As Kai-Fu Lee and Chen Quifan suggest in the final chapter of AI 20411 “Dreaming of Plentitude”, we are moving rapidly towards an age of creativity, whereby digital advances enable workers to pursue ever more gratifying and purposeful work. Indeed, as 2022 dawns, the changing nature of human work points to exciting possibilities for a workforce augmented by extraordinary developments on the technology front.
The coming year will see “Productivity Technology” rise to the fore, as we continue to empower a remote, digital workforce with a host of powerful tools that will promote both growth and efficiency. Here are just some of the developments we anticipate:
- Robotics process automation (RPA) will become a standard technology for business, while robots will proliferate in the health care, agriculture, automotive, warehousing, and supply chain management sectors
- 5G delivery speed will become commonplace across all business sectors, enabling the hyper-personalization of information and services to remote workers
- Quantum computing will continue to progress and may start to produce commercially relevant algorithms, such as helping workers rapidly identify fraudulent activity
- Language modeling tools (such as Google’s GLaM) will significantly expand computerized reading comprehension
- Predictive analytics as a means of forecasting trends will become mainstream
- Expedited by IoT innovations, far more computing workloads will run on the hybrid cloud
- Asynchronous virtual communication will be utilized for sharing information, while synchronous virtual communication will be used for dissecting and clarifying data
- Low-code and no-code platforms will start to unleash powerful AI application possibilities for non-skilled workers
- Technology that allows virtual or hybrid employees to become acquainted will proliferate (e.g., BeRemote are infusing their technology into Microsoft teams)
- Decentralized databases and Edge computing will save bandwidth and decrease response times, while ‘as-a-service’ facilities will increase agility and data management
- AI applications will begin to emerge as tools to augment worker creativity.
We can also expect to see tools like Autocomplete become commonplace, along with more sophisticated cameras and worker monitoring systems. In general, technological innovation will provide far greater visibility into hybrid worker productivity levels.
The Digital Workplace Evolves
In 2022, skilled workers will be more selective and demand extreme flexibility from employers. The movement towards remote work will continue and centralized offices will adapt to become collaboration spaces for the purposes of knowledge transfer and organizational innovation.
The digital workplace will use productivity technology to surround the augmented worker with new possibilities, even as the aptly-called ‘Great Resignation’ results in job opportunities being at an all-time high. As companies formalize social contracts to attract skilled talent during this second wave of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), we can expect to see the following developments:
- The early metaverse (combining social media, augmented reality, virtual reality, and cryptocurrencies) will become ubiquitous and frictionless to access, creating an entire ecosystem for developers
- Employee healthcare and wellbeing, including health, hygiene and safety will receive greater digital focus
- Corporate social and community contributions will overtly seek to bridge the growing digital divide
- Cybersecurity will become an integral part of digital transformation
- Remote teambuilding will assume new prominence as companies seek to use the digital workplace as a means to increase collaboration amongst hybrid workers
- Diversity, equity and inclusion practices will seek to solve skilled labor shortages through expansion of the digital gig economy
- The seismic shift in work practices seen over the past two years will continue to place emphasis on the development of digital distance coaching
- Organizations will re-examine how they impact the environment, placing a ‘green collar’ of sustainable practices around the workforce that aligns with ESG metrics.
Looking beyond the boundaries of productivity technology, over the coming twelve months we can expect to see further movement towards rapid decarbonization and a ‘green future’ – what the World Economic Forum calls ‘The Nature Economy’ – as companies and governments collaborate to change the future of energy consumption, even as cautious investors seek ever greater compliance with environmental, social and governmental (ESG) measures that are centered around people, planet, purpose and prosperity.
We can also expect to see social contracts emerging that are woven from a desire to harness the power of technology for all of the right reasons, rather than the converse. As the futurist Gerd Leonhard says ‘the more we connect, the more we must protect’ – a sentiment that is being echoed by those democratic societies around the globe who seek to uphold the right to privacy of every citizen.
In looking at the year ahead, it would be remiss not to mention the ongoing impact of Covid in 2022. The so-called ‘new normal’ of life with this virus will obviously continue to evolve, with more money being invested in science, healthcare and collaborative global efforts to beat this disease.
Undoubtedly, burgeoning cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology will continue to promote the digitization and decentralization of financial transactions. Decentralized Finance (DeFi) will meet with stern opposition from centralized financial institutions, while conservationists will highlight concerns around the increasing consumption of energy ascribed to peer-to-peer cryptocurrency activities.
In general, we believe that innovations in the areas of productivity technology will provide the digital workplace with powerful a means to augment remote worker productivity, as well as helping businesses to unlock the value of data to realize real-time insights that will provide the competitive edge necessary to flourish in what is shaping up to be a new age of creativity and plentitude.
1. Lee, Kai-Fu and Chen Quifan. AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future.
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