Tech experts rank cloud, AI, and 5G among technologies that will be important in 50 years

A survey of consumers and tech elites found hope and worry for the future of technology and automation in everyday life.

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Consumers and tech experts are both concerned about the role technology will play in the next 50 years and hopeful that advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and connection speeds will make life safer, according to Intel's recently released Next 50 study.

Intel partnered with research firm PSB, speaking to 1,000 consumers and 102 "tech elites" about a variety of topics related to technology, its daily use, and what the future may hold for our relationship with it.

For tech experts, emerging technologies like 5G, cloud computing, and AI were ranked among the most important for the next 50 years, the report found. Meanwhile, consumers ranked smartphones, computers, and smart home technology at the top of the list.

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Consumers are eager for more technology to be introduced to their world, but have reservations about its effect on modern life, the report found. More than half of those who responded to the survey said they use technology primarily to stay in touch with loved ones, but 56% said they felt overdependent on it, and thought it was drawing them farther away from the people they cared for.

But reservations dissipated when the survey discussed AI and future enhancements to daily life. They found that parents, specifically fathers, are hoping for a future where AI-backed household products can handle the menial duties of the day.

"51 percent of parents expect AI to increase their quality of life by enhancing and automating everyday tasks, compared to just 38 percent of respondents without kids," Intel said. "Parents are more excited than non-parents over AI's potential to assist with human tasks (46 percent versus 39 percent of non-parents) and predict their needs (42 percent versus 30 percent of non-parents)."

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They found that surprisingly, only 18% of consumers said technology is used "heavily" to manage their homes. On the flip side, 69% think they eventually will do so within the next 50 years. Millennials are particularly hopeful that 5G will make internet speeds faster and connections clearer.

Intel also found that consumers struggled to keep up with the latest technology but were happy with the way smartphones and laptops helped in terms of connecting to family members and friends or getting business done.

"It's hard to fathom going a day without using a computer or a smartphone, both of which will undoubtedly continue to evolve along with other technologies," Genevieve Bell, a vice president at Intel, said in a press release. "But newer, emerging technologies like AI and 5G are abstract, and harder to grasp, likely leading to anxiety around what they may bring. Studies like this remind us about the diversity of human experience. When we talk about the future of innovation, we're talking about a range of ideas, technologies and attitudes that will impact our lives in important ways."

In addition to communication, the study found that consumers were interested in the ways technology could improve healthcare and medicine, with 39% citing genomic medicine and 26% saying 3D printed organ or tissue transplants were of importance.

Nearly 40% also said technology's effect on renewable energy could be significant. Their biggest worry was technology's effect on automation and job losses, followed closely by concerns over data collection and isolation.

Bell summed up Intel's findings succinctly: "The possibilities of technology are boundless, but there's also a clear responsibility for those creating and developing such innovations."

The big takeaways for tech leaders

  • Intel's survey of consumers and tech elites found that most people are concerned about security but hopeful technology can improve medicine and take over menial daily tasks.
  • Millennials are particularly hopeful that 5G will improve connection speeds, and nearly half of those surveyed said they were worried about job losses due to automation.

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