Human tech trends 2020
Every decade, technology touches our lives in new ways. The last decade has been especially interesting, as breakthroughs in AI and machine learning, automation, and robotics have brought into question the role of humanity in the fourth industrial world – and all the existential threats that come with it. As we graduate further away from ‘human’ to ‘tech’, it will be interesting to consider how we will adapt. But, scaling back to just 2020, we wanted to look at how humans will co-exist with technology in the next year. Here’s what we consider the biggest trends of the year.
It’s no secret that the tech industry is plagued by skills shortages. While many companies are plugging the shortage by investing in upskilling, STEM skill education programmes and improving diverse hiring, 2020 will also see another skill bridging tactic emerge.
Democratisation or ‘citizen access’ gives people the tools, technology, and raw skills to take the place of some of the scarcest skill tech disciplines – including analytics and data, application development, and design. For example, a ‘citizen data scientist’ uses advanced, AI-driven analytics and internal skills to take on some of the more basic responsibilities of a highly paid and hard-to-find data scientist.
Of course, a citizen data scientist won’t always be able to match the advanced mathematical skills of a true data scientist, but it should ease the flow of demand to only those that strictly need the skills. For finding niche or scarce skill roles, you can always consult the largest UK-based tech recruiter – Lorien.
Agile ways of working
Agile, DevOps, SCRUM, DevSecOps – they all point towards a trend to work more collaboratively, from start to finish (and even ongoing). Where steps in the product and development lifecycle were once passed down by silo, the new ways of working encourage people from different disciplines to work together from day one. This fresh approach, with its own tools, techniques, and methodologies has been adopted in start-ups, SMEs, and enterprises alike.
For many businesses, this way of working is the key to competitive edge, pushing up demand and the cost of talent. At the same time, specialists are having to upskill and cross-skill. As disciplines collapse in on each other and operations become more automated, it is imperative for those involved in the software development lifecycle to learn a little of each sector, in order to future-proof their skills – especially as companies look for more experienced hands to guide their business through digital transformation. The growth of agile ways of working shows just how technology is reinventing human working – replacing Ford’s assembly line with end-to-end collaboration.
We recently discussed the impact of Extended Reality (XR) – the crossing point between the digital and physical world, including Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR).
We believe that XR will have some significant breakthroughs in 2020 and beyond, as the volume of use cases increases. Current examples of its potential include immersive customer experiences, remote training with digital replicas of real-life scenarios that are dangerous or complex (such as life-saving surgery), as well as logistical and operational aides to improve efficiency, and mapping a digital blueprint onto a real-life prototype to improve product assembly and testing.
Multi-experience takes this one step further, taking both the immersive experience of XR and blending it with multi-sensory and multi-touchpoint interfaces (e.g. wearables) to create a world that bends the fabric of reality. Multi-experience is inherently people-centric, intuitive, and immersive – effectively heightening human senses to enable us to perform more complex tasks, such as performing operations with texture, pressure, and visual cues.
Tech-aided human augmentation is nothing new. Hearing aids, pacemakers, and smart watches are all examples of how we use technology to improve our lives. In the workplace, companies are already embedding microchips into their employees to improve security for office access. As tech continues to permeate our lives, it seems inevitable that we will continue to blend the boundaries between tech and human.
In the workplace, this could include exoskeletons for superhuman strength – useful in heavy labour industries, brain augmentation to improve cognitive reasoning and decision making or memory storage in influential roles, or sensory augmentation to enhance vision, hearing, and perception for high-pressure roles or roles that require quick response times – like the military.
Of course, the question of ethics will always surface when it comes to human augmentation, especially where genetic augmentation is concerned. Meanwhile, other challenges, such as cybersecurity and hacking risks, will also slow adoption. Nevertheless, technology will continue to creep into human lives. While 2020 may not see the full evolution to cyborg (much as underground biohackers might like that!), it seems likely that we will continue to use technology to enhance nature.
We are now in the age of the employer that cares. As a result, there is increased pressure on political and business powers to use technology to improve society, advance humanity, and increase environmental health. 2020 will be the year that breakthroughs in technology – like AI and ML – are focused towards more than the bottom line in business. AI governance frameworks will be led by ethical principles and codes.
Ethical tech will also see the value of tech carry through outside of traditional technology departments. Already, we are seeing businesses from every walk of life – financial services, media & advertising, retail, pharmaceutical – invest in technology talent, and individuals of all levels take on the role of technology SME – raising the responsibility to board-level. With ethical tech, the power and the pressure to use technology to enact change will fall on individuals as well as businesses.
With each passing decade, the dividing line between humans and technology becomes more blurred. In 2020, we will continue to adapt around each other – creating a world that is as much influenced by technology, as technology is influenced by human need. Our future is inevitably technology-bound – it’s just what we do with it.
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