The only thing that is constant is change.
For the technology industry, this nugget of knowledge cannot be any truer. Ever since the dawn of the first computer, scientist, engineers, and innovators have been pushing the boundaries of what we thought possible. It all started with a code-breaking machine, then it led to better forms of communication, then the personal computer, and then supercomputers in our own pockets. The rate of change and progress that is being made with technology is only going to ramp up from here.
And with that said, here are the top 3 trends that we see will be defining 2018. These trends have been around for some time, but it is in 2018 that we feel they will truly make their mark.
Before anything else, it is worth distinguishing the difference between Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning. AI is the concept that machines will one day be able to replicate the way that humans behave and think. Machine learning, on the other hand, is simply the objective that machines be capable of learning. Machine learning is the goal wherein we can simply present data to a machine, and it will be able to parse out a requested answer, by analyzing and learning the intricacies of the data without human intervention. An easier way to think about AI vs. Machine learning is that machine learning is a requirement for AI to be achieved.
The advancements in machine learning have been astonishing in recent years. Google’s DeepMind project has managed to produce a machine learning algorithm (AlphaGo Zero) that is capable of teaching itself how to play Go and Chess at superhuman levels. One reason why this is so important is that previously, computer programs that played games like Go or Chess well had to be explicitly taught by a human to do so. Standard high-level Chess playing programs like StockFIsh, had to be explicitly programmed on the ideal chess moves. AlphaGo Zero on the other hand, was simply given the rules of the game, and then learned how to play at superhuman levels, by playing against itself over, and over again, adjusting after each game. And this is fairly similar to how humans learn.
One of the key applications to machines being able to learn better, is that they may also learn how to driver better. Like AI, the concept of driverless cars has been around for a fair bit, and like everything else in this list, it seems like the efforts to bring this concept to the mainstream consumer is only going to get stronger in the New Year.
Investments in startups that are working towards driverless cars have been on the rise. And it seems that regulators are now thawing to the idea of having driverless cars on public roads. Pair all of that with the potential for smarter computers, and that’s a formula for being able to commute via driverless cars very very soon.
With the increasing involvement of technology in our lives aiding us in how we commute, how we eat, how we communicate, and how we bank. Securing that data should now be of paramount importance. And this is not only limited to securing our saved files, but also ensuring that our communication between each other is kept private and confidential. The revelation of the widespread government surveillance conducted by the NSA in 2013 kicked off the concern for data and privacy protection. But those concerns should certainly be present today as well, by both corporations and individuals alike.
The Equifax and Uber hacks this year are just some examples of how data stored by corporations can be at risk. Data security also takes renewed importance now that FinTech (Financial Technology) services are becoming more mainstream. Financial transactions conducted over the internet need to be secured so that hackers and eavesdroppers aren’t able to gleam private personal and financial information. Cryptocurrencies are also now receiving mainstream adoption by the consumer, and for most cryptocurrencies where significant sums of money are involved, taking measures to ensure the security of your assets and funds is imperative.
What can I do?
The general trend that we see technology going, is that it is starting to integrate itself further and further into every aspect of our lives. The implementation of machine learning in basic services like healthcare would have a profound impact on how we receive medical care, but also on what kind of data is stored about us electronically. Driverless cars will fundamentally change the way we commute and move from point A to B. More transactions and information being sent over the internet also means that we are now more connected, but at the same time, that our data is at more risk. So as the New Year arrives, from a professional point of view, look towards the opportunities that machine learning, driverless cars, and data security may bring. But also, at the personal point of view, be conscious that your interaction with technology and the internet should be secure. Taking simple steps like using a VPN, using an encrypted password database, and enabling 2-factor authentication would all go a long way in ensuring that while you are enjoying the benefits of the technological wave, you are also protected from the risks that it brings.