BEYOND 2020
SME Magazine Singapore|November - December 2020
THE RISE OF EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES
ONG XIANG HONG

Transplant someone from the year 2000 to our current time, and he or she will be completely bewildered by the advances that we have made since. The Internet, smartphones, AI and other developments have changed our society so drastically.

Go back to the dawn of the 20th century, and things are even more drastic. Consider that, in America: In 1900,

  • 10 percent of families owned a stove, or had access to electricity or phones In 1915,

  • 10 percent of families owned a car In 1930,

  • 10 percent of families owned a refrigerator or clothes washer In 1945,

  • 10 percent of families owned a clothes dryer or air-conditioning In 1960,

  • 10 percent of families owned a dishwasher or colour TV In 1975,

  • 10 percent of families owned a microwave In 1990,

  • 10 percent of families had a cell phone or access to the Internet Today, at least 90 percent of Americans own a stove, electricity, car, fridge, clothes washer, air-conditioning, colour TV, microwave, and cell phone.

And technology marches ever onward. Indeed, the pace of technological advancement in recent years has not only been gathering pace, but is at a positively breakneck speed. There are even more advanced technologies on the horizon, that will make today seem quaint. Of course, many of these technologies are of use to SMEs. Not just because they are a business opportunity – any SME that fails to keep up with the times will be left behind, and consigned to fail.

Nevertheless, these are exciting times we live in. In the next few decades, we will see interesting developments and progressions in pretty much every area of technology that will matter. Enhanced functionality, more capable devices, and new online services will be made available to users on a continual basis.

Not only that, but the nature of work has also changed. Before, one needed to come into the office to get work done. Factories were staffed by armies of workers. Now, work can be done remotely, and just a few skilled employees can oversee an automated assembly line. Video calling and teleconferencing used to belong to the realm of science fiction, but the spread of COVID-19 has necessitated the use of such technology for the sake of public health.

Looking further in the future, there are possible breakthroughs that will dramatically alter the human condition. Sooner or later, medicine will figure out how to cure cancer and other diseases, dramatically increase human life, and directly interface the human brain with machines. Cheap, clean forms of energy will be discovered. Computers will get faster and smaller.

On the flip side, entertainment and media will become more engaging and immersive – and some might say, insidious. New, more efficient ways of killing each other will be invented. Assuming World War III hasn’t broken out before then, we still have the problem of pollution and a degraded environment to deal with.

Futurists thought that as technology became more advanced, our human needs would be more than adequately satisfied, and that we would have more leisure time. Of course, that is not the case now. If anything, we are working more than ever, but we are also more productive than ever. New jobs, new skills, and new demands have grown as a result of technological progress. And as a species, our innate dynamism ensures that we will never stop progressing. Will that stop us from destroying ourselves as well? Only time will tell.

Hence, in this issue, SME showcases our pick of emerging technologies that has the greatest potential to disrupt the business world as we know it.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

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