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Digital Trends From 2017 That Are Bigger Than You Think

Feature Article | November 16, 2017 by Natalie Fine

Over the past year, several tech trends emerged as signals amid the noise, signifying much larger changes to come.

In the Q4 issue of Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly, SAP’s futurists have pinpointed four digital trends from 2017 that are bigger than you think; these trends, they predict, will have an impact in 2018 and beyond.

Here’s a quick glimpse into the crystal ball.

A Breakthrough for AI Governance

In 2017, we experienced the rise of AI chatbots in a variety of arenas – from managing pizza orders to healthcare.  In some notable cases, AI chatbots spun out of control, such as when internet trolls trained Microsoft’s Tay to become a hate-spewing detractor. Bots are only as good as their design; making sure they stay on message and don’t act in unexpected ways is crucial.

  • Prediction: In 2018, we’ll see governance for AI develop through peer review and extensive internal quality analysis to ensure bots function as expected.

The Tipping Point for Renewable Energy

Battery research and development has become big business. Thanks to electric cars and powerful smartphones, there has been incredible pressure to make more powerful batteries that last longer between charges.

  • Prediction: In 2018, batteries will start to disrupt power markets; there will be huge investment and new battery innovation across industries.

While batteries have limited charges, are difficult to build, and difficult to manage, thanks to experts like Elon Musk they have huge potential. They have traditionally been too expensive for large-scale use — such as renewable power storage — but battery innovations such as Tesla’s could radically change how we power the economy.

Instant Censorship

Sophisticated cameras and facial recognition systems are already used in places like China—and their near–real-time public shaming is an example of how machine learning, mobile phone surveillance, and Internet activity tracking are being used to censor and control populations.

  • Prediction: In 2018, we could see a radical new era of censorship that is much more manipulative than anything that has come before. Instead of relying on photos or phone calls, real-time algorithmic monitoring means that acts of perceived defiance can be identified and deleted in the moment.

Businesses need to be aware of the wider trend toward real-time, automated censorship and how it might be used in both commercial and governmental settings.  These tools can easily be used in countries with unstable political dynamics and could become a real concern for businesses that operate across borders.

The Cult of Distraction

Social Media sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram are designed with psychological techniques to hang on to users for as long as possible—which helps the services sell more advertisements and make more money.  In a 2016 Harris Poll, 75 percent of companies said that two or more hours a day are lost in productivity because employees are distracted. The number one reason? Cellphones and texting, according to 55% of those companies surveyed. Another 41% pointed to the Internet.

  • Prediction: In 2018, as users become even more glued to online services, addiction and other behavioral problems will grow to an unhealthy degree.

As computers, smartphones, and televisions come ever closer to convergence, these issues matter increasingly to businesses. Some of the universal side effects of addiction are lost productivity at work and poor health.

To learn more about these digital trends from 2017, read the cover story, “More Than Noise,” in the Q4 issue of Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

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