Technology trends in 2018

The following are, in my opinion, the top technology trends in 2018:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)

Machine learning is a branch of artificial intelligence where
computers apply statistical learning techniques to recognize patterns
in data. In recent years, machine learning has probably been the
hottest thing in tech industry due to more effective computational
models such as deep learning and the horse power of computing
technology that are fast enough to run these models. Until now,
computers are only good at simple tasks by following step by step
instructions programmed by humans. But with the help of machine
learning, computers could be developed to solve very complex problems,
which were thought to be too hard for machine or even impossible to
accomplish.

In 2017, the AI program named “AlphaGo” developed by a Google’s
affiliate, the DeepMind team, defeated the world’s top Go player. In
the same year, Google brain team achieved a top-5 error rate of 3.57%
on ImageNet Large Scale Visual Recognition Competition (ILSVRC), a
large visual database designed for benchmarking visual object
recognition software, whereas human top-5 classification error rate on
the dataset has been reported to be 5.1%. Machine learning continues
to be a disruptive force as industries shift towards data driven
business and turn data into actionable insights.

Related areas of study: machine learning, artificial intelligence,
statistics, numerical analysis, data science

Personalized Medicine and Genomics

Nowadays, personalization is everywhere on the web to better serve
users. Healthcare also is moving towards more personalized medical
therapies. Until now, most of the healthcare we received has been
delivered in much more generalized fashion and often focuses on
therapies that work on the majority of the population. Precision
medicine is a newer concept to tailor treatments using more precise
and comprehensive data from individuals, including environmental, life
style and genomic factors. Studies indicate that “a substantial
portion of variability in drug response is genetically determined,
with age, nutrition, health status, environmental exposure, epigenetic
factors, and concurrent therapy playing important contributory
roles. To achieve individual drug therapy with a reasonably predictive
outcome, one must further account for different patterns of drug
response among geographically and ethnically distinct populations.”

In 2015, the President Obama launched the “Precision Medicine
Initiative”. Its mission is to “enable a new era of medicine through
research, technology, and policies that empower patients, researchers,
and providers to work together toward development of individualized
care.” The initiative is now known as “All of Us” research program
with the goal to collect a comprehensive clinical dataset on a diverse
population of a million Americans. If successful, the dataset gathered
from this research program will give the largest health dataset ever
with which health researchers can to conduct studies by looking into
how different environments and genes affect health and tailor
treatments to individuals.

Related areas of study include computational biology and genomics.

Immersive Experience and Gaming

The next evolution of entertainment and gaming is believed to be in
more immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented
reality (AR). Virtual reality brings the users to an artificial
3-dimensional environment where users’ interactions are mapped to
actions inside the virtual environment. In contrast, augmented reality
is the enhanced view of a real and physical environment in which
virtual elements are blended with the real elements. The introduction
of affordable VR headsets such as HTC Vive and Oculus Rift allows the
general public to experience what the immersive experience would look
like in VR. Immersive technologies may eventually transform personal
computing and improve the way we interact with machines.

Related areas of study: 3D modelling and game designs

Autonomous Cars

Another sector on the verge of technological disruption is the
automotive industry. The speed of innovation in auto industry is
tremendous and transformative with the breakthoughs in
electrification, connected smart devices and now autonomous driving on
the horizon. Smart cars driving themselves without human intervention
are no longer fictional thanks to the advancement in computer vision
and sensors. New technologies enable machines to drive cars as well as
humans if not better. Every year more and more car companies, both
startups and already established corporations, put their cars on the
rods for getting real world data that fuels the autonomous software
system getting better every year.

Waymo, a major pioneer in autonomous driving, has tested self-driving
vehicles more than 5 million miles over different cities in United
States since 2009. Last year, it launched a public trial of its
autonomous vehicles in Phoenix, Arizona. After a few years, it is very
likely that we are going to see autonomous cars commercially available
to consumers. Recently Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Inc., promised new
software features to its Autopilot system that is able to showcase
fully self-driving capability from California to New York by the end
of 2018. We are seeing a historic evolution of land transportation in
the similar way as motorized vehicles drove horse-drawn carriages out
of the roads around 1940 in United States. In the next 10 to 20 years,
autonomous electric vehicles are predicted to replace existing
gas-powered cars.

Related areas of study include computer vision, robotics and sensors.

Blockchain and Decentralized Systems

Bitcoin and its underlying technology blockchain have been a hot topic
in recent years due to new possibilities to store and transact data in
the unforgeable manner. Bitcoin is a decentralized and distributed
ledger system based on cryptography, intended to be used as an
electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of
trust usually granted by central authorities such as banks. With
Bitcoin, transactions can be carried out peer to peer without any help
from a third party. Bitcoin’s original mission is to reach a stage as
the digital currency alternative to the fiat currencies such as the US
Dollar. Unfortunately in reality, it has been overhyped and
overvalued by educated speculation from technologists followed by the
fear of missing out from the general public. However, the ability to
create such a trustless system based on cryptography is a
technological breakthrough. As the hype around blockchain in the
financial industry slows down and the technology evolves, we will
likely see many more potential use cases in improving areas such as
government transparencies, health information system, supply chains
and other industries.

Related areas of study: distributed systems, computer security,
applied cryptography and economics

References:

Google’s AlphaGo Defeats Chinese Go Master in Win for A.I.

A Study and Comparison of Human and Deep Learning Recognition Performance Under Visual Distortions

Personalized Medicine

The Precision Medicine initiative

Tracking the Cost of Gene Therapy

Tesla promises ‘series of new Autopilot features in 2018’, still plans coast-to-coast drive

Bicoin