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Implanted mobile phones and 3D printed cars: Report forecasts tech tipping points

Friday, 11 September 2015 | By Denham Sadler
In the very near future there will only be two types of companies: software companies, and those that don’t know they’re a software company yet, according to Sendle CEO James Moody.


Moody is the co-author of a new World Economic Forum report focusing on fast-approaching technological tipping points and how these will impact on society.


Software is the “golden thread” that ties it all together, he says.


“In the future every company will be a software company and every person will be a systems integrator,” Moody says.


“All business models will be underpinned by software.”


Technological tipping points 

The report is written by the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software and Society, and involved surveying over 800 experts on when particular tech shifts will hit mainstream society.


“We are entering a time of momentous societal shifts brought on by advancements in software,” the report reads.


“Software has the potential to drastically change our lives.”


Moody says some of the results from the survey are “quite amazing”.


“In the next ten years a lot of the things we’ve previously scoffed at are going to happen,” he says.


“We are witnessing a period where there’s going to be a lot more change than we’ve seen before.”


The report, which is the first of its kind, aimed to identify these deep shifts and when they will become mainstream in the future, and explore the wide-ranging impacts of this.


It identified six “megatrends” that will shape society in the future: people and the internet, computing, communications and storage, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and the digitisation of matter.


According to the survey the next decade will involve huge technological changes, with 11 of the 21 tipping points expecting to take place in the next ten years.


A technological revolution

Moody compares this period of intense transition and change to the Industrial Revolution.


“With the Industrial Revolution we harnessed energy to leverage effort, making it easier to mill and build tables and cars,” he says.


“What’s happening now is we’re starting to use energy to leverage human intellect, making ourselves smarter.”


According to the survey, by 2025 we’ll see the first commercially available implantable mobile phone, the first 3D-printed car in production, one trillion sensors connected to the internet, more driving trips using shared vehicles than in private cars.


The report also predicts that by 2023 90% of the world’s population will have a “supercomputer in their pocket”, up from only 28% in 2013.


“In 1985, the Cray-2 supercomputer was the fastest machine in the world. The iPhone 4, released in June 2010, had the power equivalent to the Cray-2; now, the Apple Watch has the equivalent speed of two iPhone 4s just five years later,” the report reads.


“With the consumer retail price of smartphones tumbling below $50, processing power skyrocketing and adoption in emerging markets accelerating, nearly everyone will soon have a literal supercomputer in their pocket.”


By 2024 about 90% of the population will also have regular access to the internet, the report says. This figure is only at 43% at the moment.


“In the future, regular access to the internet and information will no longer be a benefit of developed economies, but a basic right just like clean water,” it says.


Some of the first tipping points we’re likely to see is ‘storage for all’ in 2018, robot and services in 2021, and the internet of things in 2022.



Preparing for the new world

It’s important to identify these trends and potential tipping points in order to prepare for them now and minimise the negative impacts, Moody says.


“We’re going to see a lot of change, so we wanted to start to really tease out what that means for society,” he says.


“It’s not just about the tech, is what the societal impacts are.”


The biggest concern with most of these technological developments and products is privacy and security.


“Virtually all of the megatrends presented here have security risks and opportunities. A deliberate focus on international norms in cyberspace must be undertaken by governments globally,” the report says.


“The megatrends presented in this report all present both risks and opportunities when it comes to trust and transparency. As people continue to share, collaborate and interact online, these issues will continue to intensify.”


Moody says it’s crucial that Australian startups recognise these imminent technological revolutions, and begin to adapt to the new world we’ll see by 2025.


“It’s a shift in the way we’re actually leveraging ourselves,” he says.


“There are some Australian startups that are definitely well-placed, that are leveraging things like ubiquitous computing and the cloud.


“Part of it is around how we leverage our strengths as a country and startup community. It still comes down to the same questions around how good we are at software and the shifting business models to build around that.”


Moody says the report is by no means a conclusive prediction of the future, and is meant to stimulate conversations on just how different our world could be in ten years.


“It asks as many questions as it tries to answer,” he says.


“One thing is clear: the future will never be the same.”


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