Digitalization and technology shape our everyday lives. We learn from computers, just as computers learn from us. We don’t drive a car, but let the cars do the driving. We are hotelkeepers, creditors, and taxi drivers rolled into one. Over the next few years, there will be radical changes to the world we live in. Here, we present some of the trends and examine how everyday life could look in the future.
How will digitalization develop? What will be the most important technology trends over the next few years? How will they change the way we work and learn? On the search for answers, we’ve visited visionaries, interviewed media experts, and quizzed specialists about the different facets of these developments. And in response, they have all looked into their crystal balls. We report on a journey into the future.
The days of components having to be elaborately cast, manufactured, and adjusted are over. In future, 3D printers will be able to manufacture anything we want – from enormous installations to the tiniest of computers. This year, Russian company Apis Cor, printed an
entire house in just 24 hours. And even established companies like BMW and Lowe are investing millions in start-ups like Desktop Metal, whose printers are set to create metal objects like medical devices, Formula One cars, and entire spacecraft.
3D printers will not only turn manufacturing upside down, but also the way in which many organizations conduct customer service: Thanks to desktop devices such as
MakerBot , private users are becoming manufacturers. Broken components on faulty devices can be replaced by downloading the blueprints and printing out the parts at home. Globally networked home appliances will put an end to long supply chains, eliminating the need for almost half of the cargo shipped around the world.
Digtator on 3D printing:
» Maker Bot – How a store in downtown Manhattan is starting a 3D revolution
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND BOTS
The development of artificial intelligence (AI) has long taken on a philosophical dimension. Will artificial intelligence be able to develop its own consciousness? Or do computers only have the ability to simulate human behavior? Right now, many arguments speak in favor of the first option. After all, self-learning computers have long been a reality – and their abilities are improving at an exponential rate. Scientists believe that computers could be smarter than people in as little as 15 years – even Stephen Hawking says that self-learning machines could become the greatest threat to humanity.
AI is beginning to creep into all areas of our lives: In sport and news journalism, digital authors are becoming the norm. Computer algorithm
Quill is already being used by editorial departments at Forbes and other U.S. media companies. It is estimated that in 15 years, 90 percent of all online news published each day could be automated. Thomas Escher explains what implications that has for the industry. However, some visionaries are going even further: In future, artificial intelligence will be able to diagnose cancer based on biomarkers and databases. Computers will be giving legal advice. There will be chips in intelligent prosthetics and implants. Or as Oren Etzioni, CEO of the , says: “The sky’s the limit.” Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence
Right now, however, artificial intelligence is primarily used in traditional fields: Bootstrapping has identified
81 German artificial intelligence start-ups, most of which operate in areas such as customer service, customer communications, sales and marketing, software development, and image recognition. The Berlin start-up is also working on intelligent bots for news and business via Facebook Messenger. Its vision? In a few years, everything from groceries to T-shirts will be ordered on Facebook. Spectrm
Digtator on artificial intelligence:
» Computer-assisted journalism: Will a cyborg win the Pulitzer Prize in 2028?
Spectrm » : How intelligent bots influence digital business models
TRANSPORT & MOBILITY
The future doesn’t belong to computerized automobiles; it belongs to automobile computers. Soon, the entire industry will be disrupted by large tech companies, first and foremost by Google, Tesla, and Uber. The benefits of self-driving cars are obvious: Should autonomous cars eliminate human error, then around 300,000 lives could be saved over the next ten years in the USA alone. Expensive insurance would become a thing of the past. At the same time, most city-center parking lots would disappear. Downtown areas would become cleaner and quieter.
In Barcelona, the reign of the automobile is already beginning to crumble. There, the city is testing large pedestrian areas called “superblocks” that are almost completely car-free. Buses and through-traffic are diverted around these blocks, any vehicles entering can drive no faster than walking speed, and parking lots are located under the ground. The first superblocks have achieved spectacular results: less noise, lower pollution levels, and an increase in retail activity. Thanks to self-driving cars, the superblocks project could be replicated elsewhere and trigger new methods of city planning, with small, decentralized city centers.
Car companies like Ford start to overthink even the basic principles of car making – developing Cars without a steering wheel, gas or breaking pedals. “The automotive industry needs to embrace these changes,”
says Digtator author Stefan Gröner in his essay “ A Smartphone on Wheels.”
Along with developments in the auto industry, future modes of transport are getting an upgrade: With the “
Hyperloop,” Dirk Ahlborn is working on a capsule that uses electromagnetic propulsion to speed through tubes at more than 1,000 kilometers per hour. The journey from Berlin to Cologne would take 30 minutes in the capsule. An international team of engineers and MIT students aren’t the only ones standing behind the project; there’s also a vision – that of a global village.
Digtator on transport and mobility:
» A smartphone on wheels: A menacing gesture or an opportunity for the German automotive industry?
» A pneumatic tube for people: How Dirk Ahlborn wants the Hyperloop to turn the world into a global village
WORK AND LEARNING
With new technologies and artificial intelligence waiting in the wings, the way we learn and work is also set to change. Only those who understand digital transformation and can combine both strategic and creative thinking will survive in tomorrow’s world of work. In 2016, the first German academy for digital transformation,
“Shiftschool,” opened in Nuremberg. CEO Tobias Burkhart explains why we have to approach work with a new mindset.
The extent to which our future work will also involve play is demonstrated by a new trend in company training programs:
Gamification. Long seminars and presentations are being replaced by the game-based-thinking mechanisms used in computer and party games. A 1,000-page company rule book becomes a card game, a chunky presentation an adventure challenge. Instead of having bored, over-tired employees, the approach has a motivating effect that helps them learn.
Learning by playing has endless applications in the private sphere, too. For instance, the start-up
“Blinkist” condenses non-fiction books into short chapters that typically take less than a minute to read and can be opened anytime on a smartphone. Even tricky specialist reference books can be read as easily as a Facebook or Twitter post. There are few barriers to getting started, readers are quickly rewarded, and the learning effect comes naturally. The fact of the matter is that gamification isn’t just hype. It invites us to consider learning in a different way: Instead of teaching something that anyone can simply look up, game-based thinking helps learners look for and scrutinize solutions by themselves.
In the struggle for innovation, even long-established companies are adopting new approaches. Strict hierarchies have become obsolete. Cloud technology connects freelancers and people working from home. For example, in the
New York Times Research and Development Lab, Matt Boggie and Alexis Lloyd are working on cooking apps, computational intelligence, and the newspaper of the future. And it’s not only new companies like Hyperloop that rely on crowdsourcing: EBS and Sportfive predict that by 2025, leading professional football clubs will be at least partly financed by micro investments from foreign fans.
Digtator on work and learning:
» Shiftschool: Digital transformation begins in your head
» Gamification: Why we should work playfully
» Blinkist: We want to make mobile learning possible
» New York Times: How a newspaper is looking to re-invent itself» Football of the future (summer 2017)
The future of health care is in our pockets. In a few years, just under a quarter of the world’s population will own a smartphone, and all sorts of medical tools will be installed on it. Thanks to biomarkers in our bodies, our health will be constantly monitored, and this data used to offer us personalized health care. But these technical developments don’t stop with the smartphone. New York company
“We:eX” is working on intelligent clothing that automatically promotes better health: Yoga pants that emit pulses to help correct the wearer’s posture. Sweaters that create a warm layer of air between the garment and the skin when the wearer is feeling cold. Founder Billie Whitehouse believes that software and hardware will be an integral part of the clothes of the future.
Digtator on health:
» We:eX: Wearable technology
NASA was experimenting with virtual reality glasses as early as the mid 1980s.
From an optical perspective, they could possibly hold their own with the devices of today. But from a technological point of view, they belong in a museum – or even a junkyard. Today, 30 years on, the VR industry is booming. In the last year alone, investment in virtual reality has trebled, and this rise is set to continue. From a consumer point of view, the options are endless: VR enables us to travel anywhere we want without leaving our homes. We can visit a new hotel virtually, before we decide to book. We can choose products at the supermarket without setting foot in the store.
At the same time, augmented reality apps and glasses can merge the real and virtual worlds even further. Google Glass has already shown in which direction development is heading: You’ll be able to keep an eye on the route to the next railway station, receive offers from the store across the street, and see what’s on at the theater around the corner. At the end of the year,
Snapchat Inc. followed suit and bought the Israeli AR start-up Cimagine. It is generally acknowledged that Snapchat’s “Spectacles” will soon shift from funny photos to e-commerce.
Digtator on virtual reality:» Coming Soon
Text: Simon Schaffhöfer
Illustration: Tom Arnds, grasundsterne
Translation: Toby Skingsley