Eight technology predictions for the 2020s

By Areeq Chowdhury.

Welcome to the 2020s – a decade which will no doubt see technology continuing to transform society. What changes can we expect to have witnessed by the time we reach the year 2030? Here are eight specific predictions I’ve made which feature eSport Olympians, a smartphone ban for children, a cardless society, and a global deepfake crisis. I’ll check back on these in ten years to see how right or wrong I was.

1) A global deepfake crisis

Deepfakes (AI-manipulated video and audio footage) will become cheaper and easier to make with the quality being indiscernible from genuine video footage for untrained eyes. They will continue to be applied in pornographic contexts with an increasing number of people becoming victim to ‘deepfake revenge porn’. On social media, humourous deepfakes will be made of celebrities and politicians, before being used to spread malicious disinformation. The mainstream media will be dismissed as the ‘deepfake media’ by political leaders. Politicians will urge social media platforms to ‘do more’.

2) A cash and cardless society

Cash and coins will continue on their downward decline into almost non-existence amongst the public. ATMs will continue to disappear and charities will hand out contactless payment readers to rough sleepers. Credit and debit cards will follow a similar fate during this period with more and more people moving towards contactless payments on their smartphones. Shopping trolleys will start to accept contactless deposit payments.

3) Recruitment becomes automated

Recruitment for large employers will become almost entirely automated. Applicants will take part in AI-assessed online video interviews and CV submissions. Job centres and university career networks will offer sessions on ‘algorithm preparation’ providing guidance to jobseekers on how best to play the online system. Studies will find these systems to contain significant biases, leading to a societal backlash.

4) Smartphone ban for under 16s

Researchers working on longitudinal studies assessing the impact of smartphone use amongst children will begin to publish their findings. These findings will be stark and conclude that children have become addicted to smartphones and have developed other negative health consequences. Campaigners will urge for a ban on smartphone use by children. Governments will stop short of a ban but sanction a public health awareness campaign on the issue.

5) Increased availability of personalised 3D printed drugs

Personalised 3D printed drug development will begin to mature across the globe. Doctors will use online precision medicine applications to calculate the perfect dose of medication for patients. Due to high costs, the technology is initially limited to a small number of drugs and is not made available on the NHS.

6) An eSports game will become an Olympic sport

The International Olympics Committee will seek to cash in on the highly profitable and increasingly popular eSports tournaments and introduce an eSports game as an official Olympic sport. Schools will then consider running eSports clubs and children will dream of representing their country and competing in a future Olympics.

7) Governments attempt to introduce facial recognition technology for security purposes

Citing concerns over terrorism, governments across the world will increasingly trial live facial recognition systems. These systems will lead to much public debate and face resistance from campaigners and politicians. A period of wild west will be followed by tough regulations on the technology’s use.

8) Augmented reality applications grow in popularity

Augmented reality is lauded as the next chapter of the internet revolution. Commentators are split on the issue. Investors fund start-ups creating realistic AR applications for interior design, medical training, and the military. Consumer take-up of these applications is slow but shows promise for the decade after. At least one smartphone game which uses AR will reach similar levels of global popularity as that experienced by Pokémon Go.

All of these are, in some respect, mere extensions of where we are already at in society. I’ve deliberately tried not to be too wild or outrageous with these predictions, but I’m sure there are plenty of other ideas. If you have any interesting ones, send us a tweet.

Areeq Chowdhury is the Head of Think Tank at Future Advocacy.