What have we got to look forward to in IT in the next decade (before AI takes over all the headlines)?
The following are assertions intended to spark discussion with IT people, and for non-IT people open up considerations of what’s coming… I’ve tried to keep within topics currently considered “IT industry”, within a timeframe of 10 years, i.e. 2014–2024, and without going into detail about any specific technology.
- IT in the headlines
IT news will stop being a geek-only specialist category, with mainstream news only presenting dumbed-down joke pieces: the mainstream news will rapidly become more populated with IT items, and the reportage will increasingly assume a basic knowledge. At the same time, there will be more internationally newsworthy events occurring that involve an IT aspect, such as major disasters and financial spikes/crashes both caused by and solved by IT, while the companies and business leaders producing popular solutions in IT become ever more famous.
- Fear of IT power
The IT industry, and in particular the cutting-edge specialists, will have enormous power: this will make people scared like we are of biochemists and nuclear scientists: so expect lots of new regulations, arguments about transparency, requirements for licences, and off-limits research areas.
- Two speeds of IT R&D
A bigger and bigger proportion of the IT industry will be incorporated into the military. This will lead to a separation of streams of development with secret military IT technologies advancing much faster than what the commercial world receives (which is already readily demonstrable in areas such as aerospace).
- Different types of programming
Semantic and cognitive interfacing with computers will allow non technical people to have a vital and growing role in the IT industry. For example a virtual environment designer for an immersive operating system will be “in IT” and a kind of “developer” even though his main work is artistic visual and sensory design.
- It’s no longer a case of companies being IT-enabled… it’s IT-centred, or disabled
In ordinary companies right now (2014), the IT department is often an add-on that is not well integrated into the “main” functions of the company. Meanwhile in the IT industry good quality management is (in 2014) hard to come by, and most companies still do not have a CIO or CTO etc at the top level. This will change rapidly to the other extreme, where most of the headcount of any company will be in several IT-like departments, with it being the few non-technical people who are bolted on in minor roles to make up for any missing skills. The only successful companies will be those who have generalist tech-knowledgeable and tech-passionate leaders at the top.
- 80% IT education, 20% all the other subjects
There will be a massive explosion in the variety of IT courses and qualifications at all levels of education / training. IT topics will represent the majority of all courses in the rapidly growing education sector in the whole economy. For young people there will be different routes through IT education equivalent to current arts vs sciences approaches. The bar will be raised year by year on what constitutes being “IT-literate”.
- Compare computing cost the same way we keep an eye on gas mileage or house price per square foot
Computer hardware will be sold with reference to standardized comparison-friendly measurements, e.g. dollar-teraflops-per-kilowatt-hour and terabytes-per-cubic-centimetre. Ordinary consumers will understand this. Commodity/modular and sliding-scale purchasing of computer power will make its way further into the consumer space.
- Home IT equipment gets more hardcore
Business style hardware such as uninterruptible power supplies, servers, surveillance systems, massive modular storage space, and complex networking, plus the associated support needs, will all rapidly make their way into the consumer home space.
- Rent out your idle PC time
There will be a huge increase in the number of crowd-performed massive computing tasks in the vein of SETI@home and Folding@home — and networks where companies can rent processing cycles for huge distributed computing tasks. Everyone with spare CPU/GPU cycles will be able to rent them out for micropayments in a way that is more profitable than specialist Bitcoin mining.
- Even the professionals — especially the professionals— struggle to keep up
Like doctors and lawyers, IT professionals will have to block off ever more hours each week just to stay current with mainstream advances in technology, and in the professional world will be subject to regular retesting to remain qualified in their field.
- Computer-use health no longer just a jokey health and safety intro about not slouching at your desk
Companies will pay attention to measurements of health in relation to computing work: on the one hand employees will have more rights in terms of office working environment and equipment; on the other hand, companies will require particular health qualifications and cognitive functioning levels currently not associated with the typical nerd.
- Your home office is no longer wholly your own space
Common employee supervision and working space standards will arise to cover remote/home-based workers. Home offices will be a new middle space in which property and use of space is partly under the control of the employer.
- Many internets
Many alternative internets and protocols will spring up similar to Tor / darknets or just ad-hoc mini-internets. The push for house-to-house networking from Nest and similar technologies will rapidly lead to ubiquitous mesh networking availability. Network providers will provide free mesh node hardware for households in order to create their own infrastructure (or platform for networks to rent space on).
- Many VPNs layered over neutral networks
Companies, communities, and families will commonly have extensive private networks not part of the main internet.
- IT security sector boom
The IT security sector will grow hugely to field IT equivalents of: emergency services; crisis response teams; data disaster recovery teams; forensic security teams; proactive penetration and stress testing services for hire; hardening and defense as a service; government-grade secure communication provision.
- Big new sub-industries of IT
The following grow massively into entire sub-industries of the IT world: — Cryptocurrencies — 3rd party data analysis services —3rd party software maintenance — Private networking hardware installation — Car computing — Secure computing — Data archivist and forensic data analyst — Program translation — IT occupational health — IT law — IT sector sales and marketing as specialist functions rooted in technology first
- New gadgets mean new seller and support specialisms
Significant new hardware requiring IT industry development and support — Life cameras and Glass-like systems — Modular desktop PCs and mobiles — Modular server systems — Mesh network nodes — New generation solid state data centers — Drones (land; air; sea; sub-sea) — Business satellite applications
- Kit that is currently IT-geek-only goes mainstream
Consumer devices made affordable: — High-powered video editing on including hyperlapse and automatic CGI… also available on phone and tablet — Desktop PCs become docking stations for desktop-OS-capable mobiles; Public internet places such as coffee shops will incorporate docking stations — Desktop-comparable PCs in USB and HDMI sticks — PB-sized storage (of course) — Private networking kits (hardware network kit as well as consumer devices creating virtual private networks over normal networks)
- The IT buzzwords of today will sound lame in about 2 years’ time
Things people will stop saying: — IT: because nothing will not have a majority IT component, and the IT industry will become many well-defined sub-branches each without having to say “IT” in the name — Big data: because who cares how big it is if the computer and software don’t break a sweat — Mobile: because we will have new terms to distinguish more particular classes of portable devices, which in turn overlap a lot with what we use at our desks — Cloud: because why would the data and processing not be done remotely, and who needs a cutesy term for it; however, it will become more relevant to point out when storage or processing is “local” — Encrypted: because everything will be encrypted unless we make a point of saying “unencrypted”, “naked”, “insecure”
- Finally, I’m going out on a futuristic limb here…
By 2024 storage and processing will be so cheap that Twitter will allow us up to 200 characters, some say more.