At the end of the day, all our predictions for 2016 were way off the mark. We didn’t know technology, or the lack of it, would turn an election upside down. We didn’t know many of the top companies in technology would go belly up and some others would come back from the dead. We didn’t know that digital payments, which were at the most a convenience, would end up becoming a necessity in one of the largest economies of the world. We didn’t know the world’s most innovative companies will struggle with what-next, while the best business will suffer their worst why-us moments.
But will 2017 be any different? Of course, it will. But will that stop us from predicting what is coming? Of course, it won’t.
The coming year will be pivotal in more ways than one. To start with, given that we have struggled a lot with post-truth in 2016, the algorithms that define what we see, read and believe will need to change for the good, ensuring that they serve what is right and only what is right. Yes, there will be those who try and game the system lured by easy traffic and the money that comes with it. But the same technology that killed the editorial gatekeepers will need to start playing the same. The future of entire platforms like Facebook and Google news will depend on if they are able to weed out the fakes.
The good news is that artificial intelligence could finally start coming to the aid in the keeping the fakes out. During the final phase of the US election campaign Google News implemented a new ‘Fact Check’ labelling for stories that were looking at facts of a news report. It shouldn’t take it long for Google and other such platforms to authenticate articles as being true or original. That should end the fakes and those who recreate articles without adding any value of their own. Artificial intelligence will also make search simpler and apps smarter. Both will soon be able to see, listen and make their own inferences based on what they already know. Soon, they will becoming more intelligent with time, what we now know as machine learning. So if it is has been able to recognise cats, it will also start becoming able to understand what is not a cat.
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And a lot this intelligence will start coming into your device as we have seen with the Google Pixel phones. But before you pick up one of these overtly smart smartphones with glee, also remember that a company like Google getting a look in into all your conversations might not be a good thing, especially not when there are bots listening to everything you say, ready with ‘help’. Don’t be surprised if at this time next year we are talking about the menace of bots with these irritating pieces of code butting into every conversation with suggestions on what you can say next, or buy to make the party you are discussing more fun or who you need to wish a happy anniversary.
Anyway, that anniversary picture of yours will no longer be a still photo. It will either be a GIF or just a live video beaming out to all on your timeline who respond with their own live videos. Even group chats will be video affairs. After all, all your devices have cameras and companies need you to consume more data so that they can make more money. We were all pretty okay till this point of time, but now on we will be made aware day in and day out that we cannot exist with video after all what else is data for?
Yes, 2017 will be different. There will be new challengers that confront traditions, there will be smarter devices that make us dumber and there will be high technology that will need us to fall back on our very basic instincts to survive. Here is hoping I am proven wrong again.