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World and business leaders met at Davos this week to discuss the technologies that will change the world.
Ahead of the World Economic Forum annual meeting, the body compiled a list of technological “tipping points” the world will hit over the next 15 years. Here are the technologies the WEF, and experts it surveyed, believe will transform the near future, for better and for worse.
By 2023 the world’s first mobile phone that is implantable in the body will be commercially available.
While such a device could help track vulnerable people and monitor health, the WEF also warns of privacy concerns and the unknown psychological effect of being able to playback your life.
Online identities for all
About 80 percent of people worldwide will have an online presence spanning social media, apps and sites by 2023.
This will allow for greater access to information and communication, while also upping those exposed to indiscriminate surveillance and risks such as ID theft and stalking.
Computers on your face
By 2023 one in 10 pairs of glasses will display information about the world around you.
Google Glass, seen above, and other future headsets could make it easier to navigate the world and carry out specialists tasks but also lead to accidents and lessen engagement with the real world.
One in ten people will own smart, internet-connected clothing by 2022.
By monitoring vital signs, these garments will improve health while requiring the user to sacrifice privacy and risk exposing sensitive health information online.
A connected world
By 2024, 90 percent of the global population will have regular internet access, as low-cost computers and wireless connectivity spreads.
More people online worldwide means greater access to education, healthcare, goods and services – as well as an increased risk of the internet fragmenting into regional walled gardens.
By 2023 most people in the world will have a smartphone, with such devices owned by 90 percent of people worldwide.
Storage will effectively become unlimited and free and by 2018 limitless, ad-supported storage will be available to 90 percent of people online.
The accumulated data of people’s lives will aid in recalling information and events but also expand the scope of mass surveillance.
Internet of everything
One trillion internet-connected sensors will be harvesting data from the world by 2022.
These will help realise increased efficiency, better productivity, a higher quality of life, less environmental damage, lower cost goods and services and more. However, once again privacy could suffer, jobs could be lost to automation and hacking risks will increase.
Half of all domestic internet traffic will be related to smart appliances in the home by 2024.
Intelligent lightbulbs, heating, locks ventilation and the like will lower energy use and make homes more comfortable and secure. However the tech will also offer a detailed picture of people’s lives, reducing privacy, increasing opportunities for surveillance and cybercriminals.
By 2026 a city will be built that doesn’t need traffic lights due to the volume of urban data being collected and analysed.
These smart cities will cost less energy and money to run, be more productive, enable denser development, better quality of life and cause less environmental damage. Yet again, these improvements come with the risk of greater surveillance and hacking.
The entire history of you
By 2023 a government will give up on collecting census data in favor of collating and inferring information about citizens from the various databases available.
The upside will be the ability to make better decisions more rapidly, the down increased erosion of privacy and questions about the reliability of the data and the analysis of it.
One in 10 of cars will be driverless by 2026, leading to safer journeys and the ability to relax or work during trips.
Less welcome will be job losses among taxi and truck drivers, restrictions on manual driving and a greater risk from hacking.
AI takes charge
The first AI will sit on a corporate board of directors by 2026.
Software will help firms make rational, data-driven decisions and reducing bias but also adding complexity to corporate accountability and introducing the risk of miscommunication between humans and machines.
One third of corporate audits will be performed by AI by 2025, as intelligent software increasingly takes over white collar roles.
The upside will be lower costs for firms and efficiency gains, balanced against job losses, questions over liability and necessary changes to legal and financial disclosure.
Robot drug dispensers
The first robotic pharmacist in the US will be serving customers by 2021, as part of a movement that will see robots adopting a far greater range of roles.
Increased efficiency, better health outcomes will have to be weighed against job losses and increased risk from hacking.
New Kids on the Block (chain)
By 2027, 10 percent of worldwide GDP will be stored on block chain technology, the distributed ledger system behind the cryptocurrency bitcoin.
The result will be new financial services in emerging markets and the increasing disintermediation of the banks. Conversely its growth will also lead to greater difficulty enforcing financial regulations and more opportunities for tax evasion.
By 2023 a government will collect tax for the first time via the block chain.
Such a move could lead to real-time taxation and change the monetary policy of central banks.
Fabricating fast cars
The first 3D printed car will go into production by 2022.
Greater use of 3D printing in manufacturing will accelerate product development, allow intricate parts to be more easily manufactured but could also create a new source of waste and lead to job losses.
We have the technology
As 3D printing plays a greater role in the production of replica organs, the first transplant of a 3D-printed liver will take place by 2024.
Fabricating organs could help address the donor shortage and allow for more effective, personalised healthcare but in the long run could also fuel the growth in the unregulated production of body parts.
As you like it
By 2025, five percent of consumer goods will be 3D printed, as the technology becomes more versatile.
The cost of bespoke products will drop and production of niche goods become sustainable but jobs could also be lost and gun controls become easier to bypass.