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Gartner: 10 Ways Technology Will Change What It Means to Be Human

human hand touching robotic hand

"The human condition is being challenged as technology creates varied and ever-changing expectations of humans," according to research firm Gartner. That's the theme behind 10 strategic predictions it has made for 2020 and beyond: ways that technology will change the way humans interact with their environment and each other.

Understanding technology's impact on the human condition is particularly important for IT leaders, as evolving user expectations drive institutional change. "Technology is changing the notion of what it means to be human," noted Daryl Plummer, distinguished vice president and Gartner Fellow, in a statement. "As workers and citizens see technology as an enhancement of their abilities, the human condition changes as well. CIOs in end-user organizations must understand the effects of the change and reset expectations for what technology means."

Gartner's top 10 strategic predictions for technology are:

1) "By 2023, the number of people with disabilities employed will triple due to AI and emerging technologies, reducing barriers to access." Technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality and robotics are bringing more people with disabilities into the workforce, Plummer said, giving the example of AI robotics technology enabling paralyzed restaurant employees to control robotic waiters. "People with disabilities constitute an untapped pool of critically skilled talent …. Organizations that actively employ people with disabilities will not only cultivate goodwill from their communities, but also see 89 percent higher retention rates, a 72 percent increase in employee productivity and a 29 percent increase in profitability."

2) "By 2024, AI identification of emotions will influence more than half of the online advertisements you see." The next frontier for AI development is artificial emotional intelligence, according to Gartner. It is particularly useful for companies that want to tap into customers' emotions to influence their buying decisions. "AEI makes it possible for both digital and physical experiences to become hyper personalized, beyond clicks and browsing history but actually on how customers feel in a specific purchasing moment. With the promise to measure and engage consumers based on something once thought to be intangible, this area of 'empathetic marketing' holds tremendous value for both brands and consumers when used within the proper privacy boundaries," said Plummer.

3) "Through 2023, 30 percent of IT organizations will extend BYOD policies with 'bring your own enhancement' (BYOE) to address augmented humans in the workforce." Humans will look to physical enhancements such as wearable technologies to both improve their personal lives and help do their jobs, Gartner predicted. "IT leaders certainly see these technologies as impactful, but it is the consumers' desire to physically enhance themselves that will drive the adoption of these technologies first," said Plummer. "Enterprises need to balance the control of these devices in their enterprises while also enabling users to use them for the benefit of the organization. This means embracing and exploiting the benefits of physical human augmentation through the implementation of a BYOE strategy."

4) "By 2025, 50 percent of people with a smartphone but without a bank account will use a mobile-accessible cryptocurrency account." Gartner expects major online marketplaces and social media platforms to start supporting cryptocurrency payments by the end of next year. The growing use of mobile-enabled cryptocurrency account services will "open trading opportunities for buyers and sellers in growing economies like sub-Saharan Africa and Asia/Pacific," the research firm noted.

5) "By 2023, a self-regulating association for oversight of AI and machine learning designers will be established in at least four of the G7 countries." When AI and ML algorithms fail, the consequences can be dire: "AI-related failures in autonomous vehicles and aircraft have already killed people and attracted widespread attention in recent months," pointed out Plummer. The need for regulation in this area will increase cycle times for AI and ML algorithm development and deployment, Gartner predicted, and call for increased spending on training and certification for AI personnel.

6) "By 2023, 40 percent of professional workers will orchestrate their business application experiences and capabilities like they do their music streaming experience." Humans will increasingly demand a work environment in which they can "assemble their own applications to meet job and personal requirements in a self-service fashion," Gartner said.

"Applications used to define our jobs. Nowadays, we are seeing organizations designing application experiences around the employee," commented Plummer. "For example, mobile and cloud technologies are freeing many workers from coming into an office and instead supporting a 'work anywhere' environment, outpacing traditional application business models. Similar to how humans customize their streaming experience, they can increasingly customize and engage with new application experiences."

7) "By 2023, up to 30 percent of world news and video content will be authenticated as real by blockchain countering deep fake technology." In response to the proliferation of disinformation and propaganda, news organizations will need to track and prove the authenticity of their published content, Gartner surmised. Enterprise IT organizations will need to work closely with content production teams to use blockchain technology as a content authentication tool.

8) "Through 2021, digital transformation initiatives will take large traditional enterprises on average twice as long and cost twice as much as anticipated." Barriers to digital optimization include the cost of technology modernization, unanticipated costs of operational complexities, and the degree of innovation and adaptability required. "In most traditional organizations, the gap between digital ambition and reality is large," said Plummer. "We expect CIOs' budget allocation for IT modernization to grow 7 percent year-over-year through 2021 to try to close that gap."

9) "By 2023, individual activities will be tracked digitally by an 'Internet of Behavior' to influence benefit and service eligibility for 40 percent of people worldwide." Facial recognition, location tracking and big data will allow organizations to monitor individual behavior and link that behavior to other digital actions, Gartner said, noting that "The Internet of Things (IoT) – where physical things are directed to do a certain thing based on a set of observed operating parameters relative to a desired set of operating parameters — is now being extended to people, known as the Internet of Behavior (IoB)."

"With IoB, value judgements are applied to behavioral events to create a desired state of behavior," said Plummer. "Within Western countries, the most notable example of a usage-based and behaviorally based business model is in property and casualty insurance. Over the long term, it is likely that almost everyone living in a modern society will be exposed to some form of IoB that melds with cultural and legal norms of our existing predigital societies."

10) "By 2024, the World Health Organization will identify online shopping as an addictive disorder, as millions abuse digital commerce and encounter financial stress." Gartner forecast that consumer spending via digital commerce platforms will grow more than 10 percent year-over-year through 2020, potentially causing financial stress for millions of people. Compounding the problem is the use of AI and personalization to target consumers (see prediction No. 2 above) and encourage them to spend more than they can afford. "The side effects of technology that promote addictive behavior are not exclusive to consumers," noted Plummer. "CIOs must also consider the possibility of lost productivity among employees who put work aside for online shopping and other digital distractions. In addition, regulations in support of responsible online retail practices might force companies to provide warnings to prospective customers who are ready to make online purchases, similar to casinos or cigarette companies."

Overall, Gartner's predictions come down to four factors that are "forging a new reality for human use of technology," the research firm concluded: augmentation, decisions, emotions and companionship. As Plummer summed up, "Beyond offering insights into some of the most critical areas of technology evolution, this year's predictions help us move beyond thinking about mere notions of technology adoption and draw us more deeply into issues surrounding what it means to be human in the digital world."

The full report, "Gartner's Top Strategic Predictions for 2020 and Beyond: Technology Changes the Human Condition," is available to Gartner clients here.

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