Tech Trends presents 10 predictions


Keith Brophy presents at aimWest's Tech Trends event at the CityFlatsHotel ballroom in downtown Grand Rapids. Photo by Mike Nichols

The future will be filled with robots, drones, cars that drive themselves — and pretty much zero privacy.

Those were some of the predictions made by Keith Brophy, executive director of the Michigan Small Business Development Center and speaker at the 15th-annual Tech Trends event hosted last night by Grand Rapids-based technology nonprofit aimWest.

Brophy, a popular futurist speaker, looked back on his 15 years of predictions, saying that about 44 percent of his predictions have come true, 16 percent have been completely wrong and 40 percent fall into the “still-uncertain” category.

According to Philip Tetlock, co-author of the book “Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction,” most people who predict the future do no better than a chimpanzee throwing darts at potential trends on a dart board, Brophy said.

He illustrated his point by actually throwing darts at a dartboard held by an assistant. Like his predictions, a handful of the darts landed, much to the delight of the audience.

Brophy said there are about 30 different factors he looks at when trying to predict when technology is about to shift, including the pace of underlying technologies, convergence of multiple technologies, market-penetration paths and true business value or convenience.

What he discovered this year didn’t necessarily thrill him.

“It’s a little different this year, because some of the trends have subtlety. . . Also, more of the trends than usual are a little bit scary in terms of the future,” Brophy said. “So I hope you’ll fasten your seatbelt.”

Technology predictions by Keith Brophy

1.   Connected self-driving vehicles owned by companies rather than individuals will become our primary means of transportation.

2.   Transportation pathways restricted to connected sub-driving vehicles will replace many roads.

3.   Personal robots will be deployed by consumer-oriented businesses to address customer-facing tasks and to collect vast amounts of consumer interaction data in the process.

4.   Emotional companion devices with targeted expertise will become commonplace, with JIBO serving as a pioneer.

5.   Our economy will dramatically transform with significant workforce displacement, as new industries emerge centered on a “Gig” and automated services.

6.   Personal-monitoring devices deployed by citizens will join multiple government data streams to provide ongoing environmental and security threat assessments.

7.   Satellite deployment will become much cheaper, easier and more frequent, leading to breakthroughs in weather and climate monitoring, reductions in the cost of global communications and an acceleration of the space/arms race.

8.   Drone use matures into blend of automated connected vehicle and automated connected drone technologies working in tandem, such as truck-deployed delivery drone fleets and first-responder vehicle early arrival.

9.   Powering homes and small businesses efficiently, earth friendly and off the grid will become the norm.

10. Work teams will increasingly function in virtual reality workplaces, built on a combination of real colleagues, artificial intelligence clones of our real colleagues and even individuals created by artificial intelligence.

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