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Predicting the future is a perilous game. In 1903, the president of the Michigan Savings Bank famously advised against investing in Ford: “The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty–a fad.” Today’s technology changes are advancing as quickly, as significantly, as ever. But it is still hard to tell fad from game-changer. In the past year alone, self-driving cars went longer, more complex routes. A consumer received the first delivery via drone. Artificial intelligence powered our emails to anticipate (and yes, even write) our electronic responses.
With the promise—and risks—of these emerging technologies, we couldn’t help but wonder: Which technologies could change the world? How will they change how we live? When can we expect to see changes?
We didn’t want to make predictions alone, so we partnered with Ipsos, a leading global market and opinion research firm, to survey the general public. We wanted to know what innovations they thought will be the most life-changing (See footnotes for the full definitions of these innovations). But because predicting the future is hard, we wanted to hear from the people developing these technologies. We analyzed the results and highlighted the answers of “tech elites,” those respondents who are successfully working in the technology industry. The online survey was completed with 1,000 general population respondents and 400 “tech elites.”
Most likely to change the world? Artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles.
Across all survey participants these two technologies were selected as most likely to change the way in which humans experience the world, out of a field that included other significant runners up. An incredible 92 percent of tech influencers noted that artificial intelligence was somewhat or very likely to impact how we experience the world and 90 percent believed that autonomous, or driverless, vehicles would do the same. From how we move, to how machines will anticipate our need, there’s consensus that the biggest change could come from smarter machines operating with increasingly less direct human control.
The general population believes that smart cyber is most likely to benefit how the government serves its citizens.
When asked which of these technologies would most benefit how government serve their citizens, the general population noted a focus on smart cyber along with other technologies. But the tech experts were more focused. More than artificial intelligence or autonomous vehicles, the experts believed government service would be transformed by universal connectivity. The promise of universal connectivity could see government increasing the speed and reach of their services.
Compared to the general population’s responses, more tech elites believe that technology will transform industries—and sooner than we think.
We then went to the impact of these changes, asking participants to rate the impact these technologies will have on various industries. Survey participants universally listed the technology sector, manufacturing, and energy sectors as their bets for the most change. But tech influencers see a broader effect, with technology bringing significant change to all industries. And in almost every case, the tech elites working on these new technologies responded that their impact would happen sooner than the general population expects. According to the tech respondents, big changes are coming across industries in the next three years. If their prediction is right, we need to move faster as we prepare for the social and economic disruption—both good and bad—that these technologies will bring.
Education and private-sector investments are most likely to encourage technological innovation.
Both tech elites and the public agree that education and private sector investment, including research and development, global talent, and educational scholarships, are the most important factor fueling future tech innovations.
Anticipating the future is only valuable if it leads to action today. Regardless of when these changes will come or what industry will be most transformed by them, there is clear consensus that a big technological leap is coming. We aren’t just anticipating a “next step;” machine learning, ubiquitous connectivity, and autonomous vehicles will fundamentally change how we live. They will bring new ethical conundrums, further strain wage inequality, and challenge the value proposition—and indeed authority—of central governments.
“Today’s technology changes are advancing as quickly, as significantly, as ever. But it is still hard to tell fad from game-changer.”
With that in mind, we offer four recommendations to channel technology’s transformative power to do the most good, including:
What’s next? How do we build technologies for a modern era? Learn more about the Power of Intelligent Things from Booz Allen.
Ipsos is a leading global independent market research company. At Ipsos, we are passionately curious about people, markets, brands, and society. We make our changing world easier and faster to