The tech industry is abuzz with all the possibilities a fresh, new decade presents.
In the 2010s, we saw an increase in personal tech devices, the invention of apps like Instagram and Lyft. Tech changed the way we ordered food and dated with Postmates and Bumble. We met Amazon Alexa and witnessed the rise and fall of Google+.
The 2020s are bound to bring us even more revolutionary changes, and we anticipate Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 5G will transform the way we view energy, transportation, and the human lifespan over the next 10 years.
So just how will the industry change in the next decade? Here’s what may come to fruition in the roaring 2020s.
5G will be the new normal
Many of the changes we expect to see this decade will be influenced by the switch to 5G. With the growing use of mobile and Internet-based devices, 4G LTE will no longer be able to support the digital infrastructure. It’s time for 5G to step up as the next generation of mobile broadband. 5G differs from 4G LTE as it operates using 3 different spectrum bands (low-band, mid-band, and high-band). This is huge and will essentially make mobile communication and data use faster and more efficient.
Some cities began using 5G in 2019 but as the first couple years of the new decade pass by, its use will only increase and spread throughout the country and the world. Carriers like Verizon and AT&T have already rolled out 5G in Indianapolis, though Sprint and T-Mobile have yet to do so.
5G is also estimated to support healthcare efforts such as virtual reality physical therapy, teletherapy, remote recovery, precision surgery, and more.
For any one of these reasons alone, 5G is going to have a big impact on the industry in the near future.
AI and machine learning will transform life as we know it
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been at the forefront of tech conversations for years now. Towards the end of the 2010s, we saw everything from machine learning-based apps like Uber to an AI influencer named Miquela.
AI will most certainly change the way we work. According to Forbes, 75 percent of organizations will be retraining employees by 2025 in an effort to fill the skills gap caused by “the need to adopt AI.”
Additionally, former Democratic candidate Andrew Yang sparked a national conversation on the effects automation would have on the trucking and factory industries, as experts are expecting to roll out AI-operated trucks in the coming years. This may leave many jobless and force people to retrain in industries like tech in order to stay competitive for the future of work.
AI will also change less tangible areas of our lives, like pop culture and the way we create art. Artists like Stephanie Dinkins and Christopher Kulendran Thomas are already implementing AI into their projects. Dinkins speaks with a robot in one of her video installations at San Francisco’s deYoung Museum, while Thomas created an AI Taylor Swift in a video called “Being Human,” made in collaboration with artist Annika Kuhlmann. We can expect to see more artists embracing and questioning the role of AI in works throughout the decade.
AI will also impact the way we receive healthcare (more on that below).
Humans will live longer
Thanks to technologically improved healthcare, we’re supposed to be living longer. Many in the U.S. have begun eating healthier foods and exercising more by utilizing wearable tech and health-based apps, contributing to this shift. Taking things a step further, scientists are actively working to see if they can extend the human life cycle by 10 to 20 years. Some like Aubrey de Grey of the SENS Research Foundation, picture a life where humans live even longer. He believes the first human to live over 1,000 years old has already been born. De Grey and co. are working to uncover ways to stop the aging process in early adulthood. At the end of the 2010s, a plethora of funding went into this research so we’re expecting even more revelations in the 2020s.
Baby Boomers will reach ages 65 to 85 in the 2020s. This prediction of longer lifespans poses a few big questions for lower and middle-class Boomers who might run out of retirement savings and would consequently need to continue working well into their 60s and 70s. Today, many older adults are discriminated against in the workplace due to ageism, so it will be interesting to see how this growing population of working Boomers may influence the way we view aging, productivity, and retirement.
The cost of nursing homes and in-home care has also risen exponentially, making it difficult for older Americans to get the care they need and placing a new burden on families. So we can expect a higher demand for telecommuting positions as many family members will likely take on caretaking responsibilities in the 2020s. The tech industry is one step ahead here as many companies within it already offer remote work benefits, so we might see this as another factor for increased interest in the industry.
This extended lifespan could also present a challenge as, for the first time in human history, there would be a larger population of older adults than those under age 13. This will affect things like government-run Social Security programming which may see a decrease in the number of young people paying into it.
Digitization and digital privacy will increase
People are demanding more privacy in the Internet age. In 2018, the California Consumer Privacy Act was introduced to give consumers control over how their data was used and sold
by companies. We expect to see more legislation like this in the coming years as the government works to catch up to the explosion of social media, smartphones, and the industry as a whole.
Digital companies will also begin to focus more on privacy as they’re held accountable for the ways they’ve stored and sold people’s information in the past. We imagine (and hope) more transparency is on the horizon for organizations dealing with personal data.
Increased privacy will be especially important as digitization efforts continue, impacting the way we store memories and documents, from the federal level all the way down to the personal. In the spirit of this, we also expect an increased move towards more cloud-based storage, which has already been kickstarted by companies like Dropbox, Apple, and Google.
Finally, the United Nations hopes to establish digital identities for all by the year 2030. The hope is that with the creation of digital IDs, people would have a portable, private, persistent, and personal form of ID with them no matter where they go. This ID would stay with someone from birth to death and would grant people more ownership over their data while allowing them access to government programs like healthcare and social assistance.
The UN also cites that digital IDs will help create gender equality in countries where women aren’t always granted identification. This would change the way we bank, vote, and bring major reform to countries that haven’t successfully tracked records and identity in the past. Learn more about this initiative here.
Intelligent devices will go beyond the home
Back in 1999, the idea of a “smart home” was fodder for a Disney Channel Original Movie called “Smart House.” Twenty years later, Slate published a story about the fascinating connection between this millennial childhood film and Amazon’s Alexa. In 2020, smart homes are becoming more and more normal thanks to devices like Google Home and the Amazon Echo providing everyone with a personal assistant. In the next 10 years, we’ll see these intelligent devices go beyond the home, into our cars, classrooms, and shopping centers. Some experts predict we’ll all be carrying around a virtual assistant of our own, while children will begin their smart device experience with intelligent toys. This will be a heavy switch from current assistants like Apple’s Siri that leaves much to be desired in terms of intelligence. And we’ll see assistants become more accurate in their responses and voice-to-text controls.
Some are skeptical (rightly so, we think) of what these changes could mean for the way we connect with others and complete day-to-day tasks, as well as how they’ll affect privacy and security – as previously discussed).
No matter what happens, it’s clear our intelligent devices will be seeing big upgrades in the 2020s.
We’ll see advancements in renewable energy
Alternative forms of energy have been at the forefront of our collective mind over the last couple of years as climate change discussions grow more heated and urgent. Over the course of the next decade, we can expect to see more in-depth discussion around renewable energy not only on the political stage but eventually implemented into our daily lives.
Legislation has already passed in several states to encourage the use of renewables, including New Mexico’s Energy Transition Act, Washington’s Clean Energy Transformation Act, and the Act To Reform Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. Even within the last decade, we saw changes here as electric production shifted from coal to natural gases. Now, we expect to see a shift from natural gas to renewables like wind and solar photovoltaic (PV).
In fact, S&P Global Market Intelligence declared the 2020s will be the ‘solar decade’ as the United States will see 20 percent of its electricity mix become solar-powered. To say it’s going to be an exciting time for green energy is an understatement.
Our cars will be autonomous and fly
Self-driving cars are expected to finally begin rolling out in the 20s. Industry leaders are hoping this rollout will help reduce accidents, among other benefits. Autonomous vehicles will be able to communicate with other vehicles on the road, warn other cars of traffic and accidents, and predict when cars ahead will break abruptly. Alongside the addition of autonomous vehicles, smart traffic lights will reduce wait times.
Flying cars may be part of our future too. Uber is currently working alongside Hyundai to create the first-ever air taxi network, which it hopes to launch in 2023. Take a look at the prototypes here. Whether autonomous, in the air, or both, it’s clear the next decade is going to be big for transportation.
Space tourism will go to infinity and beyond
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has partnered with Space Adventures and estimated it will begin launching tourists into space as early as this year. Though prices have not yet been divulged, tickets are estimated to be in the millions. But who knows? Other companies like Virgin Galactic are also slated to offer space travel to regular folks in the coming years. By 2029, space travel for tourists could be affordable and more easily accessible. Only time (and space) will tell.
The tech industry will be unionized
The first tech industry union was born in February 2020. Kickstarter employees began their unionizing efforts back in 2018 after internal tensions arose surrounding a fundraiser for the comic book “Always Punch Nazis.” Tension began after the release of a Breitbart article, which accused Kickstarter of “inciting violence.” The company pulled the fundraiser but employees raised concerns that the company was bending to “far-right trolls” so Kickstarter reinstated it.
In February 2020, the company held its official vote and the union Kickstarter United was born. Several employees at the helm of unionizing efforts were fired over the year and a half of employee organizing but for those remaining, the creation of the union is both historic and celebrated, marking the first white-collar tech union.
We can no doubt expect to see similar situations arise at other tech companies throughout the decade, as tech workers demand their employers take stronger social and political stances and hire more diversely. This will also be a historic shift for unions in general, as
those in white-collar professions begin to unionize (a strategy typically used by those in blue-collar industries). We’ve already seen employees at Google protest both when higher-ups were set to work with the U.S. government’s Department of Defense on a project and in a case of sexual harassment. Tech workers seem to be focusing not on traditional union issues (like better pay or work hours) and instead on moral issues. The Hill calls this “tech activism” and it’ll likely be on the rise over the next 10 years.
Cheers to the future!
The tech industry, which has built itself upon innovation, will no doubt continue to be exciting to watch in the next 10 years. With the continued improvement and deployment of tools like AI and 5G, the way we live our day-to-day lives will likely change drastically. We’ll also see how the industry is impacted by criticism it’s received for how it handled consumer data in the 2010s and see more tech industry workers fight for their own workplace rights and the rights of others. Whatever happens, we’re pumped to watch how our world is transformed by innovators, thinkers, and doers in the 2020s.