The future of the Internet – part 3

In this series we’ve been looking at the future of the Internet and using Pew Research’s recent Digital Life in 2025 report as a guide for our discussion. We understand how the internet has been a major disruptor at all levels of society – impacting how we access and manage private information, how we socialize with friends and family, and the way we work. All signs indicate this transformation is going to continue – only more intensely. One of the outcomes of the Pew Report is that the internet will become ‘like electricity’; this means that it will become ambient, or embedded within the fabric of our daily lives. We’re already seeing evidence of this through the Internet of Things and businesses better get ready for the transformations ahead.

 

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Another way the internet will evolve is by spawning new forms of global connectivity. Here’s the way Pew Research describes it: “The spread of the Internet will enhance global connectivity that fosters more planetary relationships and less ignorance.” History shows us how the printing press and transportation networks have transformed human interactivity. But as the Pew Research report points out, the internet trumps all of these in its capacity for affecting deep and lasting social, economic, political, and cultural changes.

Enhanced global connectivity will mean cheaper, faster, and more efficient ways to communicate and collaborate, irrespective of location. This, in turn, will spawn new economies of scale in previously undeveloped communities. Practically everyone now has a smartphone. And so in the internet of the future, spinning up a startup or doing innovation will not be just for the privileged class. Anyone with a mobile signal or internet connection will be able to participate in the growing global economy.

 

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Increased connectivity means that business and innovation will become more commonplace so that everyone will eventually need to become an entrepreneur. Competition in the marketplace will increase as more and more players enter the arena. The good thing is that the global economy will become more efficient as the internet continues to grow and scale up. However, this will mean that business owners/leaders of the future will need to be cutting-edge innovators who can foresee and adapt to rapid shifts in global markets.

Another feature of the future internet is that it will make us more self-aware. In the words of the Pew Report, “The Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and big data will make people more aware of their world and their own behavior.” We’ve already seen how impactful the Internet of Things will be. And we can also get some idea of the impacts that Big Data will have on this emerging matrix as well. If you imagine the synergies that have emerged around Big Data in recent years and amplify that tenfold, then you’re approaching something comparable to what Internet of Things will become. As one source put it, “It is taking internet to another level: connecting things and making sense of the data coming in, while sending actions back out to optimize things.”

 

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Internet of Things and Big Data are closely intertwined innovations that will drive the internet of the future and continue to disrupt business and society on massive scales. These systems will also merge and sync with artificial intelligence to drive further disruptions in the way we live, interact, and conduct our business.

Artificial intelligence or AI refers to machine intelligence or, more formally the study and design of agents that can interact intelligently with their environments. One form of AI we can consider here is the smart machine. Smart machines may also be referred to as cognitive computing systems; these are systems trained to employ artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms that can “sense, predict, infer and, in some ways, think.” Examples of these systems are increasingly evident: contextually aware devices such as smartphones that allow user information to influence computer behavior, intelligent personal assistants, smart advisors (such as IBM Watson), advanced global industrial systems, and autonomous vehicles such as driverless cars.

 

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No matter what name you call it – AI, Big Data, Internet of Things – the technologies behind the future internet will be profoundly impacted by the development of ubiquitous computing and human-like artificial intelligence. These systems will drastically transform our lives – how we work, how we socialize, how we purchase and consume goods and services, and much, much more.

Gartner is even saying that “the smart machine era will be the most disruptive in the history of IT.” This seems to be supported by one study that claims that over the next 20 years nearly 47% of all current U.S. jobs may be outsourced to smart machines because they consist primarily of tasks that can be automated. Business owners and leaders will need to be on top of their game when it comes understanding these trends. Smart machines will have to be matched by ‘smart businesses’ that know how to compete and stay innovative in the future when the Internet of Everything arrives on our doorstep.

To be continued . . .

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