A few more things
“The future will soon be a thing of the past.”
No, not a quote by Benjamin Franklin this time (it is from stand-up comedian George Carlin, actually). But how soon is soon, exactly? We live in a world that can literally change overnight – in society and economy; most definitely also in technology. TechnoVision is designed to be forward-looking, and actionable: we focus on innovative technology trends and drivers that are already applicable and can deliver value now. Then again, we would not like the future to turn into the past without being noticed. So – as a final note – here are a few innovative areas that we believe will profoundly shape the technological and societal horizons. Maybe not this year, but soon, very soon.
Advancements in synthetic biology change (our relationship with) nature, the living world, and even ourselves. Scientific progress enables reading, writing, editing, and evolving the fabric of life with ease and precision. In fact, “we can now program biological systems like we program computers” (Amy Webb and Andrew Hessel, co-authors of The Genesis Machine).
The societal importance of synthetic biology is eminent by more than one Nobel prize. Unlike ever before, we can redesign organisms for scientific or commercial interest and open doors to fight climate change, biodiversity decline, and challenges to public health. Indeed, synthetic biology might change how we grow food, what we eat, and where we source materials and medicine.
But when do we go too far? And when should life be kept untampered? Synthetic biology is no longer exclusive to academics and is rapidly becoming a business opportunity. It is an area – just like AI – where yet unchallenged ethical considerations will need to be addressed intensively. As we learn to engineer the living world, let us decide the kind of world we want to live in.
As we state in one of our recent ‘Conversations for Tomorrow’ editions, quantum technologies promise exponential speed-up vis-à-vis the best available supercomputers, tamper-proof communications, and ultra-precise and fast measurements – a phenomenon commonly known as the ‘quantum advantage’ – over classical systems that are in use today.
Such technologies can bring a significant shift in the way in which businesses solve problems around optimization, mechanical simulation, and machine learning. Quantum can bring greater efficiencies than current technologies in areas as diverse as risk management, cybersecurity, logistics, operations scheduling, the discovery of lightweight materials or new drugs, and addressing climate change.
Quantum technology promises to revolutionize industries eventually, but are expectations realistic in the near term? In the past two years, we have seen a spur of start-ups with hundreds of millions of dollars in pre-revenue valuations.
Now that the economy seems to be slowing down, venture capital investment in technology is decelerating. Do we have to reset our expectations? Although a quantum advantage is on the horizon, its commercial value is yet uncertain. Undoubtedly, the full benefit of quantum computers will need large-scale, error-corrected systems, which still require considerable investments.
Nonetheless, quantum computing is no longer a distant fantasy. The next few years will show us who has the power to reach the next step of scaling. Are you ready for the quantum decade, the moment it begins?
We made it abundantly clear in our TechnoVision 2023 edition that technology is key in battling the negative impacts of climate change. In Capgemini’s Climate AI research, we analyzed over 70 AI-enabled use cases for climate action, many offering significant benefits for organizations in terms of reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, improved energy efficiency, reduced waste, use less water. Examples include tracking GHG emissions and tracing GHG leakages at industrial sites, improving the energy efficiency of facilities and industrial processes, designing new products with less waste and less emissions, improving demand planning and reducing wastage of food products and raw materials, and route optimization and fleet management for retail, automotive, and consumer products firms.
But there is so much more potential. The world is ready for Climate Tech (or as some prefer to call it, ‘cleantech 2.0’): the next wave of technologies that will help to decarbonize the global economy in the coming decades.
Soaring energy prices, a planet on fire, and geopolitical instability make breakthroughs in technologies ever-more desirable. In the first decade of this century (arguably driven by the release of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth), investors put billions into ‘cleantech’, unfortunately, with dismal results as expectations were inflated, technology wasn’t at a sufficient stage of maturity, and R&D activities took longer than expected or desired.
It is only in recent years, fueled by the Paris Agreement, that a wave of resilient and realistic climate technology has entered the market. Climate Tech has now begun to make economic sense. Solar and wind are cost-competitive or even outperform the fossil fuel industry. Smart-grid networks are starting to replace aging, carbon-intensive energy networks. Industries are looking at radically new ways to become cleaner. Battery and energy storage may finally reach the performance levels that are needed, for example, to make decarbonized transport the norm. Intelligent buildings will make much smarter use of energy and reduce their CO2 emissions considerably.
Climate Tech is evolving rapidly, projected to reach its full leverage in the next decades. A greener world might be ahead as a result. But will it be delivered fast enough?
In our previous edition, we flagged generative, creative AI as a rapidly evolving technology area. And we have seen some fascinating breakthroughs in recent times: from well-articulated, informed panel discussions between several AI language transformer models, to Microsoft releasing the formerly privately accessible Dall-E image generator to the public, followed by the emergence of MidJourney, Stable Diffusion, and the much-debated chatGPT.
Creative AI is potentially an inclusive technology because it will enable more people to express themselves, even if they did not have the means or the specialized skills to do so in the past. It will also provide additional augmentation to even the most intellectually demanding work, yet another way to deal with the scarcity of experienced and talented professionals. Although training creative and generative AI models requires a lot of energy and additional resources, the good news is that – once trained – these models only show a minor appetite for more.
With all of this, a new capability area is rapidly emerging: being able to articulate exactly the right intentions (often referred to as ‘prompt engineering’) can make or break what a generative AI system delivers. It stipulates the need in the future to dive deeper into how humans can most effectively communicate and collaborate with their AI companions.
As you may have noticed by now, all beautiful visualizations in this edition have entirely been generated by AI, prompted and overseen - of course - by our human designers. We are confident that the actual trends content of future TechnoVision editions will also be co-authored by AI systems, with ‘creative machines’ such as chatGPT being only at the beginning of their potential. How soon will that be?
Stay tuned. The future can become a thing of the past much, much sooner than you think!