Erik P.M. Vermeulen


10 (Mostly Tech-Related) Predictions for 2019

How Teaching in January Helped Me See the “Future”

I had a fantastic start to the new year. As I mentioned in last week’s post, I co-taught a course on “disruptive innovation” at St. Thomas University in Minneapolis. Over the past few years, I have always spent the first weeks of January teaching this course. This isn’t a traditional course. It’s more like a co-working space where “teachers” and “students” have discussions and work on assignments together.

And that’s what makes the course so exciting. Each year is completely different. But one thing is always the same: the teaching helps me to get a better sense of what the new year will bring and where we are all heading.

This year was no different. The in-class discussions, group work and continuing conversations outside of the class led to the following predictions for 2019:

(1) “Sustainable” Platforms

Platform companies, such as Facebook, Airbnb and Amazon, will continue to make the headlines in the business world in 2019.

But these platforms will come under even greater public pressure. We will get a better understanding of how they should or shouldn’t operate, and only the “sustainable” platforms will prosper.

Two features distinguish such sustainable platforms: (1) they are continually reinventing themselves by offering “freedom and responsibility” to their employees, business partners and other stakeholders and communities, and (2) they act in a socially responsible way.

Too many platforms have lost sight of this mission (think Facebook), but the coming year will see them changing course or facing a severe public reaction.

(2) Microsoft

The Redmond-based company is often referred to as “old tech.” However, the company will again be the most valuable company in the world at the end of this year. It will also become a trillion-dollar company in 2019.

Why? Well, Microsoft’s CEO understands the power of being a sustainable platform.

(3) Apple

Apple’s move into “digital health” will pay off. The digital health industry is becoming more mature in 2019 and Apple’s technology will be a vital tool for solving many “healthy aging” problems.

(4) Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence will be mainstream in 2019. For sure, we won’t be any closer to a “singularity,” but the companies/organizations that will implement “AI” applications/solutions will dominate industries. With AI applications/solutions I mean “Intelligence Augmentation” where big data, data analytics, and algorithms are augmenting human intelligence.

(5) Algorithms

As AI (or IA) becomes more accepted, public awareness of algorithms will rise. We will see more intensive discussion about algorithms, algorithmic bias and the ethics of algorithms.

I’ve already seen a conversation that the current trend on social media, #10YearChallenge (where users post pictures of themselves ten years apart on Instagram), will help algorithms to become better in face recognition and prediction. Also, I have already been invited to several events to discuss this topic.

(6) Blockchain and Decentralization

Ethereum will still be used to conduct most blockchain-based experiments. But other important and fast-growing decentralized platforms will appear. Blockchain-based applications will become smarter and more accepted outside the “blockchain community” (with the involvement of other groups than coders and developers). This trend will help us better understand the technological, social and economic potential of blockchain and will help us set a considerable step towards a more decentralized and “disintermediated” world.

(7) Bitcoin

Bitcoin is here to stay. It may lose its power as the most used cryptocurrency as “money.” Bitcoin will go retro in 2019, remaining attractive to the believers in crypto-currency.

(8) Education

The pressure to change education, universities and other educational institutions will increase in 2019. More and more people will realize that a more forward-thinking approach is needed to deal with today’s challenges (global warming, healthy aging, inequality, lack of inclusion). Also, storytelling-skills to make sure we make the right choices will also attract more attention.

(9) Social Media

Social media will continue to be a more powerful means to change the world, promote transparency and create awareness (despite the pressure on social media companies, such as Facebook and Twitter). Again, the #10YearChallenge is a recent example of creating awareness for a global problem (similar to #metoo): Global Warming.

(10) Rugby World Cup

While I was in Minneapolis, I also had some discussions about significant events in 2019.

The Rugby World Cup in Japan was mentioned. The predicted winners? Ireland (not New Zealand).

Next year, we will see whether these predictions made sense. One thing is sure; I will continue to push for the importance of “forward-looking thinking” in my classes. It will not only help us predict the future, but, more importantly, build the future with the fast-growing emerging technologies. This will make the experience of teaching even more valuable for both the students and me.

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