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DIGITAL TRENDSPOTTING 2019:1E — Social Context: The Bio- & Infotech Sciences and its Consequences

Politicians in all honour, it was a long time since they had the greatest power in the world — instead the power is in the unholy alliance between consumers and companies in general, and the scientific and business innovation in particular. And if we are just looking at the science, there are also clouds of concern here, that is if you merely look at it with the western world’s glasses …whatever reason you would have for that :-O :-)

The beginning of the shift from west to east

While the western world’s lengthy domination in science has long functioned as a secure platform behind the whole world’s development, we this year see clear indications of how this is heading towards a totally different direction.

From a broader innovation perspective. And while one of my favourite tech countries, South Korea, the sex time champion, has been stable on ranking 1, The European main hope and comeback kid Germany actually took a sanguine runner up place, while Sweden and Singapore (my other favourite tech countries :D), went down to 6 and 7, and US is happy to this year even make it to place 8 after having been kicked out of the top then last year. Which might not be surprising, as Singapore also ranks nr 1 in the World Banks Human Capital Index (where 4 of the 5 first are Asian, while Sweden is in top 10 but US non-existent).

When narrowing it down to science more specifically, among the larger countries almost only Asian countries in general and China in particular, have increased their scientific publications last year. In China, we also find what is now the world’s largest research institute with 60 researchers within 114 disciplines (CAS in Beijing). While Europe is proud to have 5 of the world’s top 15 universities in technology, 3 of them are in the UK that EU just scared away, and the other 2 in Switzerland that never hurried to enter the EU.

A biotech at the limit of the imaginable

If we go over what has actually happened in science in a slightly broader sense — i.e. both academic research and corporate development, and its consequences for individuals and society — one very natural start is within the field of nature.

Here we find one of the greatest breakthroughs, amazing lr dangerous, again depending on how we humans tackle it. When in USA 16 years ago it was finally possible to map out all the human genes, Pandora’s box was once open for all. Bill Clinton put it well:

“Without a doubt this is the most important, most wondrous map ever produced by humankind”

Just like machines, we have since we can read all three billion letters of our genetic code, also the possibility to edit it. Scientists has since launched a number of clinical experiments with just gene editing tools, which has led to a flood of optimism about how we can not only modify plants and animals so that we can reduce hunger and improve health in poor countries, but also that we can diagnose, treat and cure human diseases.

But as our good friend Bill Gates points out, like with all powerful tools gene editing will attract both people, companies and countries with good intentions (reducing human suffering) but also those with less good intentions (causing human suffering). Here the chinese this year cloned cows for the first time, and in the twilight of the old year, Chinese scientist Jiakui for the first time changed a person’s DNA to two newborn twin girls and managed to give birth to another genetically modified baby.

Everything goes back to the same question as for AI: what happens when a machine or an organism get to know all their code so he/she can change it — “can you do it, you should do it”, right? So that you can become even more perfect, remove illnesses and weaknesses, and optimize the 5S that I usually tell my own twins are our personal goals in life (to become Smarter, Stronger, Speedier, more Stunning and … Sympathetic?).

Or will there come something totally different out of Pandora’s box? From. What is hundred percent clear is that from this year the box is totally open, and there is no way back — we, the world, simply have to deal with it!

Infotech on the edge of a mega-explosion

Looking forward to more technical development, the trend of what is let out of Pandora’s box in terms of both resolved gene editing and AI continues here on earth, has strengthened the motivation to find other planets to live on. Within this area, SpaceX this year manages its maiden voyage of its most powerful space rocket, there was for the first time found water on Mars, and Musk sent out his old Tesla on the drive-through around Mars.

Here on earth, the hype of drones, 3D-printers, robots and other gadgets continued — coming to the fusion between biotech and infotech, that forms the foundation of what is called the The Fourth Industrial Revolution. At the same time, it is still evident that it is the development within digital capacity that has been the by far most intense race. 5G means the real icebreaker for IoT and M2M, and by the end of 2019 most corporate flagship smartphones are expected to set a completely insane speed of 20 GB/s in the hands of mankind.

Another digital race is not online the hype around the edge computing but even more so for the quantum computer, where the first versions (like Nasas and Google’s d-wavex2) already are 3,600 times faster than the world’s fastest computer :-O These are forces that, when finally getting full control of the sensitive quantum particles, not only can make you see “invisible” things like stealth planes, but like superman gives you a laser sight that can look through steel walls.

And if that wasn’t enough burden for privacy, it will also be able to unlock the whole world of encryption, every financial and military system in the world, as well as important infrastructure such as electricity, water supply and transport systems. It is no wonder China is getting hot and investing big money with $5 billion a year, while the US is far behind $ 0.2 billion a year and the EU $ 0.1 billion a year.

At the same time, Europe has more strategic people to thank for still being in the game — more specifically a dozen of smart countries in 1959, where the focus on the quantum basic research (as often with basic research which short-term pragmatists usually neither understand or backup — until wiseacre retroactively) — all of a sudden transforms from “interesting but pointless playhouse “ to life-critical function for everyone’s future.

Two decades after the creation of the World Wide Web, it is not impossible that we here stand with the embryo for the quantum computer at arm’s length.

Digital taking over completely

And so we are getting to the heart of what this trendspotting is all about, what affects and affects us more than anything else this year, and where we see no sign that will be less so ahead.

We have a trend of a somewhat increased censorship in Asia, Africa and middle east. At the extreme we have the total control of chinese people by not only 200 million CCTV cameras even on public toilets, where the whole 1,4 billion population is scanned by face recognition and tracking even 94% of the population by “recognition by your walking style” within 1 second. But also the the massive scanning of chinese peoples digital footprint is giving people extra social and economic benifits if they score high on their “social credit system”, and get totally frozen out from jobs, education, financing, and transport for the 10 million people who don’t. An official Party outline boosts:

“It will allow the trustworthy to roam freely under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step”

The same with Saudi Arabias Absher app, with the difference that here it is not the government controlling the citizens, but the men controlling all women. After downloading app (look how many women in the apparently entusiastic reviews — and the similarity in text :) — how about the ethics here, AppStore and Google Play?), the womans son, brother, husband or father can dictate how far she can go from home, if she may travel, or even go to the police or hospital.

On the other side of the exreme we have the little brave, on the verge of looking naive, try to add brake pads like GDPR in Europe, which finally launches … 10 years too late and with so weak tools that it almost feels cute. And though in online media it has been quite a stormy year at the stock market, where Facebook ended with -26% and Tencent -29% during the year while the Alphabet landed on -1% and Baidu -34%, in traditional media it’s been a lot of buzz about techlash and the retro of burner phones, we last year actually got to see less of it in practice:

The funny thing is that all this happened the same year as the UN’s latest study shows that for the first time in history, over half of the world’s population now uses the Internet… and we do it half of our hours awake every day.

More than half of us in the world thus sit online as long as 6 hours a day, the biggest time driver being that 93% of us connect via the mobile. 2/3 of the world’s 7.6 billion now have a mobile phone, half of which are being the smartphones that celebrated its 10 year anniversary 2018, rendering 62% of global digital ad spend (i.e. $155 billion) now going to the mobile.

And when it comes to mobile, it’s now all about apps, where we spend 7 times more time and connect 13 times more often than on mobile browsers. More than 113 billion apps has been downloaded 2018, and we use 80 apps in average per person, half of which are used every month. And while downloads increased by 10%, the spending increased by the double, 20% — where we during 3 hours a day spent $80 billion last year (predicted to be more than $120 billion next year).

As a forerunner to all other channels the by far biggest part of the app revenue is the mobile gaming (no 8 being education, more on that below), which now has higher revenue than traditional gaming, pushing them from nerds to everyone’s hand — and making gaming and its bigger sister gamification something not even traditional companies can afford to close their eyes to.

And if the mobile is the winning device, Asia is the by far winning region (with Android totally taking over). Asia don’t only hold 59% of the world’s population — where the two biggest stand for far more than 1/3 of people on earth — since the recent digital explosion it now holds over 53% (!) of all people online from Asia. As a result, Chinese is now the second biggest language on the internet with more than 800 million Chinese speaking people online, while India is estimated to have over 1 billion people online by 2030.

And the geography is also setting the rest of the trend. Asia stand for 61% of all visitors to social media (where only the old economies of Japan and Korea are low, while the rest on top), China + India have together 90 of the 113 million app downloads, and economically 51% of all Google Play spend. Asia is also the area where we so far find the lowest connection speed, the longest time spent, the highest mobile share of web traffic, as well as the most positive attitude to what new technology can offer. The development potential is simply enormous!

And, if the mobile is device and Asia is the area, then social media is the by far biggest among the channels. It gets scandalous when Zuckerberg’s Facebook growth slows down (although somewhere an empire is always approaching the “end” of the logarithm) while his Instagram and WhatsApp are growing even more — which is what we see also in the Asian gorillas.

In total, 75% of all users now use social media, an increase of + 13% this year, and almost all via the mobile. Social media now takes a great deal of the commercial power in terms of information and attraction for our consumption of services and products, where we globally now everyone are exposed to much more fiction than facts.

As a result, influencers are increasingly taking over from CEO:s and politicians as leading opinion leaders and power source in society. Nothing shows it more clearly than when Kylie Jenners, with her 25 million followers — which make my 35,000 look like an anthill (though an adorable, influential and rather tech savy ant hill :-D) tweets out her 7 words “Does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore?”, Which is claimed to have contributed to the Snapchat stock going down 7%, equivalent to a reduced value of $1.3 billion.

A little more about what all this and else resulted in for the economy last year, we return to in the next section ;)

· Digital contact: As usual, I love commenting and hot debate, so for anyone who wants to discuss, is hunting for key note speeches, or wants to be part of backing up the world’s coolest digital venture, inbox me here, call on WA +46733 90 18 80, or email at rufus.lidman@aiar.com ;)

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Rufus Lidman

Rufus Lidman

Data disruptor with 50,000 followers. 300 lectures, assignments on 4 continents, 6 ventures with 2–3 ok exits, 4 books, 15 million app downloads.