might (will) need to work to support households and sustain national wealth. The caregiving burden will increasingly fall on the state. The region’s geopolitics could be fundamentally reshaped. This could re-shape the Asian family unit and mean technology scales to face these obstacles which will occur in most countries, but especially in Asian countries.

44. China Leads in 5G Innovation

The rollout of fifth-generation cellular networks around the world will likely be a defining geopolitical dilemma of 2020. Inevitably it will also signal China’s growing influence on the state of digital transformation in the 2020s.

Tech futurists say fifth-generation networks will support a plethora of internet-connected sensors, vehicles, appliances and other devices that will perform functions yet unimagined. At the Last Futurist, we see a surprising number of these coming out of China in the next twenty years. We can already see how they are leading mobile payments, facial recognition and mobile apps innovation as of 2020.

In Europe, the walls of nearly every major airport, from Stockholm and Brussels to Lisbon and Madrid, have been plastered with 5G-related ads. While the 5G hype is real, the reality will take many years to roll out.

Some of the world’s leading telecom-equipment manufacturers, including Huawei and ZTE, are Chinese companies. Some of the leading companies globally in connectivity will be like arms of the Chinese State to increase its global influence, 5G and otherwise.

45. Energy, Industrial and Urban Adoption of AI

Many analysts see legacy energy and industrial companies adopting AI in 2020 to a greater extent than ever before. So what does this mean?

Industries like waste management, oil and gas, insurance, telecommunications and other SMBs will take on projects related to AI more aggressively as sustainability intersects with AI, and the future of energy, EVs and self-driving vehicles takes greater shape. As drones materialize in logistics, AI becomes more central at navigating the coordination of more connected devices on the road and in the air.

Energy, logistics and the oil and gas industry, among others, begin to integrate AI and machine intelligence more aggressively in what comes as an IoT revolution of the energy, oil, gas, waste management and industrial companies related to how cities become smarter.

46. Space Tech Race Begins Again

2020 is shaping up to begin a new space age race, this time it’s the race to Mars between China and the U.S. Not since the 1960s have we witnessed such appetite for space missions. Commercial launches and China’s increasing enthusiasm for Mars will surprise many.

However, it is not just the US and Russia that are dominating this year’s space agenda. India, Japan and China are all planning complex programmes and are vying to become space powers in their own rights. Their plans for 2020 include missions to the moon, Mars and the asteroids.

As China gains in economic and technological supremacy, it will pay more attention to space technology and Mars, a late bloomer but the likely winner for Earth’s first colony.

In 2020, SpaceX, BlueOrigin and Virgin Galactic will be companies to watch.

47. Streaming Wars Could Change the Future of Ads

The Streaming Wars means Netflix will have to become a premium first-mover and raise their prices yet again. Streaming wars will force consumers (and media companies) to choose between pricey subscriptions and sitting through ads.

Companies like Roku who become the new middle man will win big, as streaming content improves with Disney Plus, Peacock and companies like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu having to compete harder to keep and gain market share.

According to a survey, 59% of Americans aren’t willing to pay more than $20 a month for streaming services, while 75% say they won’t pay more than $30. Netflix only has 60 million U.S. subscribers and is losing users as other services come into the market.

HBO Max is coming in May. Disney Plus is gaining steam faster than anticipated and Amazon Prime Video is spending more, all of which should pressure Netflix. Netflix, the market leader with 60 million U.S. members already charges $13 a month for its standard subscription. To thrive it will have to charge even more, making it more of a premium (with more content and more original shows globally) channel.

48. The 4 Day Work Week will Gain Momentum in 2020

Do as the Scandanevians? Research is showing that a reduced working hours can boost productivity and cut carbon emissions. In the age of automation, humans won’t work as hard as AI boosts global GDP. It will come at a cost of gross wealth inequality.

However, Finland’s new prime minister, 34-year-old Sanna Marin, once floated the idea of a four-day week. Everyone from companies in Finland to Japan has tried out the 4 day work week with positive results.

Reducing the length of the working week boosts productivity. When, in August, Microsoft Japan tested a four-day week, productivity work shot up by about 40%. This could also impact the creative aspect of technological innovation.

A survey by the TUC found 45% of employees want a four-day week. According to a study by Henley Business School, 77% of workers said a four-day week improved their quality of life. Increase prosperity from technology will eventually improve the quality of life for workers, and they will prefer it even with possible economic concessions. This is because Millennials started a work-life balance revolution and younger leaders are embracing it.

49. The West Will be Unable to Compete with China

In 2019 the U.S. is still in denial that China will overtake it technologically speaking, with a good year for the economy. However in 2020, things could really change. The cold tech war (trade) could not be fully resolved and the likelihood that China will innovate more in the 2020s is very high.

Sadly the American media also hide the truth of this narrative. As for the rest of the world, we see the writing on the wall.

The west is still finding it extraordinarily difficult to come to terms with China’s remarkable ascent, and it will only get worse. While China has significant obstacles it also has incredible state centralization that enables it to do venture capital, state-funding of top firms and creating data harvesting at scale that no other country will be able to compete with.

Before 2008 the conventional western wisdom had been that sooner or later China would suffer a big economic meltdown. It appears that China is poised for a great period of technological ascendancy in the 2020s and even more so in the 2030s. Nothing short of a democratic revolution by its young people or a war with the U.S. could prevent this.

As China gains economic and technological value, its global influence increases in surprising ways and suddenly in some industries and areas. Unsurprisingly the west is finding the phenomenon difficult to come to terms with, displaying a kaleidoscope of emotions from denial, dismissal and condemnation to a weird kind of admiration.

Five years, let alone a decade, ago, China was synonymous with cheap manufacturing. What will it be known for even five years from now? The Big Data state, the social credit surveillance machine. If a country so transformative is putting AI at its center of progress, how fast can it move and bring humanity along with it?

50. Predictive Analytics Profiling Spreads Everywhere

While we may not know it yet, personal profiling is already quite evolved. As AI continues to mature, being able to predict someone’s behaviour and future behaviour becomes very lucrative not just in advertising, but in the retail customer journey and in more personalized customer experiences relevant to all industries and journeys.

From more invasive facial recognition to location tracking, the way we are being followed is becoming increasingly complicated with ever more data points.

Better personal profiling is relevant to the patient care journey and the student journey in all of its details and the demand to harvest and use facial recognition data. health data, mental health cues and education data sets means the way we profile people with data will exponentially increase in 2020 alone as compared with the entire 2015 to 2019 period.

The era of recommendation algorithms seemed amazing, but what’s coming is even more ubiquitous to how technology scales machine intelligence across industries for patients, drivers, learners, consumers, shoppers, partners, parents and so forth.

China’s social credit system was designed to perfect this kind of predictive analytics personal profiling in real time.

Whether we like it or not, it’s coming and it’s the future.The dark side of IoT is surveillance capitalism. And in such a world, our data points proliferate just as AI’s invasion of our lives accelerates. Many bulls will tell you how incredible such an AI-centric world will be, but more people on the planet are realizing the potential for abuse, social inequality and the lack of ethics in how this comes about.

This is one of the reasons we founded the Last Futurist, to watch history as it unfolds and our world transforms itself with technology, artificial intelligence and the interplay of companies, nations and the business world in the 21st century, a time of rapid change in ways we cannot foresee.

51. Advent of Society 5.0

In 2020 we’ll see more of an influence of what a post-technology world might look like that isn’t just profit driven but human driven. This will take decades to achieve considering the inequality in capitalism today. However Society 5.0 is a post automation economy where people have more freedom to fulfill their needs, creativity and own definition of creating value and living a worthwhile life.

What does that look like? This is a bit of a Utopian dream proliferated by groups such as the World Economic Forum. Here is the gist of it:

People will be liberated from focus on efficiency. Instead, the emphasis will be placed on satisfying individual needs, solving problems and creating value.

People will be able to live, learn and work, free from suppressive influences on individuality, such as discrimination by gender, race, nationality, etc. and alienation because of their values and ways of thinking.

People will be liberated from the disparity caused by the concentration of wealth and information, and anyone will be able to get opportunities to play a part any time, anywhere.

Japan is a country that is taking Society 5.0 principles seriously. With fertility plummeting, overwork harming and economic inequality mounting, parts of Asia face the necessity of AI being a human-driven pursuit more than ever, but it’s not clear how we slowly arrive at Society 5.0 or when it might manifest itself.

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