Hey, happy New Year, everyone! Welcome to Marketplace Tech 2019 edition! The future looks about the same as yesterday, right? This week, we’ve been looking at what the near future of this year might look like in business and technology. Today, we talk to a futurist about the big trends that will influence tech. Amy Webb is a professor of strategic foresight at New York University’s Stern School of Business and the founder of The Future Today Institute. She tells Molly Wood that one big trend in 2019 and beyond is that your phone won’t be the center of your life anymore — it’ll just be the center of everything else. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Amy Webb: People aren’t rushing out to buy brand new phones with the frequency that we used to. Now, that may not be revelatory if you look back to 1999. We had all these different devices in addition to a dumb phone. And in just 20 short years, all of those different devices have converged into a single device. So we spent the past two decades converging into one device. We’re going to spend the next two decades branching back out. And rather than the phone being our primary thing that we look at all day long and have all these features on, instead it’ll be the connective tissue tying together many other gadgets and devices like smart yoga pants, smart glasses and smart watches, and lots of other different peripherals that help to optimize our lives.
Molly Wood: So let’s talk about this sort of ambient technology future. It relies on connectivity, and we keep hearing that 5G is going to be a big part of 2019. How real is that?
Webb: It’s been a while since we’ve upgraded to the next generation of our wireless infrastructure — 5G is that ecosystem. It’s the fifth generation. There are trials underway in different parts of the world. The question is where do we go from here? Because in order to build out this ecosystem, you need a lot of investment, you need huge, widespread collaboration between our four major wireless carriers in the United States, and you’re going to need devices. And at the moment, a lot of the forward momentum that we’re seeing is actually not in the United States, it’s in Asia. So China has been testing products and services. Japan is doing everything it can to ready 5G networks ahead of the 2020 Olympics. So will 2019 be a pivotal year in the United States? I would say possibly, if everybody can come to the table and agree on some things.
Wood: What else do you think is going to be big in 2019?
Webb: We don’t a lot of times think of biology as being a really important technology platform. And I think we’re going to start to see some serious movement in 2019 that will challenge our assumptions — new types of diagnostic tests, some of which we can start doing in our homes, to genetic editing, which will be in the headlines multiple times throughout 2019.