9 future ecosystems reimagined through technology

In the next two decades, technology will connect people, the physical world, information, and collective intelligence, according to Tata Consultancy.

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Over the course of the next three decades, a transition will occur, shifting us from our "vertical orientation to a horizontal one," said Dave Jordan, global head, consulting and services integration at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

"As this occurs, ecosystems will support many of our life experiences, absorbing aspects of today's industries along the way."

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TCS futurists identified nine such ecosystems that will be "driven by the areas of our well-being,'' Jordan said.  The consultancy's vision for the nine ecosystems is below.

Connectedness

The communications component of the general purpose technology platform (GPTP) enabled an ecosystem that connected us to each other, the physical world, information, and collective intelligence, Jordan said. 

"Conversational systems along with augmented and virtual reality completely changed the interface and connection paradigm, while visible light communications, and the early efforts of technology giants enabled global connectivity at scale," Jordan said.

Nanobots that connected our brains directly to information, and advances in quantum computing drove an artificial intelligence (AI) explosion that delivered expertise in actionable ways, undermining traditional professions, Jordan continued. 

"Our connectedness enabled the capture of humanity's collective intelligence, and cognitive systems automated most of our knowledge-based functions while driving a focus on those skills that make us distinctly human," he said.

Mobility

The mobility ecosystem emerged from the transportation, aerospace, and logistics industries. Mobility has also emerged to support the needs of an aging society.

"The transition happened in stages, as on-demand and shared car models dominated the early days, while autonomous vehicle ownership continued for the wealthy,'' he said. "In the final stages, autonomous vehicles owned themselves, expanding into fleets and establishing … a shared resource that handled all aspects of transport."

Energy

Energy is created, stored and shared via a cooperative network enabled by a software-driven global grid and wireless energy transmission that, among other things, allows autonomous electric vehicles to recharge as they drive, Jordan said.

"Advances in materials science and storage accelerated the adoption of renewable energy like geothermal, solar, wind, bioenergy, hydro-power, and hydrogen and fuel cells, completely changing the energy paradigm," he continued.

This change enabled a reduction in the global carbon footprint while supporting the increased energy requirements of computing needs that exploded in the past two decades. "The optimized energy ecosystem has facilitated the balancing of intermittent supply and demand, ensuring that our energy needs are met well into the future," Jordan said. 

Personal growth

Personal growth in the areas of passion, education, work, spirituality, and philanthropy came together in an ecosystem to facilitate our need for life-long learning and fulfillment, according to Jordan. "This ecosystem was instrumental in eliminating the social unrest driven by the impact of automation, as the massive re-skilling required would not have been possible without it,'' Jordan said.

Our life-long learning needs are now supported by an education paradigm that is peer-to-peer, immersive, personalized, and gamified, he continued. "Our moral compass and need for exploration and experimentation are nurtured here, encouraging us to help society by leveraging native human characteristics like creativity, imagination, curiosity, and empathy."

An ongoing focus on ethics has steered the global community, mitigating the risk of unintended consequences, Jordan added.

Health and wellness

A shift  developed in the healthcare paradigm from treatment to prevention. "A healthy life extension was accomplished by diminishing the impact of chronic disease and rejuvenating cells, tissues, and organs via advances in precision and regenerative medicine," said Jordan.

Mortality rates due to cancer dropped, as nanobots carried their payload directly to cancerous cells and avoided harming healthy cells. After accident related fatality rates were reduced by the mobility ecosystem, organ donations fell.

"Advances within the wellness ecosystem mitigated a human crisis, as 3D printing, synthetic biology, and other innovations combined to enable organs-on-demand,'' he continued. 

Elders are cared for and monitored in their homes by a wellness ecosystem that coordinates multiple ecosystems. Health emergencies are met with rapid response and elder care robots aid with mobility, companionship, and entertainment.   

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Smart communities

Homes, buildings, and cities come together in an ecosystem that enables community. The smart structures of the ecosystem support deep connections while improving safety, productivity, sustainability, comfort, convenience, interaction, prosperity, health, and elder care, Jordan said.

"The mobility ecosystem re-orients the city landscape around people and community versus vehicles, and many community functions are automated. Homes are highly personalized environments with digital assistants that connect to the community to share alerts, provide enhanced care, and mitigate the risk of damage."

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