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2018: The Year Ahead and Beyond

Author: Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO

Original Publication: LinkedIn

Date Published: February 8, 2018

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro

We have firmly been in Connected Age and we are catapulting into the Data Age. The Consumer Electronics Show is always a good way to kick off the New Year displaying the latest in AI, autonomous vehicles, 5G, smart cities, IoT, robotics, digital health, AR, VR, and more. Walking through some of the 2.75 million net square feet of the 3,900 exhibitors, below are some of the key trends that stuck out to me surrounding today’s breakthrough innovations that will help shape the future of our planet.

 Autonomous Vehicles

Today, innovators are thinking beyond the development of autonomous vehicles and expanding to think about “Transportation-as-a-Service.” Down the road, autonomous vehicles won’t just deliver people to their destinations, but will also deliver all goods and services, whether it’s an Amazon package or a pizza. Automakers are already exploring how they can fit into this new future. For example, Toyota announced at CES its vision to transform from a car company into a mobility company, while Ford’s opening keynote focused on creating a reliable future of transportation through a systems-based approach for smart cities. Local logistics as opposed to long distance will be key.

However, autonomous vehicles won’t be ready to ship to the public this year. Even with friendly city regulators, the real-world hurdles still take time to navigate. CES clearly showed that pilot programs for autonomous vehicles will become increasingly ambitious in 2018, reflecting a broader vision of what this technology will be able to do. And get ready for flying taxis, which could travel up to 150 mph and be ready for trials in 2020—just two years away. In addition, there were exhibitors showcasing skyscraper/building-hopping helicopters, which could enable an “Uber of helicopters.” One company that is currently testing this technology is Textron’s Bell Helicopters, expected to be in-market by 2025.


A memorable moment at CES for all was watching 250 drones “perform” an amazing synchronized demo over the Bellagio waters. In addition, Intel’s preshow keynoteshowcased advances in drone technology with creative artistry that rivaled top Las Vegas shows. During the extravaganza, Intel celebrated innovation by setting a Guinness World Record with its Shooting Star Mini Drone show – the most advanced software fleet of 100 drones controlled without GPS by one pilot.

Entertainment aside, these feats of drone technology emphasized the major practical impact drones will have on a variety of industries, such as agriculture, logistics, and mapping.

Connected Home/Smart Cities

Smart Cities spotlighted many of these innovative technologies, including 5G, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things. How AI will affect humanity is a topic of the utmost importance right now and there were several hundred industry innovators, policymakers, city officials and several hundred government leaders discussing how these technologies can transform municipal life. Meanwhile, tech giants like IBM and Intel showcased quantum computing technologies that can make smart cities a reality.

Inside the home will also be transformed. CES featured many connected homewares, such as voice-activated systems, smart speakers, and digital assistants, which made their way into everything from cars to appliances. Even the things we wear will become equipped with smart features. For example, clothing with sensors that measure heart rates and blood sugar, or glasses that help wearers focus on meditation.

Artificial Intelligence

After years of prototypes, AI-enabled software now dominates a corporation’s investing heavily moving forward. AI and automation are already having a big impact on the economy and employment. Moving forward, the discussion of how AI will impact employment will shift from focusing solely on the elimination of jobs to how to best help workers accommodate the inevitable change.

This year, in addition to business-focused AI technologies, CES also displayed the potential benefits AI has for individuals—we’ll increasingly witness the power of the AI-augmented human. Major breakthroughs and intersections in the field of Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) are anticipated in the next 10 to 15 years. Nanotechnology and Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) are also on the horizon over the next decade, as these technologies mature.

 Health / BioHacking / Longevity

The interest in using AI to enhance humans is related to other trends around health, biohacking, and longevity. Walking around the exhibition hall at CES, I noticed a few innovators promoting innovations around “exo-bionics.” This concept is still on the fringes, but will be huge in the future for boosting human strength and sport, with companies like Furrion and Ekso Bionics paving the way.

Other companies are more focused on extending the healthy human lifespan. Human Longevity Inc. (HLI), for example, aims to make “100 the new 60.” I also saw innovations in the field of stem cell treatments and non-invasive temperature fertility monitors, which are are 99% accurate. Technology is providing greater insight and control into our bodies than ever before.


Climate change is [almost] universally agreed to be one of the greatest threats facing our planet, and the humans who live on it. CES showcased an exciting array of clean energy technologies and initiatives that aim to mitigate the damage. Progress is being made. Consider a couple of statistics: Solar energy is now responsible for one in every 50 new jobs created in the United States, and the clean energy sector is growing at 12 times the rate of the rest of the economy. General Motors believes “the future is all-electric,” while Volkswagen announced it’s investing 70 billion euros and “putting its full force behind a shift into electric cars.” Volvo said that, starting in 2019, it will only make fully electric or hybrid cars “the end of the combustion engine-powered car.

These types of changes are happening across the world. China installed 54GW of solar by the end of 2017, more than any country has ever previously deployed in a single year, and doubled its 2020 goal to 213 GW. Following in China’s footsteps, India more than doubledits solar installations in 2017, accounting for more than 40% of new capacity— the largest addition to the grid of any energy source. Environmental progress also translates into an improved standard of living. In 1991, more than 40% of Bangladesh lived in extreme poverty. The World Bank said this year that the number has now dropped to 14% (equating to 50 million fewer people).

Singularity & Abundance

Seeing all the incredible innovations, makes it seem like the world is speeding up. And in fact, it is—we are moving towards Singularity. Singularity is the theory that the invention of artificial superintelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization. By 2029, computers will have human-level intelligence. 2045 is the year estimated for Singularity, when we will multiply our effective intelligence a billion fold by merging with the intelligence we have created.

Singularity will translate into Abundance as leaders like Peter Diamandis have defined it. As things speed up, they will get better. Just look at history for proof. Poverty has declined more in the past 50 years than the previous 500. During the last 50 years, while the population on Earth has doubled, the average per capita income around the world (adjusted for inflation) has tripled. During the last century, maternal mortality has decreased by 90 percent while the length of the average human lifespan has more than doubled. Violence has also been in constant decline. And if your measure of prosperity is tilted towards the availability of goods and services, consider that even the poorest Americans today have access to phones, toilets, running water, air conditioning and even cars.

During the last two decades, we have witnessed a technological acceleration and exponential progress in artificial intelligence, infinite computing, nano-materials, synthetic biology, to name a few—many which were on display at CES. These advancements put us on track to make greater gains in the next two decades than we have had in the previous 200 years. We will soon have the ability to meet and exceed the basic needs of every man, woman, and child on the planet. Abundance for all is within our grasp, and that’s what I move into 2018 feeling the most excited about.

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