Tech Trends Right Out of Science Fiction

At the start of every year, and often well into it, we’re bombarded with predictions about trends in every imaginable industry. Tech is no exception, and it may be the sector with the most experts issuing forecasts.

Recently, CBInsights published its own 12 Tech Trends To Watch Closely In 2021. What makes this list stand out is its almost sci-fi feel. This is no ordinary collection of trends.

Take quantum computing. Even if most of us have no idea what it is, we’ve heard enough to know that quantum computers are the coming thing and that their computing ability dwarfs anything we have today.

But CBInsights tells us that these computers have arrived. We hear about a Chinese quantum computer that last year solved an essentially unsolvable problem in a little over 3 minutes. The report reinforces the point that these computers are here now by noting that “equity deals to quantum computing startups set a new record of 37 rounds last year, an annual increase of 42%.”

The trend the report identifies is not about when these computers will be available on Amazon. Instead, it’s that “businesses will be forced to secure data faster than these computers can decrypt it.”

“The industry’s rising momentum is creating an arms race to secure data faster than quantum computers can decrypt it,” says the report, informing us that companies like IBM and Microsoft are already developing new encryption methods to address the coming problem.

That trend dovetails with the first of CBInsights’ dozen: the Chief Prepper Officer. “Companies shaken by the pandemic,” predicts the report, “Will start prioritizing resilience and turn to emerging tech as they look to onshore operations, build robust supply chains, and ready themselves for the next big crisis.”

Whether a company actually creates a Chief Prepper role, they are already investing in diversification of supply chains, sales and distribution alternatives and buying or developing AI forecasting tools.

As futuristic as these two trends seem at first glance, they fall back into the realm of good business practices with the CBInsights’ discussion.

One trend that still seems to have a foot in science fiction is the prediction about “affective computing.” The report predicts, “Businesses will prioritize building AI technologies that can interpret and respond to human emotions as they look to connect with consumers.”

The report tells us there already are startups that “use emotion AI to analyze elements of speech, like tone and vocal emphasis, to best match service agents and customers across industries.”

We read about how Amazon is using voice analysis in its wellness tracker to identify the emotions users may be feeling. And there’s s brief, but fascinating description of the auto industry’s use of AI. One existing application assesses driver fatigue. Hyundai and MIT are developing AI controls that “can optimize the environment of a vehicle based on passengers’ emotional states.”

Not every trend is as futuristic or novel. Some of the trends are familiar.

We’ve all heard about the workplace changes the COVID pandemic has caused or, like working from home, accelerated. Agreeing with the many predictions that remote work is here to stay, CBInsights tells us to “expect to see offices becoming increasingly like hotels used for short visits, and less like the cushy big tech ‘campuses’ that came into fashion in the pre-Covid era.”

“Many companies will see an irrevocable shift in office culture in the coming years. They will need to be prepared for a future where employees treat going into the office less like showing up at their home away from home, and more like a special occasion, like checking into a hotel.”

Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash

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