This article, like many others published at the time of the new year, attempts to look back and to reflect on the hypes and trends of our tech-reliant society. As the rate at which we consume technology accelerates, 2017 is seen by many as the turning point for society as we know it, with key milestones achieved over the year.
The rise of cryptocurrencies
The biggest and hottest topic in any financial technology (fintech) news outlet in 2017 is definitely Bitcoin. This came as a surprise to seasoned investors and traders who had not seen it coming. Despite lacking inherent value, Bitcoin’s price skyrocketed as it gained popularity. Nonetheless, for many, the Bitcoin-mania is often compared to the Tulip-mania of the 1600s.
What is Bitcoin? You may ask. Bitcoin is a form of cryptocurrency. In fact, it is one of the oldest forms of crypto-currencies, where transactions are recorded using a ‘blockchain’. A blockchain is essentially a public ledger recording all the transactions done in a decentralized database.
The main difference between bitcoin and any electronic fiat money is apparent: there’s no central reserve controlled by any political power. In other words, it is unregulated. Bitcoin speculation remains a tremendous risk, as investors give in to their “fear of losing out” and drive the Bitcoin bubble to the brink of bursting.
The WannaCry ransomware is one of the worst hacks here in the UK. In May, NHS hospitals in England and Scotland were struck by the ransomware attack and had to turn away all non-critical emergencies. On the other side of the globe, a Bitcoin exchange in South Korea went bust when its Bitcoin exchange was hacked by North-Korean hackers.
With all that said, technology isn’t all that bad, but the general population’s lack of understanding towards it may prove fatal. No doubt, after these incidents, the public would have more awareness of the importance of cybersecurity, pushing the industry to a whole new level.
The ‘Musk’ effect
One of the other names that took the headlines this year is none other than Elon Musk, the man who brings sci-fi tech to real life. Musk’s businesses span from commercial space flight and electric vehicles to brain-computer interfaces and ultra-smart AI systems.
This year alone, SpaceX, Musk’s aerospace and space transport company, creates history by unveiling a new upgrade on their fleet, capable of multiple reentries. On Earth, Musk’s Hyperloop could revolutionise the way we travel between cities. It is a system where a vactrain (or a travel pod) is transported from point to point in a sealed tunnel with near-vacuum pressure. This allows the vactrain to travel at high speeds free of air-resistance, making it extremely efficient and fast. The first segment of the Hyperloop in Los Angeles was just completed around June this year.
The rise of Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is certainly in the uptrend this year, combining artificial neural network, deep learning, and various new machine perception techniques to provide a more intelligent predictive service.
Major mobile phone operating systems, such as Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS now supports integrated Artificial Neural Network (ANN) hardware. How does this change our lives? For one, the incorporation of AI chips allows the phones to monitor user behavior and reallocate resources to keep the phones running longer. Machine learning-based functions, such as image and speech recognition, can now be accessed offline.
The rise of intelligent speakers, on the other hand, comes as a great surprise to many, as speaker manufacturers start to incorporate voice-activated digital assistants into their newer models. The adoption of smart home devices is on the rise as well.
Welcome to the future
Despite the challenging political landscape in 2017, the tech industry is flourishing, churning out innovations that often surprise us. In 2018, AI adoption will probably increase, bringing in a new era of data analysis and computing. The adoption and understanding of cryptocurrencies will probably improve as government agencies are formed to regulate its trade and to understand the consequences of its adoption. Adoption of electric and self-driving vehicles may increase. To sum it up, 2018 may resemble the science fiction ‘future’ we’ve all looked forward to.