Amy Webb is the CEO of Future Today Institute, a management consulting firm that does long-range scenario planning. Amy shared some of her recent insights with us during the webinar about the top tech trends for 2023 and her latest experiences at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
The webinar recordings are available until 24 February 2023 through the sign-up page. If you haven't signed up yet, you can do so here.
Amy just came back from the World Economic Forum in Davos and brought back some takeaways and trends that executives and businesses will face during 2023. She identified three macro issues that shadowed conversations and five technology-focused topics that emerged during the Forum.
3 Macro Issues
The Global Polycrisis
The Global Polycrisis happens when one existing or emerging crisis connects and converges with other crises. Together, these crises are more impactful than they would be alone. As an example, she gave sustainability and the climate crisis, which intersect with ship shortages in Taiwan, other macroeconomic forces, and the need for talent in certain fields. All of these factors compound as each of the crises begins to converge.
This created concerns in leaders about how the crises will play out over time. The Global Polycrisis increases volatility, uncertainty, ambiguity, and complexity in the business environment.
Russia's Invasion of Ukraine
It didn’t matter what themes or topics were discussed at the Forum, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine always came up. This conflict will shadow the business environment this year and for years to come.
Sustainability touches every industry and creates regulatory changes across the globe. Whether your company is engaging in sustainable practices or trying to avert sustainability regulation, this topic will shape businesses during this year and the years to come.
5 Technology-Focus Topics
The Industrial Internet
Specifically, the industrial metaverse and its applications were discussed during WEF. For example, the healthcare industry may face drastic changes and improvements through the use of the industrial metaverse. Amy discussed assisted surgery, in which a digital overlay with everything from a manual to a human body guides surgeons during their work. Many leaders in Davos seemed to be excited about the technology, and Amy has been tracking its development with her company, saying that this year seems promising for the technology.
There are several different types of new security threats that companies and individuals face, which was an important talking point at the Forum. In different parts of the world, cyber security issues such as data privacy will be addressed differently. For example, the EU is passing many new regulations covering issues like privacy in the age of AI. In the upcoming years, we will see more advanced policies coming out of the EU, and perhaps the United States. Some states already have strict biosecurity and biosurveillance rules.
Generative Artificial Intelligence
Whereas the 2010s was the era of sensory AI, the 2020s brought us the era of generative artificial intelligence. Generative AI takes real-time data and creates something new based on it. The created content can be an image, such as a Deepfake, text created by ChatGPT (which many of you may be familiar with), or even a new protein structure.
Experts have identified both risks and benefits of the technology. The risks include negative changes in the structure of the workforce, particularly losing jobs in certain fields faster than anticipated. Other significant risks arise from the misuse of Deepfakes, especially in the medical field. Amy gave the example of adding a cancerous tumor to an MRI scan or taking one away to create distrust.
Although there is a lot of talk about ChatGPT at the moment, it is only one modality of one type of generative AI. Sometimes leaders can lose focus because they feel like they’re behind, but there is an entire ecosystem of generative AI systems that cover many different areas. Even though creating AI avatars or generating text through ChatGPT is interesting, it’s not where your focus should be. Your focus should be on something that may be more boring, the infrastructure, but that is what will take your business forward.
Bioengineering is an umbrella term that includes CRISPR and synthetic biology. The main focus is to design or redesign life to have new and improved purposes, which impacts everything from agriculture to the use of fossil fuels, plastics, paints, coatings, and other applications in the industrial space. Bioengineering also impacts fast drug discovery, new therapeutics and medications, and addressing global food shortages.
Leaders are curious to know when quantum computing will matter enough so that they have to make a decision on it. Amy says that this is a difficult question to answer. Various micro improvements are happening constantly, however, the use cases are not quite there yet.
Visual Summary by Linda Saukko-Rauta
Tech vs Trendy
Amy had an interesting note on the WEF in 2020. Many of the technologies that were discussed back then, such as blockchain, cryptocurrencies, big data, and the cloud, came up a few times this year but were not the focus anymore. This brings up the question; What is a trend, and what is merely trendy?
'The trends that matter to business are the ones that will evolve over time.'
Amy says that organizations need to distinguish between the “shiny objects” in technology, such as metaverse topics that create a lot of buzz in social media, and the topics that impact underlying structures and shape the future. You need to look at things that are likely to persist over time. Amy introduced the four criteria that make a trend:
- Trends are timely but persist into the future
- Trends emerge from the intersecting vectors of different areas
- Trends represent a main human need or a need in society, not something fleeting
- Trends evolve as they emerge
New technology trends also raise ethical questions. Amy thinks that businesses need to have conversations about values and ethics in the age of technologies that are becoming an interwoven part of our everyday lives. These conversations need to be ongoing and address the wider implications of decisions and business practices of the company. However, she explains that there seems to be a reluctance in the technology sector to do so.
'I don’t know a lot of business leaders that have put ethics and values at the core of their decision-making.'
Amy Webb is also one of the speakers at Oslo Business Forum 2023. If you want to hear more about what is about to come in technology and business in the upcoming 10 years, book your ticket now!