AI. Blockchain and cryptocurrency. Web3. Quantum computing. The Metaverse.
In the last few years, many of us have talked about the world-altering potential of such next gen-tech. But while they’re exciting conceptually, most of these technologies haven’t reached critical mass when it comes to business use and cultural resonance.
That could change going forward.
Our team was at the Collision 2022 conference in Toronto in June where we heard — in panels, conversations, and from many newly launched startups — there was a sense that broad adoption of these technologies might happen sooner rather than later.
Here’s a look at five of the big tech trends that created buzz among the tech crowd at the event, and what they might mean for our collective digital future.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI has the potential to fundamentally alter the way we process information, as well as how humans and machines interact. There is a potential hybrid intelligence-enabled future where AI and humans engage in real-time to solve problems, process vast amounts of data, make predictions, and drive business strategies. AI-enabled consumer apps could be the norm.
It’s a matter of when, not if.
That said, a widespread AI adoption curve has been elusive. AI is being deployed in various forms, but often in ways that are less revolutionary than its original marketing led people to expect.
For example, Alberta Treasury Branch (ATB) uses machine learning algorithms that analyze behavioural, demographic and historical transaction data to better understand and serve its customers. So it’s more evolutionary than revolutionary, but it still matters.
There’s no question that AI is a foundational pillar of the digital future — we’re just waiting for its adoption tipping point.
Blockchain and cryptocurrency
It’s been a tough year for crypto, to say the least. We’ve seen some coins tank in value, exchanges were hacked, and investors left high and dry. But both blockchain and crypto still carry tremendous potential going forward.
Tech like Blockchain can be a foundational component of the rapidly expanding “creator economy,” which has now attracted $5 billion in startup investments (with $1.3 billion in 2021 alone).
Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian predicts a global creative renaissance as millions of people around the world are able to monetize their work via blockchain and crypto.
This is just one of many ways blockchain and crypto can be disruptive.
‘Trustless’ systems where transaction records are distributed across the blockchain also have the potential to upend traditional industries like finance and insurance (amongst many others).
And if you’re wondering where we stand — our CEO, Vince O’Gorman, recently shared our interest in either investing in or acquiring companies that work with cryptocurrency and blockchain in the payments space.
As its name implies, Web3 is thought by some to be the third iteration of the internet. Web 1.0 was the original generation of basic websites and content (mostly just text and images) that was predominantly user-consumed, rather than created.
Then came Web 2.0. This is the internet we’re all familiar with today. An interactive space where people document their lives across social channels and everyday creators share their personal content on mostly corporately owned channels.
Web3’s promise is decentralization, using blockchain, and in theory, returning power to the people. Decentralization would apply to everything from governance (of communities, platforms, websites and digital products like NFTs) as well as verifiability (of transactions and activity).
Web3 will be marked by individuals owning their own data rather than ceding it to corporate interests as a condition of app usage — if Web3 evangelists have their way, that is.
Should businesses plan for Web3?
Companies considering their digital futures, strategies and products should probably consider blockchain, crypto, and AI as somewhat inevitable, but while Web3 is intriguing, it has a much more uncertain future.
It can be a struggle to understand quantum computing. Which makes sense, given how experimental it is, and that it’s not intended for personal use.
Right now, quantum computing is mostly related to sophisticated corporate and scientific applications. And that may not change for a while.
In simple terms, quantum computers are supercomputers totally unlike our desktops or smartphones. They’re capable of outperforming even the most sophisticated computers today because they’re informed by quantum mechanics — a totally different model of how the world works.
The applications for quantum computing run the gamut from chemical and biological engineering to finance, healthcare, and cybersecurity.
If you want to dive deeper into this tech, here’s a primer from the Harvard Business Review. Just get ready for your head to spin.
As you’re likely aware, the company formerly known as Facebook is now Meta. And they’re one company pushing for the “Metaverse,” which is a digital world that uses virtual reality.
The Metaverse is more explicitly consumer-focused than many of the other technologies we’ve discussed, as it offers a playground for people to create and curate their own virtual experiences (similar to how people create and curate their own experiences inside Facebook).
It’s also a potentially lucrative “place” for creator economy participants to sell virtual products like NFTs. And entertainment or retail companies will likely be able to build and sell ‘on top of’ the Metaverse architecture.
Some companies are already jumping onboard the Metaverse bandwagon. LEGO and Epic Games have partnered to “build an immersive, creatively inspiring and engaging digital experience for kids of all ages to enjoy together. The experience will give user access to tools that will empower them to become confident creators and deliver amazing play opportunities in a safe and positive space.”
Is the hype justified? Will the Metaverse become a monolith like Facebook?
There are legitimate questions about whether there’s sufficient organic demand to justify the existence of the Metaverse (as well as how safe and private it will be), but Meta certainly has the resources and capabilities to bring it to life.