Social robots, agents, algorithms, networked reality, connected mobility and sentient cities and a whole lot of sci-fi-reality 2030?

The Institute for the Future (IFTF) and a forum of global experts forecast that technologies such as edge computing, 5G, AI, Extended Reality (XR) and IoT will combine to create five major “shifts” in the coming decade. These shifts will have the power to change lives across the globe.

Dell Technologies recently released a Future of Connected Living report containing the IFTF forecasts of the following shifts between now and 2030:

1. Networked reality: Over the next decade cyberspace will become an overlay on top of our existing reality as our digital environment extends beyond televisions, smartphones and other displays.

2. Connected mobility and networked matter: The vehicles of tomorrow will essentially be mobile computers. We will trust them to take us where we need to go in the physical world as we interact in the virtual spaces available to us wherever we are.

3. From digital cities to sentient cities: Cities will quite literally come to life through their own networked infrastructure of smart objects, self-reporting systems and AI-powered analytics.

4. Agents and algorithms: We will each be supported by a highly personalised “operating system for living” that is able to anticipate our needs and proactively support our day-to-day activities to free up time.

5. Robot with social lives: Robots will become our partners in life—enhancing our skills and extending our abilities. Robots will share newfound knowledge to their social robot network to crowdsource innovations and accelerate progress, in real time.

Anticipating change and navigating challenges

Many businesses in the Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) regions are already preparing for these shifts. For example, the survey revealed the following perceptions from business leaders:

  • 80% (77% in Singapore) expect they will restructure the way they spend their time by automating more tasks
  • 49% of business leaders (53% in Singapore) would welcome machines becoming self-aware
  • More than half of businesses in APJ and Singapore surveyed indicated that they anticipate Networked Reality becoming commonplace
  • 63% (70% in Singapore) say they would welcome day-to-day immersion in virtual and augmented realities
  • 62% (57% in Singapore) say they would welcome people being fitted with technology that controls computers with their minds (brain computer interfaces) 

These major technology-led shifts may challenge people and organizations that are grappling with change, according to the research. Organizations that wish to harness the power of new emerging technologies will need to take steps to effectively collect, process and deploy data to keep pace with the rapid rate of innovation.

Additionally, concerns around the fairness of algorithms that are likely to do everything from deciding how companies hire to who is eligible for loans must be addressed, as will growing concerns from the public about data privacy. Governments will need to learn how to work together to share and deploy their data if cities are to go from digital to sentient.

Business leaders in APJ are already anticipating some of these challenges and concerns about robots with social lives:

  • 78% surveyed (85% in Singapore) expect that in 2030 they will be more concerned about their privacy than they are today
  • 74% of surveyed businesses leaders (86% in Singapore) say they consider data privacy to be a top societal-scale challenge that must be solved
  • 49% surveyed (53% Singapore) would welcome machines becoming self-aware

Other concerns and challenges indicated include the use of AI, with 49% (54% in Singapore) calling for regulation and clarity on how AI is used, as well as the issue of navigating the impact of digital disruption, with 84% (84% in Singapore) admitting that digital transformation should be more widespread throughout their organization.

To execute this, IFTF relied on its decades-long study on the future of technology and its impact on humanity, alongside in-depth interviews with relevant stakeholders from across the globe.