The Technologies Were Most Fired Up to Watch in 2017

Each year is filled with unforeseen surprises, advances we thought were years away, unexpected technology applications (like AI used for mental healthcare), and unlikely startups reimagining entire markets. These breakthroughs keep Singularity Hub’s team of tech-enthusiasts on our toes around the clock.
Moving into the new year, these are some of the technologies we’ll be eagerly watching in 2017 and beyond.
Artificial Intelligence
“AI really made headlines this year. AlphaGo was on the tongue, OpenAI got a billion dollars to develop ethical AI, and toddlers talked to Google Home and Amazon Echo. (This generation won’t remember when they couldn’t converse with computers.) The first two developments are fascinating, but the third may be more immediately relevant. The idea of X product + AI will get legs next year, but it’s the surprises I’m most looking forward to.”
“Cybersecurity means a lot of things to a lot of people, and often one person’s definition is at total odds with another’s. For me, I long for the type of unbeatable encryption promised by quantum computing, because quantum computing is going to make today’s encryption worthless. It’s something of a sinister race between computing power, encryption, and political motives. Meanwhile, billions of smart gadgets are coming online, and most of us already conduct our daily lives by digital means. With governments demanding access to digital devices and histories, I fear loss of citizen privacy, but still have faith in the democratization of cybersecurity.”
Decentralized Peer-to-Peer Networks
"I’m most excited about the future of decentralized peer-to-peer (p2p) networks. As we’ve seen with the sharing economy, it may be all too easy for a small startup to siphon the wealth of a local community sharing resources amongst themselves. We can use technologies like blockchain, cryptocurrencies and BitTorrent to redefine value by integrating blockchain-based democratic decision making, decentralized peer-run organizations, and organizational principles from platform cooperativism. Ultimately, as this trend continues, we’ll have an opportunity to regenerate local economies with the resources already available instead of extracting value where there isn’t much to begin with."
Technology-Aided Learning
“Over the last few years there have been great cases of technology used to enhance classroom learning, like VR experiences that take students inside the bloodstream or into Darwin’s lab to assemble a skeleton. This year, Zuckerberg Education Ventures invested in Volley, an AI learning assistant for students. The application provides students links to additional resources and highlights critical information when a user points their smartphone’s camera at a homework assignment or textbook page. In 2017, I’ll be watching for a new wave of AI applications focused on improving classroom learning for students with unique learning needs by providing resources like customized learning plans and personalized evaluations. Volley talks about ‘engineering for knowledge,’ and I’m hoping to see a lot more of this in the coming year.”
Global High-Speed Internet:
“In November, SpaceX submitted an application to the FCC to launch over 4,000 satellites into space to envelop Earth in high-speed internet, providing connectivity to even the most remote areas of the planet. If approved, SpaceX’s plan will pose serious competition to Google’s Project Loon, which has the same mission. Besides seeing which method has more success, it will be exciting to watch the effects of increased connectivity on the global population, particularly in developing nations that have yet to solve larger challenges related to education, healthcare, and access to natural resources.”
Personal Synthetic Biology Lab
“I have a fantasy that one day in the future, I will be able to design, create and grow different types of biological products at home, anything from perfumes and medicine to cool materials like mushroom leather. The day when anyone can have an easy-to-use biological manufacturing facility at home is still a ways off, but the first step to that future is having something like the Amino Lab to learn bioengineering and start small, like making bacteria that grows.”
Machine Learning and Autonomous Vehicles
In 2017, we will truly begin to see the coming disruption self-driving vehicles will have on our society and future. Open source machine learning agents, more advanced algorithms, and better hardware technologies are bringing this autonomous reality closer. Tesla has already said vehicles now being produced have the hardware for level 5 autonomy capabilities (no need for steering wheel or brakes). Down the road, when the algorithm is ready, Tesla may make these cars autonomous with a software update.