5 Flash Trends for 2019

Welcome to 2019! The final year of the decade is already off to a historic start in terms of innovation. To kick off the new year, here are 5 big picture trends we’ve got our eye on as we hit the ground running in 2019:

 

01 Ethics And The Engine

Photo Credit: Roberto Parada / The Atlantic

2019 will be the year where artificial intelligence becomes mainstream and permeates even more realms of our everyday lives – both consciously and unconsciously. While we may not notice that our Spotify playlists have turned into hyperpersonalized mixtapes, we might take the deliberate choice to share our health data with third-party applications for bespoke workout schedules, birth control or a made-to-measure nutrition plan.

As with every emerging technology, AI is a double-edged sword. With scandals building up around AI, consumers are voicing concerns about machines taking over. The Atlantic has asked if Amazon’s Alexa puts us in danger by recording and storing intimate conversations in a supposedly safe space. Meanwhile, the tech industry is working relentlessly to add a human touch to tech. Google’s improved assistant copies human speech patterns such as short pauses or filler words and designers are working on human-and-home-friendly technology that presents as furniture and more naturally brings AI into our physical spaces.

Researchers, philosophers and the general public are taking the conversation to the next level: How can humans and machines coexist in a meaningful way without putting us at risk? Which role should ethics play in artificial intelligence? And more provocatively: Do we even need machines who think like humans when we already have humans? If we copy something that is inherently imperfect (such as human beings), must the outcome also be flawed by default?

 

02 Drones Take the Mainstage

Photo Credit: CyPhy

In 2018, we spent the year exploring the possibilities that drone technology creates for our future and learned that the possible applications for UAVs are virtually limitless. In 2019, we can expect to see drones continue to make the transition from laboratories and research facilities to everyday life. Switzerland became the first to introduce a drone traffic control system last year and Wing, a sister company of Google, will begin trials of a full drone delivery service in Finland this year. We expect this to be just the first wave of widespread drone applications that will disrupt a wide breadth of industries from e-commerce to construction and utilities. Drones are also increasingly moving into the arts and entertainment space and after Drake took a drone show on tour with him last Fall, we can only expect more major artists and entertainers to follow suit.

 

03 The Race to Deep Space

Photo Credit: Julien Mauve

The 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing will focus tremendous attention on space travel in 2019. History was already made on the 2nd day of the year when China became the first to land a vehicle on the far side of the moon. Other countries will make moves in the modern deep space race- India is expected to be the first to send a rover to the south pole of the Moon as early as this month, Japan will attempt to collect a sample from the asteroid Ryugu, and the world will be watching SpaceX as the Mars-bound Starship makes its first test flight early this year. We’ve also got our eyes on the first-ever privately funded moon mission, in which Israel’s SpaceIL will deliver a time capsule in hopes of sparking another ‘Apollo Effect’ to inspire the next generation in Israel and around the world to think differently about science, engineering, technology and math.

 

04 Art Spaces for All Senses

Photo Credit: Magic Leap

2018 was the year of made-for-Instagram moments. Flashy exhibition spaces such as the Museum of Ice Cream, the interactive Color Factory or the New York egg-themed pop up restaurant Egg House have taken over the world – and your social media feed. In 2019 the art scene is finally moving beyond mere picture opportunities and perpetuating an immersive experience that stimulates all senses and sparks meaningful engagement. Tokyo-based art collective teamLab is currently hitting major cities with their borderless installations. One of Massachusetts’ prime art institutions, the MassMoca, is hosting a virtual reality experience by artist Laurie Anderson that features upside-down trees and luminescent graffiti. When there’s a movement among the art crowd, the fashion industry usually catches up quickly. For the launch of their collaboration, H&M and Moschino have embraced the human soft spot for escapism and play. They teamed up with Florida based AR startup Magic Leap to create a 360 degree walk-in-television with clothes on display and environments reacting to visitors. The trend towards “fanciful worlds” is a huge opportunity for creators around the world to reimagine the role of the spectator through a new kind of agency.

 

05 DNA Hacking

Photo Credit: Joey Camacho

By the end of 2018, the news of the allegedly first born CRISPR babies in China hit the global media outlets – and the world of science was awestruck. Although an enormous scientific milestone, critical voices soon dominated the discourse. CRISPR is a genome-editing technique that allows relatively simple modifications in human genomes and alterations of human DNA sequences. It has in the past proven to be successful in correcting genetic defects.

If the claims of the Chinese scientist are true, his actions go against every ethical best practice in science. There are a plethora of good reasons why researchers have thus far refrained from applying CRISPR on a human embryo. But firstmost: the editing of a genome not only impacts every single cell of the embryo but the DNA of the embryo’s future descendants. In short: the “genetic meddling” may have consequences for generations to come – and scientist still doesn’t know what exactly they are.

The specific case of the Chinese CRISPR twins, however, adds a whole other layer to the debate. The hope behind the technique is to blight deathly diseases or life-long disabilities by cutting certain proteins out of the DNA sequence. In the case of the Chinese twins that gene is CCR5 – a protein that favors the spread of HIV in human cells. The MIT Technology Review argues that such a vast intervention in a human’s DNA may not only be viewed as preventing or curing a disease but as a right-out health advantage. There is a fine line between sparing a human life-long suffering and creating so called “designer babies”. But whether we like it or not – DNA hacking will be one of the dominant and most controversial topics on the societal, scientific and political stage.

 


When it comes to trend-casting, we must look beyond the tech and science giants that dominate the headlines. Innovation doesn’t exist in a vacuum and societal pressures, art, ethics, regulation and public sentiment are all major determinants of where our future is headed. In fact, the collision of seemingly unrelated disciplines can be what sparks the most imaginative and world-changing ideas.

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