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The possibilities are boundless when imagining the world in 2030 in terms of the impact of technological innovation. In trying to answer this question, I am reminded of the Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894. Horse manure was a huge, and growing, problem for urban planning and the health of citizens was at risk. It was a global crisis and it seemed there was no solution. Yet, by 1912, the problem had been eradicated entirely through the introduction of the motorised vehicle. This just goes to show how technology advancements can create rapid and far-reaching shifts in how we live our lives.
All we can say with certainty is that the year 2030 will begin on a Tuesday. However, it is also fair to say that, given the ambition set out in the government’s industrial strategy to make every sector a digital one, our economic and social future will be underpinned by a combination of current and future technologies.
But the $64million question is: which technologies will be at the forefront, and which will have simply become part of the invisible infrastructure of our future digital economy and society? Perhaps, in 2030, we won’t be talking about cloud computing. The cloud will simply be the IT infrastructure that enables technologies such as smart cities, driverless vehicles and advanced robotics to become an everyday reality.
Quantum computing is expected to become mainstream by 2030. This will significantly increase both computing power and speed. With the introduction of 5G, and possibly even 6G and 7G by 2030, speed of connectivity will no longer be a challenge for businesses and consumers. These improved conditions will impact nearly every part of our daily lives. This could, for example, include 3D printing of household goods, and maybe even food, in your own home.
Artificial intelligence is also likely to be at the heart of the next wave of the digital evolution. However, it is important to separate science from fiction. It is very unlikely that by 2030 we will have seen a move from the use of narrow AI technologies (as we have today) to general AI, or what some call the singularity, where AI systems overtake the intelligence of humans. By 2030, we will all most likely live and work alongside intelligent AI-driven machines. The future impact of automated, intelligent AI on people’s everyday lives will be determined by the digital ethics debate happening right now. We must ensure that we work with government and industry to ensure that we are creating and developing technology that we will all be able to benefit positively from in 2030 and beyond.
In a similar vein to the Great Horse Manure Crisis, key to what our digital future may look like is the UK government’s ambition to have reduced levels of carbon emissions by 90 per cent by 2050. This means meeting a total carbon budget of 1,765 metric tons of carbon dioxide or equivalent between 2028 and 2032. While an extremely challenging target, this could be the catalyst to the development of innovation in smart technology solutions – for example, in the area of the internet of things (IoT) – that we haven’t even considered today.
The UK’s digital future will see the delivery of digital goods and services enabled by the increased convergence of many different innovations and increased computing power. We may all be riding around a smart city that is maintained using AI-enabled driverless cars that connect quickly and efficiently to a real-time environment using cloud services enabled by quantum computing and a network of 5G-enabled IoT sensors, while enjoying a 3D-printed breakfast and holding a hologram meeting with colleagues. Now that’s a future that I can’t wait to see!
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