The world’s tech industry will be shaped by China, artificial intelligence, cancel culture, and other key trends, according to the Future Today Institute’s 2020 Tech Trends Report.

Now in its thirteenth year, the document is put together by the Future Today Institute and director Amy Webb, who is also a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. The report attempts to recognize connections between tech and future uncertainties, like the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, as well as the spread of diseases like COVID-19.

Among major trends in the report, 2020 is expected to be the “synthetic decade.”

“Soon we will produce ‘designer’ molecules in a range of host cells on demand and at scale, which will lead to transformational improvements in vaccine production, tissue production, and medical treatments. Scientists will start to build entire human chromosomes, and they will design programmable proteins,” the report reads.

Augmentation of senses like hearing and sight, social media scaremongering, new ways to measure trust, and China’s role in the growth of AI are also listed among key takeaways.

Artificial intelligence is again the first item highlighted on the list, and the tech Webb says is sparking a third wave of computing comes with positives, like the role AlphaFold can play in discovering cures for diseases, as well as negatives, like AI’s current impact on the criminal justice system.

Tech giants in the U.S. and China — like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft in the United States and Tencent and Baidu in China — continue to deliver the greatest impact. Webb predicts how these companies will shape the world in her 2019 book The Big Nine.

“Those nine companies drive the majority of research, funding, government involvement, and consumer-grade applications of AI. University researchers and labs rely on these companies for data, tools, and funding,” the report reads. “Big Nine AI companies also wield huge influence over AI mergers and acquisitions, funding AI startups, and supporting the next generation of developers.”

Other AI trends include synthetic data, a military-tech industrial complex, and systems made to recognize people.

Visit the Future Today Institute website to read the full report, which flags trends that require immediate action and highlights trends by industry.

Webb urges readers to digest the 366-page report in multiple sittings, rather than trying to read it all at once. She typically debuts the report with a presentation to thousands at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, but the conference was cancelled due to COVID-19.


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