The most frequent question we usually get when presenting about the future is “what are the biggest things that will take place in the future? The second most frequent question is perhaps more vexing “when will it all happen?”

The question relies on understanding the subject’s:

  • current base of support and passion of its advocates

  • level and trajectory of mass media and socialized awareness

  • its ability to be simply understood and be believed as credible by the masses

  • a common enemy, nuisance or force of resistance (real or perceived)

  • the broadness and profoundness of its uses and applications

  • incentives among the new guard and in part, the establishment, to get there fast

  • the forces of industry, government, financing and technology swimming in the same direction

  • the clarity of benefit seen by the end customer or user

  • the shared values and inclusivity of its proponents and its key audiences

  • the reliance on some other development or enabler to progress to facilitate it

  • some special sauce or magic event that sparks its acceleration

It’s no wonder most futurists stink at predicting the future. There’s a lot of variables at play into the maturation of an idea, a movement, a trend or a technology, beyond the mere elegance of an idea or force of nature. Humans are strange, unpredictable animals not entirely powered by rational incentives. Plus, if  a lot of us were all swatting accurate percentages on this stuff, we’d all be stinking rich!

Go back and check the Gartner Hype Cycle, .Meeker’s KPCB Internet Trends Report  and Singularity’s Future timeline and you will get some solid bankable trends but very unpredictable paths ahead. Sometimes the predictions are so far off. Usually, it’s not that the predictions are bad, but the time scale to mainstream has missed the mark. Sidebar: very few of these groups ever go that back to audit their own predictions (I at least appreciate Alex Mitchell’s two year retrospective on his 10 year tech predictions).

We’ve looked at the question of when our Emerging Set of 30 Technologies mainstream. and have come up with our best guesses on when our top technologies will mainstream (be accepted by more than half the population with strong comprehension and mature use cases).

emerging30 time to mainstream

What is AI waiting for : broadcale understanding of what AI really is, a mainstream trigger of use cases that dramatize its possibility (right now it’s digital assistants), the accumulation of human talent too pull it off, AI’s data needs, machine learning algorithms & intelligence training regimens, its entrance into a wide variety of workplaces and government regulation

What is the Internet of Things waiting for:  new economic, decentralized business models still to emerge, cheaper connection and energy sources to power them, ability to integrate with legacy databases and systems, long planning and execution horizons, lack of standards, security-proof systems and edge computing

What is Mobile & Social Media Waiting For (although it’s already mature): more exciting forms of utility that power people’s lives not just play things, stronger governance and privacy protection in social spaces, better screenless devices where technology is less noticeable (the end of a need for a smartphone?), battery size and lifespans, screen lies and UX issues, more exciting immersive and predictive experiences

What is Blockchain Waiting For: solving it’s energy issues and proof of stake/work issues, national governments paving the way for its use, stability in its valuation with more users and traditional institutions involved, education and getting over unnecessary cultish barriers to participation, globalized protocols, practical use cases being realized (beyond Bitcoin) and destigmatizing the criminal and breech elements

What is Big Data Waiting For: digitalizing the real world, common data sets, balancing the need for personalized data and user privacy, data transparency and bias, partnerships and integration between solution providers and availability of talent to architect and execute

What are Robotics & Automation Waiting For: reducing workplace fear, lighthouse cases that demonstrate improved customer and employee experiences (not just cost reduction), SaaS tools across a broader range of uses for a broader range of customers, change management and transformation foot-dragging and failure, simplifying and standardizing processes and government approval of uses (e.g. self-driving cars, mail delivery drones)

What is Immersive Media (VR/AR/MR) Waiting For:  getting beyond the gaming/entertainment experience, real useful applications, the speed, connection and size of hardware, the cost of technologies, democratized open platforms, merging formats, always-on connectedness (e.g. 5G, LoFi), ROI and strong content and seminal moments that bring the technologize to a mainstream light (e.g. the next Pokemon Go)

What are your thoughts?

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