Tech as a carbon chimney and other matters: Some reflections and (hesitant) predictions

January 6, 2022

If I have learnt anything over the last two years, it’s that predictions are difficult to make (if not nigh-on-impossible) and that reflections are worth spending a little more time on. So, I will start with some reflections, which lay the groundwork for some (hesitant) predictions. 

Tech as a force for good and bad in the social sphere

Technology has been a force for good in the last two years; enabling social interactions to continue online when real life interactions were not possible. However, we are all keenly aware of the damage that technology can do as well. This year Facebook announced the change to Meta, and the new world it is looking to build. The Haugen revelations will make many of us wary of this brave new world. Privacy and security will be even more acute concerns in a future where the Metaverse features. For example, imagine being faced with an ad that is not just based on basic information such as your gender, location and age but your body language and who you interact with in the Metaverse in real time. If there is a shift to the  virtual world it will, I think, be some time off (10 years plus). In the short term, I predict we’ll see a lot of exciting developments in VR to try tempt us on to the Metaverse when the time comes. Whether we’ll get a light headset that doesn’t induce motion sickness and looks vaguely cool may be too much to ask for, but I predict a lot of money and time will be invested in trying to make it happen.  

Tech and the quantum race

Over the past few years I have made predictions about quantum computers, and I am usually overly optimistic in my predictions. Last year Boris Johnson outlined his ambition for the UK to become the pre-eminent force in the global quantum computing market by 2040. This increased funding , with  government backing, will accelerate growth in the UK. 2040 is ambitious but (in my optimistic opinion) this is an area we will see develop rapidly in that time. 

Tech and the role of data

It would be remiss, in terms of reflections and predictions, not to mention the highly anticipated judgment of 2021, Lloyd v Google. There have been many other recent decisions (Johnson v Eastlight, Warren v DSG, Rolfe v Veale), along with Lloyd v Google, which have confirmed that bringing large (or even small) litigation arising out of data breaches will be much more difficult in the future. In terms of predictions, this should not be confused with a relaxation in terms of the standards to be applied to organisations. Organisations are becoming live to the value of the data they hold. However, increasingly organisations will use AI and IoT to harness its capabilities. This will lead to the much more deliberate use of data by organisations (very different to claims arising out of cyber-attacks), and increased vulnerabilities on claims for breach of confidence and misuse of private information if things go awry. 

Tech as a carbon chimney and green enabler

Technology has been shown to be both a carbon chimney while also being hailed as a green enabler. The last year has seen an increasing shift both in terms of an awareness of greenwashing and seeking to make real change.  While I predict that technology will continue to contribute to the issue of climate change, I predict that in the next year there will be more focus on the role that technology plays in contributing to climate change and work to address that.

Even those most excited by the promise of science and technology exercise some caution with predictions. As Neil Armstrong put it, “[s]cience has not yet mastered prophecy. We predict too much for the next year and yet far too little for the next 10”. With that in mind, the world of technology has much to look forward to as we see the building blocks of those developments in 2022.

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