Amy Webb is the CEO of the Future Today Institute, which serves as a management consultancy for a wide variety of government agencies and private companies. “These are the people who are held back by filmmakers and producers of TV commercials setting their plans for the future and wanting to know what it should look like,” said Webb, who calls himself a “Quantitative Futurist” from the Institute. . , which has a diverse list of high-profile clients, including Fox Entertainment, Sony, Cisco, Pepsi and the State Department. Each year, the Future Today Institute publishes its “Emerging Tech Trends Report”. Webb, who is also a professor at NYU Stern School of Business, “kicked off” this year’s report on the 15th with a talk at SXSW 2022 this week. Concisely enough, the talk was titled “Amy Webb Launches 2022 Emerging Tech Trends Report.”
The top trends covered reflected top trends throughout SXSW 2022, including Artificial Intelligence, Metaverse/Web 3, and Synthetic Biology. All of them, Webb said, have widespread applications and everything could go very well or very badly, depending on how things turn out.
“We are getting closer to the day when AI systems can make their own decisions. Panic ? asked a title card in Section IA. Facial recognition is just the beginning – eventually smell and even breathing will be used for recognition purposes.
And there are retail apps. Webb presented a scenario where someone shopping for a wedding dress could share prompts with a screen and ask the AI to “create images that match your description.” Select the ten that most closely resemble what you would be willing to wear. Other prompts can further refine the choices. It’s easy to imagine a similar type of AI-generated smart home setup or home theater setup based on a customer’s answered prompts.
Webb walked through an “optimistic scenario” for where things will end with AI in five years, in 2027.
“The AI content is identified in some way, as are the teams that created the models. We’ve gone for transparency. There are guardrails to use and certain types of invisible and invasive biometric systems – not just facial recognition – have been banned from use in public spaces,” she predicted. “Searching is so much better; it’s a lot more intuitive, and it’s a lot more accessible, now that people can have a conversation and do a visual search.
Webb’s “doomsday” scenario for the AI, however, was very different.
“The problems we have in 2022 are only exacerbated by the year 2027,” she said. “Misinformation is everywhere, but now it comes in the form of images and videos, which have been specifically crafted by AI systems and no one can tell the difference. And worse, they have been crafted to arouse our trust, make us believe and ultimately make us really angry. Unacceptable amounts of data are collected about us, without any transparency. Your data is held by third parties, who can resell it, and it is impossible to be anonymous.
On the surface, Webb’s latest scenario does indeed look like an exponentially worse version of what we’re experiencing today, only AI designs the content and humans can’t tell the difference. While AI-generated content is often easy to spot today, it’s not hard to imagine a world in which it becomes more professional since five years isn’t a long time when it comes to machine learning and of technology.
Webb saw an 80% chance for the “catastrophic” scenario and 20% for the “optimistic” scenario.
The next big trend was the metaverse, which was a major talking point throughout the SXSW 2022 conference schedule. Generally used to describe online 2D and 3D environments, including virtual reality, the “metaverse” , as Webb explains, is “an umbrella term for technologies that bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds.” She called it part of Web 3.0, “the next evolution of digital infrastructure.”
According to Webb, the metaverse will allow people to present different versions of themselves in different scenarios, and they’ll likely use it for everything from business meetings to dating to hangouts.
The biggest questions about the Metaverse, aside from how quickly the technology can keep up, is how it will be standardized.
“It’s the infrastructure and the protocols that matter,” said a slide from the presentation. The key questions to ask, Webb said, are “who are the people building these new spaces? Are they optimized for everyone? What if metaverse spaces are not interoperable? Who decides on the standards? »
Webb shared examples of some wild metaverse innovations in the works, including something called “Targeted Dream Incubation” (TDI), which is an actual version of technology from the movie Inception.
As with AI, Webb presented optimistic and doomsday scenarios for the metaverse, looking ahead to 2032.
“We stopped saying Web 3.0 was totally decentralized,” Webb said of the optimistic scenario, referring to the oft-quoted promise that blockchain technology will completely eliminate the middleman, even as nearly all financial entities and corporations, including many CE makers, are diving into NFTs, smart contracts, and cryptocurrency. “Instead, we clarified that blockchain, new forms of security, would allow consumers to have much more control over their data. And we trusted. We did this using zero-knowledge proofs, which is a cryptographic tool that allows a third party to prove that a statement is true without needing to observe a bunch of data. We also focused on radical inclusivity.
As for the disaster scenario?
“Online dating is an apocalyptic hell of doom. We look back on ‘The Tinder Swindler’ and laugh at how things were simpler back then. Many of us now have a dozen iterations of ourselves, which we authenticate using Digital ID, but since no one has thought of it, we are constantly stuck juggling different digital identities and trying to remember which is which.
“And those metaverse town halls that everyone was so excited about? Well, they’re still run by the same people, but they still have the same issues. She saw the “catastrophic” scenario have a probability of 70%, against 30% for “optimistic”.
Regarding the part on synthetic biology, Webb noted that “computers and biology have become one”.
She noted that one in five Americans have paid a private company to sequence their DNA. And while the Chinese government is the entity on the planet with the most DNA, 23andMe and Ancestry.com are right behind it in second and third place, respectively.
Overall, Webb concluded his presentation with a few key points:
“We are in a period of acceleration; prejudices persist and we must address them: decentralization will benefit some but not all; we have no safeguards or national plans; and we will have to redefine what is “real”. »
Whether the glass is half full or half empty, the next few years will require vigilance, effort and perseverance to realize Webb’s “optimistic” predictions.