Predicting anything in technology is a dangerous game; hindsight may make it seem obvious that people would be ride-sharing in Ubers, staying in a stranger’s home using Airbnb or streaming a catalogue of films on Netflix. Despite that, panellists at The Economist’s Innovation Summit 2019 Europe were asked this week what the next decade in technology would look like.
Tinder chief executive Elie Seidman, referred to a quote from Bill Gates, which said: ‘We overestimate what we can do in a year, but we vastly underestimate what we can do in a decade’ .
“That’s certainly been proven true in the world that we play in, and I think you should expect in the next 10 years will be a profound change,” he said.
In the retail space, there has been a lot of talk about Amazon Go, the cashier-less retail stores in the US, which allow people to pick up their items and leave without having to queue or checkout – all they need to do is download the Amazon Go app and sign in with their credentials. The chief digital and technology officer of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Karenann Terrell, who was previously CIO of Walmart, believes this model is the future – and that any privacy concerns from consumers will not be an issue if the value they’re getting from the service is worth it.
“I think what the Chinese have looked at and figured out is that sometimes consumers want something straight away, and they want to walk into the shop in and out and just take it out with absolutely no friction – these huge platforms like Alibaba, they can experiment with a billion people there who will engage with that,” she said.
“Young people will say ‘I’ve talked to you 277 times today, how can you not know me?’ When you walk into a store, the expectation is that you already know you’d have to take my picture. There’s an expectation of making it completely friction free and giving up a lot with regard to privacy in that area, but if the platform is delivering enough value it will always win,” she added.
That frictionless experience is something people will be looking for with healthcare too.
“Before, I’d have a stomach ache and I’d go to a doctor who sends me to a specialist who does a whole set of diagnostic tests, today they draw blood and check genetics,” Terrell said.
This is being used not just to diagnose and look for biomarkers, but also to discover targets.
“GSK has a big relationship with 23andMe because they have millions of customers who say they’re interested in knowing what their genetics say about disease,” she says.
Over the next decade, Terrell believes that consumer trust will increase as people will more quickly want to know how their genetics can help to identify and diagnose diseases. At the same time, major advances in computational resources and machine learning will help to make these analyses more detailed.
At the moment the idea of linking this genetic data with diseases is in its early stages, but in the years to come, by combining genomics, physiology and DNA, Terrell believes huge progress could be made.
Meanwhile, in the social media and dating world, Tinder’s Seidman believes we’ll see more social networks that are focused on specific areas or groups, and that within those, you’ll see more people share experiences that are currently considered only possible in the physical world, such as going to a concert.
“We think of a sporting event or concert as a shared experience but primarily in the physical world, and the digital world is usually just about yourself with one other person or a piece of content but not as a group, but in 10 years we’ll see this change,” he said.
“We’re seeing it already happening with young people on Fortnite going to a Marshmello concert right inside the game, which if you’re in Gen X like I am, you think that’s crazy,” he added.