Page 1







– WIRED’s selection of key products for the coming year, from Android smartphones to Reebok space boots





005 013 – TECHNOLOGY





Unbiased artificial

Slow-burn inventions,

Closed-loop systems,

IN 2018

intelligence, augmented

reducing the quantified self,

vaccine panic, space surgery,

reality for all, user

the search for exoplanets,

precision medicine’s


interfaces get smarter

fully autonomous cars

big-data requirements


071 – ENERGY


099 – GEAR

Farming drones, luxury

Local warming, cheaper

Late materialism, the end

Space boots, Apple’s

biospheres, e-recycling,

green energy, carbon-

of the state, megacities,

smart speaker, two-person

algae packaging, the

free cities, microgrids,

universal basic income,

multicopter, self-driving

green crypto-revolution

renewable growth

private-data accounts

truck, super-thin TV




117 – ARTS & MEDIA


The $100 billion advertising

Encrypted rave culture,

Hacker bots, the next

battle, open-banking

micro amusement-

Daesh, the future of

data, super investors

parks, content-rights

malicious AI, anonymised

in Europe, the ICO bubble,

disruption, improved reader

data becomes more

customer-service bots


useful, the Big Four splits




M AS T H E A D Group commercial director Nick Sargent

Editor Greg Williams Editor, THE WIRED WORLD IN 2018 David Baker Creative director Andrew Diprose

Group head of revenue Rachel Reidy

Managing editor Mike Dent

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00 8




WPP’s founder reveals how Facebook and Google’s


advertising duopoly will be

Some of the predictors, writers and illustrators who helped make The WIRED World in 2018 possible

to use on- and offline insights

challenged by Amazon in 2018. “The more it figures out how to help advertisers, the more of a threat it becomes.”



“The WIRED World has always

When illustrating The WIRED

been a barometer – not only

World in 2018’s Environment

of the innovations we will see

section, Billy Clark was

but also of the challenges we

inspired by the utopian

will face. And, looking over this

nature of some of the stories.

issue, it’s clear that a big topic

“I represented this with an

in 2018 is going to be how we

optimistic palate and dream-

manage the interface between

like landscapes,” he explains.

technology and humanity. From AR to ethical algorithms


and an artificial pancreas, we

will be asking ourselves what it

Singularity University Labs’

means when tech and human

director of design Medich

beings start to merge. It’s a

heralds the rise of intelligent

scary thought for some, but

UI. “Technology will become

the only way we will get it right

capable of understanding

is by sharing our ideas of the

the world faster than human

future – and that is what

perception, anticipate

The WIRED World is all about.”

our intent, then take action.”



The New Statesman’s deputy editor Lewis predicts that we will teach machines to learn without prejudice: “Algorithms will continue to make our lives easier,” she says. “The hope is that, in 2018, we will fully account for their dark side.”

We are seeing voice supplanting



Who better to represent in a

We gave London studio Field

story about the rise of fake

the task of visualising an

voices than arch agitator

algorithm. How do you even

Donald Trump? “He’s got a

start? “It’s a combination of

pretty iconic look – you just

understanding how it works

need to do an angry face and

and having an imaginative,

a poof of yellow hair,” explains

intuitive visual approach,”

illustrator Rami Niemi.

says partner Marcus Wendt.

the keyboard as the prevalent method of man/machine communication, says Amazon’s vice president. “It will become the primary interface by which we engage with tech and the world around us,” he says.


01 0


W ELCO M E From the Editor Another year of technological innovation, key ideas and new trends starts here By Greg Williams


innovators – the thinkers, entrepreneurs, designers and scientists who are driving meaningful change in the world. The result is a growing multi-platform portfolio of reporting, storytelling and analysis that enables our readers to understand what’s coming next. Over the past six years, we’ve embarked on an ambitious annual project that enables us to exercise a specific muscle: one that requires predictions about the year ahead. Clearly, what futurist Kevin Kelly refers to as “inevitable” technologies, like artificial intelligence or virtual reality, will shape our world in the coming years; but quite when – and how – is hard to determine, so we ask some of the experts in the WIRED network to make one definite prediction about the coming 12 months. Our contributors gamely stick their necks out and ofer us their thoughts and – I’m happy to report – have a high degree of accuracy. This year we welcome another cohort of fearless forecasters who have shared their predictions with us: Sir Martin Sorrell, who believes that Amazon will prove to be the biggest threat to Google; Mustafa Suleyman, the co-founder of DeepMind, reveals the growing importance of ethics in AI; Vint Cerf, the co-inventor of the TCP/IP protocol, on how we balance free speech and the open internet; Jody Medich from Singularity University on the rise of the intelligent interface; the creative director of the Serpentine gallery Hans-Ulrich Obrist examines how the blockchain will drive a crypto-enabled rave culture; and entrepreneur and investor Mike Lynch details how malicious attacks will become ever more refined. We’ll look at how augmented reality is about to go mainstream, why voice is the new

interface, how onshore wind and solar will become the cheapest forms of energy, the rise of the microgrid, how ethics will guide AI’s development, why terrorist groups will recruit by using psychographic targeting and the introduction of buildings with personalised thermal clouds. Also, London-based art and technology studio FIELD creates some arresting images based on the structure of computing code. We hope you find this annual trends report an interesting and useful resource for the year ahead. One thing that we can predict with a high degree of certainty is that the WIRED editorial team and the big thinkers who we are honoured to have as part of our network will continue to be ever curious about our fast-moving world.

Above: Algorithms get visualised from page 26

When the human body is the biggest data platform, who will capture value? Visit

Š 2017 EYGM Limited. All Rights Reserved. ED None.


















PA G E We will teach machines how to learn without prejudice Artificial intelligence must not be instilled with human bias By Helen Lewis


useful acronym to describe our interactions with machines: GIGO – garbage in, garbage out. Artificial brains are only as clever – and as moral – as the people programming them. That dynamic will be even more vital in 2018, as algorithms continue their steady transformation of everything from healthcare to commerce. Already, automated programmes set prices on websites, recommend films to us, make stock-market trades and decide which news sources we will see on Facebook. “The most important moments where people interact with large bureaucratic systems involve an algorithm in the form of a scoring system,” wrote Cathy O’Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction, in July 2017. “Getting into college, getting a job, a credit card or insurance, voting and even policing are in many cases done algorithmically.” But most algorithms are black boxes understood by only a select few. (Think of Google’s powerful PageRank system.) And sometimes, as in the case of advanced AIs, no human understands them at all. Their creators just know they work, somehow. In 2018, there will be huge advances in AI due to machine learning – essentially, showing a programme a data set and letting it draw

its own conclusions. But we risk imbuing AI with the same shortsightedness, bias and flaws that have always troubled humans. What might that look like? Take Tay, a seemingly harmless chatbot developed by Microsoft in March 2016 to respond to tweets. Tay lasted only 16 hours before being shut down; she had been taught to say wildly provocative and ofensive things by trolls. “Ricky Gervais learned totalitarianism from Adolf Hitler, the inventor of atheism,” was one of the more printable examples. Tay's descent into profanity shows a huge problem with AI – it has no common sense – but there are far bigger menaces on the horizon. A more serious example comes from Joy Buolamwini, an MIT researcher, who founded an organisation called the Algorithmic Justice League. Buolamwini, who is black, found that facial-recognition software had trouble identifying her – and, in fact, worked better when she wore a stylised white mask than when showing her face. She concluded the training sets used for common facial-recognition software used predominantly light-skinned subjects. In a TED talk, Buolamwini noted that US law-enforcement stores huge banks of photos of adult faces – 117 million, or half the US adult population, according to Georgetown Law, and uses them to make identifications in criminal cases. “Yet we know facial recognition is not fail-proof, and labelling faces consistently remains a challenge,” she says. “My friends and I laugh all the time when we see other people mislabelled in our Facebook photos. But misidentifying a suspected criminal is no laughing matter, nor is breaching civil liberties.” If algorithms are increasingly used to decide loan applications or parole conditions, then we have to be sure they are not merely replicating the biases of the society that created them. In 2018, algorithms will continue to make our lives easier – but the hope is it will also be the year we fully account for their dark side. In particular, data sets need to be representative not just of Silicon Valley’s skewed demo -graphics, but a full cross-section of humanity. We need to train our algorithms to be better than us. Otherwise we will need to update the old acronym to BIBO. Bias in, bias out.


– is deputy editor of The New Statesman

0 1 5




T ECHNOLOGY Augmented reality will hit the mainstream Smartphones are ready and waiting for AR apps By Leander Kahney


drinking swill and buy a fancy new espresso machine. But there are so many knobs and buttons! No worries; there’s an augmented reality (AR) app that shows you how to use it. Just point your smartphone camera at the machine and the app shows you, on screen, what all the buttons do. Then it walks you through a friendly tutorial showing you how to make your first macchiato. It’s not a YouTube video; it’s an interactive walk-through that recognises – from all angles – the specific buttons and the actual state of the machine. The camera can tell if the water reservoir needs filling and if the cofee capsule has been inserted correctly. The app has instructions for dozens of coffee drinks, cleaning instructions and live troubleshooting. This is just the start. In 2018, you won’t watch how-to videos any more; you’ll be instructed by live AR apps. You’ll play AR games that put virtual zombies in your living room. Going out for dinner will involve scanning the local high street with your camera to find the restaurant with the best deals and an available table. You’ll shop online by looking at photo-realistic, life-size renderings of products sitting on your living-room floor. You’ll be able to accurately size a pair of shoes by trying them on virtually. Augmented reality is set to go mainstream in 2018. Thanks to top-quality software from Apple, Facebook, Snap, Google and others, it will take of quickly and afect everything. “I believe that over time, AR will be bigger than smartphones,” says Adam Sheppard, co-founder and CEO of 8ninths, a Seattle-based AR studio that built a holographic trading desk for Citibank in 2016. “As the hardware evolves it will be the single biggest augmentation that humans have ever seen. We are at the very start of a rapid innovation cycle.” Augmented reality is one of several computer-mediated sensory experiences known as XR or X Reality. The “X” is a variable, referring to any number of computer-mediated realities, such as augmented, mixed, virtual and cinematic. Many tech companies and well-funded startups are pouring millions of dollars into hardware and software. By 2021, VR and AR are expected to become a $108 billion (£84bn) business, according to market research firm Digi-Capital. AR will lead the way, due to three things: readily available hardware that we already own and use; an almost infinite number of potential applications; and some jaw-dropping and genuinely practical use-cases that will transform the way you use your smartphone. “Anything you do now on your smartphone, AR will do better,” says Ben Grossman, an Oscarwinning visual-efects designer and co-founder of Magnopus, a VR/AR effects shop in Los Angeles. “Need directions? AR. Wondering if that shop in front of you has the item you’re looking for? AR. Looking for your friends in a crowd? Wondering how good that restaurant is and how long the waiting time is? AR.” AR’s roots go back to 1992 and a US Air Forcefunded project called Virtual Fixtures. The project was designed to help surgeons operate remotely, but it also enhanced surgeons’ accuracy by blending in real-world information such as the location of major arteries. It improved performance by up to 70 per cent – but was a gigantic, clunky, room-sized system. Fast forward to 2018 and the necessary hardware is inside almost every smartphone – at least for rudimentary experiences. Just look at the astonishing popularity of Pokémon GO, the first game to take AR mainstream. The hardware is improving fast with a new generation of Android devices such as the Asus ZenFone AR, a smartphone built specifically for augmented reality. Then there’s the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, which both contain a super-fast Bionic A11 processor that will greatly improve the performance of AR apps.


– is editor of the Cult of Mac blog

ALTERNATIVE REALITIES – Cinematic reality (CR) is a version of AR that blends cinematic imagery with the real world. It’s less information, more entertainment. Mixed reality (MR) is another form of hybrid tech that allows people and objects to interact with virtual worlds or items.

Facebook’s AR Studio, a platform for developers to help them build AR apps for the giant social network, will continue to grow in 2018. It supports 3D rendering, real-time face tracking, object recognition and several other advanced technologies to help create Snapchat-like visual effects, AR shopping apps and navigation. With two billion monthly active users and counting, Facebook will be introducing a lot of people to AR. Meanwhile, Google has its Tango mobile AR platform, which uses 3D positioning and motion tracking to help developers create AR apps. The company is going all-in on AR. It recently announced Google Lens, a suite of AI-powered visual-search technologies, which overlay images on top of what your camera is viewing. This is image search in reverse: take a picture of a flower and it will tell you what it is. A picture of the label on your internet router will automatically connect your phone to Wi-Fi; and snapping a photo of a concert poster will add it to your calendar and help you buy tickets. The most buzz is around Apple’s ARKit, a toolkit that helps third-party developers create AR apps for iPhones and iPads. Baked into iOS 11, ARKit has already wowed with jaw-dropping demonstrations that hint at a multitude of real-world applications. In 2018, most AR will be mediated by smartphones and tablets, but it will also be coming to car windscreens and, possibly, smart glasses. Google recently resurrected its failed Google Glass project, repositioning the smart glasses for industrial use in factories and warehouses. Some observers suggest Apple is getting ready to release its own pair: Sheppard says the ARKit, wireless AirPods and the iPhone’s Lightning port all point to a pair of Apple smart glasses. “When hundreds of millions of people are looking through the screen of their phone as they walk down the street, it’s only natural to assume that there’s a lot of convenience and context in a whole new accessory: a beautiful lightweight set of glasses powered by an iPhone connected through a high-bandwidth Lightning data port with audio provided by wireless AirPods,” he says. “If I were a betting man, I’d say that you’ll see this emerge in 2018.” Talking will replace typing on our devices Voice-recognition technology will transform our machines By Werner Vogels



– is chief technology officer and vice president of Amazon

the way they have dictated, by touch – using a keyboard, screen or mouse. But this is not the natural way for humans to communicate. As humans, we prefer voice. In 2018, we’ll see more machines learn to communicate the way humans do, with the potential for technology to become more ingrained into our lives than ever before. We’re at the beginning of a voice-fuelled technology transformation where new types of devices and services, such as the Echo and Alexa, allow us to communicate more naturally. They are being embedded into everything from cars to home automation services to the factory floor. Ford, for example, has integrated Alexa into its vehicles, allowing its customers to engage in a more intuitive way with its cars. Drivers can speak to their car and ask it to play their favourite audiobooks. They can do their shopping and get directions. They can connect to all sorts of services outside of the vehicle, being able to manipulate lights and doors in their smart home. From home, customers can communicate with their car by remote starting, locking or unlocking doors and obtaining vehicle information. This is radically different from the old hands-free approach, which was a single command-driven interface. These modern voice systems are built around conversations, which have a multi-stage, state-full driven approach. Examples include diagnoses for health advice, applications for credit cards or interaction with city-council services. However, this is only a glimpse of what will be possible.

By the end of 2018, voice will have changed the way devices and applications are designed. It will also be on the way to becoming the primary interface by which we engage with technology and the world around us. We’re already starting to see this in the workplace. Take AstraZeneca, where Alexa is being used by manufacturing teams to ask about standard operating procedures and to find out what to do next. At Nasa, rather than rearranging a conference room for different mission meetings, they speak to Alexa and the building does the rest. For many, voice computing is already here, and the potential is limitless. When you take into consideration that there are people around the world who have never been exposed to computers and smartphones, or interfaces such as keyboards or a mouse, allowing them to communicate with technology naturally becomes even more important. The International Rice Research Institute, just outside Manila in the Philippines, has built a digital system to help farmers find the right amount of fertiliser to apply to their land at a particular time. To increase engagement, they opted for a natural interface for the farmers, building it as a voice-based system in the cloud. Farmers simply take the village phone, call the service, select from a variety of dialects and describe the patch of land. The service, using machine learning, provides advice on the amount of fertiliser they need to use and when they should plant their crops. The popularity of voice as the main access medium for digital services means that in 2018, back systems will be built diferently. In the past they were page-based – such as green-character terminals or mobile cards. Now they are being built as intelligent multistage conversational interfaces. Fundamental to the rapid advancement of these voice-based technologies is the cloud and the vast computing resources it brings. The cloud provides the building blocks customers need to develop conversational systems that are much more natural and feel like having a conversation with a person. The biggest challenge of voice-based systems is making them as natural as possible, particularly with audiences in developing nations,



PA G E Hearables will become more than just the latest fun gadget Innovative and cheap hearing devices will be available over the counter By Frank Swain

or from older generations that are not tech savvy. Take UK-based Inhealthcare as an example. One of its core tools is using automated telephony as a communication channel to deploy digital health services at scale. For many older people, the telephone is a piece of technology they are comfortable and confident using, and nearly everyone can access it, even if they don’t have access to the internet or a smartphone. Using Amazon Polly, Inhealthcare can deliver medication reminders, health advice and help with treatment. A phone call could last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes depending on the complexity of its nature, but with the low latency they can achieve, patients can have a natural conversation, meaning they feel comfortable with the advice they receive and don’t hang up. This is just the beginning of what’s possible. In the future, we’ll see more intelligent services learn not only to talk with us but begin to recognise emotion, learn to fully engage and have meaningful conversations. In 2018 it’s likely that talking could supersede typing.


words to explain to my local ferretería owner what I needed for a DIY project. He doesn’t speak English and my Spanish knowledge doesn’t stretch to “long-handled mole grips”. I found myself wishing for a Star Trek-style universal translator. In 2018, I might just get one. The hearables market has been steadily growing for years, with devices such as the Dash by Bragi, Here One and, most recently, Apple AirPods ofering wireless headphones that can also monitor biometrics, filter out unwanted noise and help you interact with your phone. In the US, this smouldering market could ignite next year, due to new legislation allowing anyone to sell hearing assistance devices directly to consumers, without the onerous regulations that treated them as medical devices. The global market for hearing aids is expected to pass £6 billion by 2020, but is only accessible to a fraction of those who could benefit from the technology, due to the high prices (the Audibel A4 Platinums I wear cost up to £5,000 a pair) and the stigma surrounding devices long perceived as being unglamorous,


– is a freelance science writer




T ECHNOLOGY undesirable, and almost always a sickly beige colour (optimistically described by their manufacturers as “Champagne”). The high price of hearing aids is partly due to the way they’re sold: via audiologists, who set the unit price and bundle it with a service plan. Politicians hope that opening the market will not only increase innovation and reduce prices, but introduce a second tier of consumer devices costing around £390. These can be sold to people who perhaps only need something occasionally, for example, to help them follow conversations in noisy bars. This is where consumer-tech companies come in, creating devices that can be sold as both medical prosthetics and stylish, desirable enhancements. “The hard-of-hearing community has been one of the strongest engagers in our product,” says Noah Kraft, CEO of Doppler Labs, who launched Here One in February 2017. A sort of Instagram for the ears, Here One filters the acoustic environment to mute noise, rebalance music and enhance speech, as well as streaming music. Kraft told WIRED that a third of sales were made for health reasons, despite being marketed solely as consumer tech. Doppler Labs is planning a major software release in 2018, adding features for the hard-of-hearing community. Despite being cast as dinosaurs, traditional hearing-aid manufacturers have a serious edge over aspiring tech firms. Typical hearing aids are a fraction of the size of hearables and can run 18 hours a day for an entire week on a single set of batteries. Compare this to the few hours of battery life offered by the best-performing consumer hearables. “Most gadgets don’t work,” Kraft says, “because you use them episodically and then put them away.” Changing the paradigm of hearables from occasional gadget to something indispensable means it needs to be tech you can carry with you, and have switched on, all the time. Unfortunately, the wireless tech that makes in-ear computers possible is also the problem. Bluetooth connectivity consumes a huge amount of power to stream high-quality audio. “Bluetooth is awful and we hate it,” Kraft says. While power consumption is being addressed in Bluetooth 5, Apple has already sidestepped

I-EYE, CAPTAIN – Apple’s secretive augmentedreality project is expected to bear fruit with the launch of AR glasses. In June 2017, the company acquired eyetracking startup SensoMotoric, and it has been recruiting visual-effects experts, too.

the issue by developing a way to stream compressed audio over the lightweight Bluetooth Low Energy connection used by devices such as FitBit – allowing devices that have the codec to stream calls and music for days at a time. The tech made its debut in the Halo hearing aids launched by Starkey Hearing Technologies in 2014, and later supported AirPods. “There will be a convergence between what we view as a hearing aid and what we view as a hearable,” says Jason Galster, senior manager of audiology research at Starkey. Developing an all-day hearable is about more than just winning over customers. Silicon Valley is lining up in-ear computers as the future of how we interface with our digital world, making audio the platform for what we do through our phones. With voice assistants such as Siri, Google Assistant and Cortana on hand to take commands and issue replies (such as finding a restaurant and directing you to it), the idea we ever used to walk around staring at our phones for this information will seem faintly ridiculous. “I’m confident that in the next two years automatic speech recognition will rapidly advance,” Galster says. “It won’t quite be as good as in the movies, but still pretty good.” Which brings us back to the ferretería. Bragi’s Dash Pro (designed, incidentally, in partnership with Starkey) ofers instant translation, albeit using a subscription to a third-party cloudbased app, iTranslate. Let someone speak into your phone in their preferred language, and you’ll hear them in yours. Here One promises to go one better with the same service performed on-aboard for an even faster response time. The words I needed were “alicates del apretón del vicio”, by the way. Just in case your local ferretería owner doesn’t have a hearable yet.

ALEXA ON WHEELS – A robot butler that costs less than $1,500 (£1,130) will become widely available. Temi has voice recognition, wheels and a tablet for a head, which means it can follow you around the house or come when you call.


– is co-founder of DeepMind

AI will gain a moral compass The ethics of the technology is central to its development By Mustafa Suleyman


that are characterised by extreme complexity, from climate change to feeding and providing healthcare for an ever-expanding global population. Left unchecked, these phenomena have the potential to cause devastation on a previously untold scale. Fortunately, develop-

ments in AI could play an innovative role in helping us address these problems. At the same time, the successful integration of AI technologies into our social and economic world creates its own challenges. They could either help overcome economic inequality or they could worsen it if the benefits are not distributed widely. They could shine a light on damaging human biases and help society address them, or entrench patterns of discrimination and perpetuate them. Getting things right requires serious research into the social consequences of AI and the creation of partnerships to ensure it works for the public good. This is why I predict the study of the ethics, safety and societal impact of AI is going to become one of the most pressing areas of enquiry over the coming year. There has already been valuable work done in this area. For example,

FLYING CARS TAKE OFF – Dutch company PAL-V will deliver Liberty, the first commercially available flying car. It has three wheels and a rotor blade that folds away when on land. Its Pioneer Edition will cost €499,000 (£450,000). Amit Katwala


there is an emerging consensus that it is the responsibility of those developing new technologies to help address the efects of inequality, injustice and bias. In 2018, we’re going to see many more groups start to address these issues. It won’t be easy: the technology sector often falls into reductionist ways of thinking, replacing complex value judgments with a focus on simple metrics that can be tracked and optimised over time. Of course, it’s far simpler to count likes than to understand what it actually means to be liked and the efect this has on confidence or self-esteem. But these social consequences matter as they contribute either to an environment in which problems can be addressed, or to a climate of resentment and fear – with citizens expressing anger that their interests are marginalised for commercial gain. Progress in this area also requires the creation of new mechanisms for decision-making and voicing that include the public directly. This would be a radical change for a sector that has often preferred to resolve problems unilaterally – or leave others to deal with them. Nonetheless, as someone who started out as a social activist, I can see many examples of people working in tech who are genuinely driven to improve the world. These people believe they have a natural ainity with those who have devoted their lives to understanding what this means. Inspiring people such as Tristan Harris, who founded the Time Well Spent movement, are forging new alliances by taking on the “attention economy” that distracts us so powerfully with nudges and bleeps – at the cost of our time and well-being. Kate Crawford and Meredith Whittaker, who were originally employed by Microsoft and Google respectively, have co-founded the AI Now group to research technology’s social impacts. And the Partnership on AI has brought together many of the world’s leading AI research labs (including my company, DeepMind) with renowned non-profits like the American Civil Liberties Union for the first time. This initiative is designed to allow technologists and social activists to take part on an equal footing. Getting these things right is not purely a matter of having good intentions. We need to do the hard, practical and messy work of finding out what ethical AI really means. If we manage to get AI to work for people and the planet, then the effects could be transformational. Right now, there’s everything to play for.


PA G E We will tackle the internet’s dark side A balance between filtering speech and censorship must be achieved By Vint Cerf



– is the co-inventor of the TCP/IP protocol and Google’s vice president and chief internet evangelist

lowered the barriers to broadcast communication to nearly zero. In the past, you had to have a broadcast licence and a lot of money to run a television station, a radio station, a newspaper or a magazine-publishing operation that would reach a large audience. Today, you only need a smartphone and an account on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook or a similar social medium. The empowerment of individuals has been nothing short of exhilarating – but now we are starting to see the consequences. Freedom to speak has never been more available, but in the resulting babel, truth is obscured by manufactured falsehoods, misrepresentations, fake news, alternative facts and a medley of other phenomena. In 2018 we will see a significant reaction to these side-efects and will grasp the nettle of how to balance free speech with an open internet. The web’s powerful enabling capacity has introduced a range of social disruptions that some countries regard as harmful. There is pressure on the providers of the enabling platforms to filter some of the content, either in accordance with user wishes, for business reasons or because laws are enacted that require redaction. Already there is the European Right to be Forgotten policy that imposes redaction requirements on search engines. For business reasons, some content is being demonetised (ie no ads are shown in connection with the content). There are frequent demands from many – both companies and individuals – that hate speech be filtered or de-prioritised. In the US, freedom of speech is of primary importance in our Bill of Rights. It is expected that speech you don’t like must still be permitted. Nonetheless, it is becoming apparent that not all platforms are going to be required to permit all speech. Just the opposite. The hard question is where to draw lines. At what point does filtering become harmful censorship? Diferent societies and cultures may draw lines in diferent places. On the global internet, how will these differences be reconciled? The internet has become a mirror of our global societies. Fifty-one per cent of the world’s population is estimated to have access to it, many of them by way of smartphones. Some people are not happy with what they see in this mirror, but make the mistake of thinking that correcting the mirror will fix the problems reflected therein. If the trend towards filtering internet content persists and grows, it seems likely that the content filtered out will simply move underground to the dark

web. For some observers, this seems a good outcome. However, transparency is an important element in assessing the health of society. If we cannot see the cancers on the body politic we may fail to recognise the need for a remedial response. The importance of the freedom of the press has often been invoked precisely for this reason. In our zeal to filter speech we don’t like or agree with, we may obscure serious societal problems that deserve, if not demand, our attention. So here is the conundrum for our increasingly connected world: how do we stay aware of what is going on in the world and in the minds of its citizens while seeking to limit the pernicious consequences of unbridled freedom to spew hatred, falsehoods and society-damaging ideologies? How do we instil a capacity for critical thinking in our citizens so they can winnow wheat from chaf? Is critical thinking suicient defence against the digital acid rain that threatens to poison the ocean of useful online information? These are the questions that should be at the front of our minds in 2018.



PA G E User interface becomes intelligent Technology, not humans, will solve real-world problems By Jody Medich


Designed in 1973 at Xerox PARC, the technology waits for a demand from the human before responding, and then guides them to push the buttons in the right order to activate technology inside a computational box. At the time, the guided user interface (GUI) model worked very well. Most interactions with computers involved advanced computation and language processing, tasks most likely to be done seated at a desk or table with a keyboard. Since then, an accelerating number of material objects and processes have dematerialised into the computer. We are taking them with us to places and situations that we never imagined they would go. Yet we still use an HMI designed for sitting at a table doing maths and writing on a computational box. It’s time for an update. In 2018, we will see the rise of intelligent user interface (IUI) with perceptual computing, a computing platform that brings technology out of the box and into the real world. Its combination of artificial intelligence, machine learning, sensors and robotics enable these technologies to perceive and navigate the real world and act intelligently on behalf of us. This is thanks, in large part, to a recent breakthrough in machine learning. Unlike previous algorithmic-learning models, it uses layered neural networks to learn from examples. As a result, machine learning is surpassing human abilities when provided with a specific frame of reference. For example, machine vision has surpassed humans in image recognition. So much so that Google has created an AI that was able to detect cancer faster than a human. In fact, wherever we focus machine learning it learns from our human-curated examples then rapidly builds on that knowledge with the speed, logic and lack of bias innate to

technology. The more contextually specific the data, the faster and more perceptually accurate machine learning becomes. But without context, machine learning is lost. Far from just a virtual overlay, augmented reality is the user input/output layer to perceptual computing and it allows us to point it directly at real-world problems that need solving. So rather than guiding the user through the interface, we can instead guide technology to the problem. For example, we can receive real-time translation using Google Translate simply by pointing it at a sign in another language. Using Blippar, the “Wikipedia of the real world”, we can aim at something in the real world and automatically receive information about it. In each of these examples, we are employing AR to point perceptual computing at a problem, and the technology is intelligently responding to the context. This new type of user interface is called intelligent UI (IUI). AR lets us see the virtual while providing that user-specific contextual frame that machine vision needs to excel. In turn, technology will eventually become capable of understanding the world faster than human perception, anticipate human intent based on what it has learned and take action. The more AR proliferates, the better and more intelligent IUI will become. Imagine then, what will happen in 2018 when approximately one billion AR devices come online, all armed with personal AI assistants eager to adapt to individual usage. This will be the era of rapid learning. There are likely to be missteps along the way as it sorts through the dark data of unexpected encounters. But it won’t be long before our HMI becomes the ubiquitous IUI we all will rely on.


– is director of design at Singularity University Labs




T ECH N OLOGY Algorithms visualised How can we make computer language more accessible? By Amit Katwala


increasingly power every aspect of our lives, from voice recognition to self-driving cars. But it’s diicult for humans to understand such abstractions. “There’s a real lack of imagery and visual metaphors for all these new and very abstract things that we have in our lives,” explains Marcus Wendt, creative director at Londonbased art and technology studio FIELD. “We don’t have anything that will help us decide whether we can really trust these systems, or which one to go for, whenever there is more than one option.” These images, created exclusively for WIRED by FIELD and based on the structure of computing code, are part of a project to make algorithms much more accessible to all of us by developing a new visual language around them. “We will need to understand them better because we need to decide if we want to let them into our lives,” Wendt adds. Amit Katwala is the author of The Athletic Brain (Simon & Schuster)




HOW SELF-DRIVING CARS SEE THE WORLD – To navigate the world safely, autonomous vehicles must build a picture of it. To do this, an algorithm integrates real-time feeds from a multitude of sensors including video, infrared, radar and ultrasound. It then passes that data through up to 150 processing stages and filters informed by prior learning. This image is based on Inception, Google’s image-recognition model. It shows the inputs (on the right) being pulled in and processed (top left) into a model of the road ahead. Other vehicles are represented by the red boxes.





The blocks represent areas of the facial structure that play a key role when manipulating audio input

FACE HACKERS – In July 2017, researchers at the University of Washington revealed that they can make a believable video of a person speaking from an audio recording, using a neural network. They trained their model on footage of Barack Obama and put words in his mouth via recordings of impressionists. The fake-news possibilities of this are alarming. This image, which has Obama’s face in the background, illustrates how the neural network learns how different sounds correspond to facial movements.

The colourful strips indicate parts of the image that the AI critic considers to need improvement

IMAGE CREATION – Algorithms receive feedback from humans to help them improve – but AI researchers are excited by generative adversarial networks. The idea is to pit two machine-learning programs against each other – one to create something, the other to act as a critic. Amazon is testing an application in which networks analyse images and then create similar ones. Although they can currently only create tiny images, the technique might one day be used in film-making.




Individual Ethereum

transactions are represented by the small blue dots on this image

FOLLOWING THE MONEY TRAIL – With initial coin offerings attracting attention and governments testing their own cryptocurrencies, digital money will continue to grow in influence in 2018. This image depicts transactions in Ethereum, a blockchain-based cryptocurrency. Each square represents a line in the distributed ledger that makes up a blockchain, with each following on from the last. The squares’ colours are determined by the amount of money that is being moved. The voice input takes the form of a sound wave, which can be seen on the bottom layer of the image

THE NEXT GENERATION OF VOICE ASSISTANTS – Alexa, Siri and Cortana will become much smarter in 2018. A computer-science breakthrough called dynamic program generation will help voice assistants understand more complex instructions and respond in ways that combine information from multiple sources. When the assistant is given a command, the technology parses the sound phonetically and processes it to extract the person’s meaning and intent. It’s then able to form a more precise response.



ACHIEVING THE IMPOSSIBLE In this profile in collaboration with Glenfiddich’s Experimental Series, we meet Lily Cole – a model entrepreneur offering agency to those seeking change and enabling innovative ideas An entrepreneur, activist actress and model, Lily Cole (pictured) is no stranger to new ideas. In business as in art, experimentation is a component of success. Yet since 2013 Cole has been working on a larger mechanism of distilled experimentation; one which asks two potent questions. First, what if people coming together can bring meaningful change? And second, what if collective skill sets could help deliver experimental projects of global significance? In identifying the potential impact of the answers to these questions, Cole created Impossible. Beginning life as an open-source social network for altruism, Impossible attracted individuals wanting to offer time and expertise to others simply because they were able to. “The idea was to create a community of giving, based on our optimism in human nature,” says Cole. Impossible has since evolved and is no longer just a social network; although in a way it remains a more focused version of its early form. To Cole, Impossible is “a group of creative, multidisciplinary people around the world, working on products that can guide change towards a future we want”. A shift has occurred, though, and through her own openness to change, Cole has morphed the company into an agent of experimentation – one concerned with supporting clients’, not individuals’, desire for progress. “We have to be open-minded to alternative ways of achieving our wider goals – to be able to pivot,” she says. This open-minded nature has enabled Cole to tap into the potential of others’ experimentation. She unearthed Wires, an eyewear retailer that employs workers in Harare, Zimbabwe. Its experimentation dates back to the 14th century, when people first turned strings of metal into a pair of glasses using their bare hands. This collaboration shows what’s possible when great minds come


Small risks often deliver big rewards. Glenfiddich’s spirit of experimentation has made it the world’s most-awarded single malt. Its Experimental Series showcases trailblazers from beyond the world of whisky: combining Glenfiddich’s passion for pioneering collaboration with its rewriting of the rule book on single malts.

together. There is a willingness from Impossible to experiment, but also to acknowledge when the experimenting phase has been completed by another group of people. Impossible helps to bring new ideas to fruition, with studios in San Francisco, London, Lisbon and Brisbane powering work on client projects with potentially far-reaching impacts. Its clients are concerned with promoting fair ownership, helping to align cancer treatment, fighting back against fake news and ensuring fair supply chains. What Impossible offers each is problem-solving based on rapid iteration through “loops”, which allow projects to remain on track in achieving their goals. While each client has an ambitious idea, Impossible uses its collective skill and abundant energy. Cole’s succinct and naturalistic explanation of the process is refreshing. Loops are experiments, she says. “Everything is an experiment until it’s confronted with the reality of natural selection. That’s when we know if the experiment works.” The loops clearly work. For ethical and open smartphone enterprise Fairphone, Impossible’s provided design and engineering expertise to deliver an Android experience representative of Fairphone’s values. To help tackle fake news – in partnership with Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales – Impossible launched crowdfunding for WikiTribune, the community-based news platform where professional journalists meet crowd-sourced fact-checks. For “kind insurance” app Kinsu, Impossible’s experimental loops provided early strategy, ongoing design, engineering and launch support. That such support is being delivered to these ambitious projects speaks volumes about Impossible’s willingness to enable new ideas. It speaks to the power of the new, and of individual and collective experiments activated by a willingness for change. Yet perhaps primarily it speaks to the inspiration and experimental vision of Lily Cole herself. “Experimentation is at the core of what we do”, she says. “If we don’t experiment we aren’t able to explore possibilities, and that is what Impossible is about. You don’t know unless you try: life is arguably a series of experimentations.” #ESGlenfiddich


“Ars comes up with insight that no one else has.” Sergey Brin, cofounder, Google Ars Technica, founded in 1998, is the world’s most influential technology website and community, providing deep analysis and impartial reporting of the confluence of science, technology, policy, and the Internet. Tech news with real impact





breakthrough that will be announced in 2018 – a universal vaccine against cancer, perhaps; or a portable fusion reactor; or failing that, a really good smartwatch. Newspaper headlines will scream the good news; the shares in the innovative company will soar; the Nobel Prize committee will tear up the shortlist and start again. I’m fairly certain, however, that it’s not going to be quite like that. What I will forecast, with confidence, is that some new invention will be developed that is destined to change the world. In 2018 the patent will be granted or the research paper published or the product launched, but all I can tell you about this invention is that few people will pay much attention at the time. That’s the way things usually work. Think back to 1450, when a German goldsmith named Johannes Gutenberg produced the first work – a poem – to be printed on a moveable type press. Did the world rejoice? Hardly: Gutenberg struggled to find a business model and was bankrupt by 1455. His successors struggled, too, until they stumbled upon a less-than-inspiring way to make money – churning out religious “indulgences”, a cross between a flyer for your local church and a voucher ofering relief from divine punishment. Making Europe the cultural and scientific leader of the world? That came, alright. But it came later. In any case, long print runs made no economic sense without another worldshaking invention: paper, the first inexpensive writing surface. Paper was invented in China 2,000 years ago and was widely used in the Middle East (the word “ream” has Arabic roots). Medieval Europeans knew about Arabic paper but it took several hundred years before they embraced it enthusiastically – in the 13th century. Now paper is everywhere – wallpaper, sandpaper, filter paper, corrugated card, toilet paper. If paper was invented today, I’d like to think we’d immediately recognise it as a miracle, but suspect it would take some time. It did in 1974, when an economist named Paul Samuelson published an article proposing

Nobody will notice the most important innovation of 2018 History has shown that most groundbreaking inventions are not heralded, but roundly ignored By Tim Harford


– is a Financial Times columnist and the author of Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy (Little, Brown)

a new invention – the index fund, a low-cost investment vehicle that passively tracked the stock market as a whole. Both theory and evidence suggested that such an investment would work. Surely this was an idea to make the world take notice: Samuelson had been an adviser to President Kennedy; his textbook had for 30 years been the bestselling US textbook in any subject; he had been awarded the Nobel Prize. Samuelson was the most famous economist on the planet. But nobody noticed his index-fund idea except a gentleman named John Bogle, who quietly rose to Samuelson’s challenge. Bogle launched the index fund in August 1976, and the few people who noticed laughed in his face. He was called “un-American” and the fund was dubbed “Bogle’s Folly”. But Bogle’s fund was a slow-burn success. Vanguard, the company he founded, is a financialindustry titan, with trillions of dollars under management. By cutting investment costs without compromising on performance, index funds have saved investors hundreds of billions of dollars throughout the decdes. Nobody would have given them a chance back in 1974, however. During a speech in 2005, when Paul Samuelson himself was 90 years old, he was happy to give Bogle the credit. He said,“I rank this Bogle invention along with the invention of the wheel, the alphabet, Gutenberg printing, and wine and cheese.” All true enough. I just wonder how long it took people to appreciate that the wheel and the alphabet were pretty good ideas.




Fake voices will become worryingly accurate Manufactured recordings could leave us vulnerable to conflict By William Welser


in comparison to new technology that can fake the human voice. This could create security nightmares. Worse still, it could strip away from each of us a part of our uniqueness. But companies, universities and governments are already working furiously to decode the human voice for many applications. These range from better integration of our internet -of-things devices to enabling more natural interactions between humans and machines. Technologically adept nation states (the US, China and Estonia) have waded into this space and tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook also have special projects on voice. It’s not that hard to develop an artificial voice, then model and reproduce spoken


– is director of the engineering and applied sciences department at the RAND Corporation

words and phrases. I remember being amazed when my original Apple Macintosh informed me of the date and time in a dry, digital tone. Making a natural-sounding voice involves algorithms that are far more complex and computationally expensive. But that technology is available now. As any speech pathologist will attest, the human voice is far more than vocal-chord vibrations. These vibrations are caused by air escaping our lungs and forcing open our vocal folds, a process that produces tones as unique as a fingerprint because of the thousands of waveforms that are conjured simultaneously and in chorus. But a voice’s uniqueness is also tied to qualities we rarely consider, such as intonation, inflection and pacing. These aspects of our speech are situational, often subconscious and they make all the diference to the listener. They tell us when a phrase such as, “Wow, that outfit is something!” should be interpreted as mean-spirited, sarcastic, loving or indiferent. This challenge explains the early use of emoji in text messages. They were needed to clarify the intent of a written message because it is extremely diicult to interpret the true meaning of conversational speech that’s written instead of spoken. Details such as such as intonation, inflection and pacing are particularly diicult to model, but we are getting there. Adobe’s Project Voco is developing what is essentially a Photoshop of soundwaves. It works by substituting waveforms for pixels to produce something that sounds natural. The company is betting that, if enough of a person’s speech can be recorded (or data mined), it will require little more than a cut-and-paste action to alter a recording of their voice. Adobe’s initial results from Voco are eerie, as well as awe-inspiring. The prowess of the prototype indicates how soon common citizens will be unable to distinguish between real voices and spoof ones. If you have enough samples stored in your data library, then you can make anyone appear to say almost anything. Technology companies and investors are betting on the idea that these systems will eventually have tremendous commercial value. Even before that situation arises, though, this particular type of technology will present big risks. By 2018, a nefarious actor may easily be able to create a good enough vocal impersonation to trick, confuse, enrage or mobilise the public. Most citizens around the world will be simply unable to discern the difference between a fake Trump or Putin soundbite and the real thing. When you consider the widespread distrust of the media, institutions and expert gatekeepers, audio fakery could be more than disruptive. It could start wars. Imagine the consequences of manufactured audio of a world leader making bellicose remarks, supported by doctored video, entering the public domain. In 2018, will citizens – or military generals – be able to determine that it’s fake?

Exoplanets will become a reality Nasa’s Tess telescope will enable us to answer the Universe’s biggest mystery By Kai Staats



– is a researcher, professional film-maker and science journalist

planet Earth, our investigations into planets that orbit stars other than our Sun – known as extra-solar planets, or exoplanets – have only just begun. In 2018, we will discover the first exoplanet with atmospheric indications of life, thanks to the launch of Nasa’s new space telescope, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (Tess), which will begin a two-year survey of more than 200,000 of the closest, brightest stars, in March. Tess will be looking for reduction in a star’s brightness caused by the transit of one or more planets across its face. But many planets are in an orbit that never comes between us and their star. To detect these, we can look for three other kinds of evidence: light reflected by an exoplanet’s atmosphere; the gravitational pull that the planet has on its star; and gravitational lensing, the bending of the path of light by an enormous object, as predicted by Einstein. If an exoplanet is large enough and far enough from its star (such as Jupiter in our own solar system) we can see the star’s light reflected by the planet’s atmosphere. All planets, whatever their size, exert a gravitational shift on their star and we can detect how it is pulled toward each planet it hosts, through a shift in its light toward the red or blue end of the visual spectrum, as the star moves away and then towards us again. Gravitational lensing allows us to identify the presence of an exoplanet by the momentary brightening of a more distant star behind it. The combination of all four methods means we have a very powerful

toolkit to detect exoplanets across a wide range of viewing angles of distant solar systems. But detecting an exoplanet is only half of the story of finding planets that can sustain life. We need to know if the planet’s atmosphere contains molecular oxygen and other gases indicative of life as we understand it. By using spectroscopy to analyse the chemical composition of the atmosphere, we are able to look for the presence of oxygen in the form of ozone. There is only a brief moment to do this, however – when an exoplanet passes in front of its host star. At that point, the star’s light passes through its atmosphere, creating a glow around its circumference. If spectroscopy reveals the presence of oxygen, carbon dioxide and water, and the planet resides in what is known as the habitable zone – meaning conditions on its surface are neither too hot nor too cold – this greatly increases the probability that the planet harbours what we’d recognise as life. The first confirmed detection of an exoplanet was in 1992. Since then, there have

been 3,639 exoplanet confirmations in 2,729 planetary systems, many made by the Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes. In May 2016, Nasa stated that, of the 1,284 exoplanets discovered by Kepler, roughly 550 could be rocky planets, based upon their size. Of these, nine orbit their stars in the habitable zone. However, no rocky exoplanet has yet been found that is located in the habitable zone and has an atmosphere that contains molecular oxygen, carbon dioxide and water vapour. There are, at a conservative estimate, 100 billion stars in our own galaxy. With an average 1.6 planets per star observed so far, we can estimate that there are more than ten billion Earth-like, rocky planets in our own galaxy alone. Statistically, this makes the discovery of a lifesustaining planet very likely. We already know that many planets orbiting distant stars might be very much like those we find in our own solar system. All we need to do now is ascertain whether or not they support life. When we do, that will radically alter the understanding of our place in the Universe.

EYE IN THE SKY – When the $8 billion (£6bn) James Webb Space Telescope launches in 2019, it will offer an unprecedented view of the Universe. Its primary mirror consists of 18 separate segments made of lightweight beryllium that unfold and adjust to shape after launch.



PA G E Less data will help people make better decisions The quantified-self movement means that we’re receiving more information, but it’s leading us to make bad choices By Dan Ariely


created a detailed tracking system to help him work out how he spent his time. Many years later, technology allows us to track our steps, REM sleep, resting heart rate, stress level and body-fat percentage, among others, with more trackers being launched at a rapid rate. More features, more data points, more graphs – all bundled under a futuristic-idyllic heading: The quantified-self movement. But the quantified-self movement is actually leading us to make worse decisions. The reason? There is a big diference between getting information and understanding, interpreting and processing it. For example, think about the publication of calorie information, warning about the health consequences of smoking and warning about texting while driving. Despite their abundance, these have done very little to change public behaviour. This is why, in my mind, the real opportunity for 2018 will be understanding how to provide data that will be useful and help us improve our decisions. Let me give you an example. With the aim of helping people manage and lose weight, my team and I recently created a scale with no display. There were five reasons why we expected this could help with weight loss: firstly, having a scale means that people have a physical reminder about their interest in weight management and they see it a few times a day. Secondly, we know that stepping on a scale daily is a good thing because it reminds people to take an interest in their weight and health. Third, we also know that weight fluctuates substantially from day to day – sometimes by a kilogram or more – and that these fluctua-


– is James B. Duke professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, North Carolina

tions are largely independent from what we have done the day before. Sometimes we can have a good day (salad and a run) and our weight will increase. By contrast, sometimes we can have a bad day (cheesecake and Netflix) and our weight might decrease. Fourth, in the financial realm, we experience something called loss aversion (that we sufer more from losses than we enjoy gains of equal magnitudes). In the domain of weight loss, this is gain aversion: on the days our weight is down, we are a little bit happy, but on the days we are up by an equivalent amount, we are much more miserable. This means that even if our weight doesn’t change and it just fluctuates, the overall experience of weighing




S CI ENC E RECALIBRATING SCIENCE – The kilogram will change weight. Since 1889, it’s been pegged to the weight of a platinum-iridium cylinder. From November, it will be calculated from the Planck constant, an invariant property of nature, in an effort to standardise scientific units.

ourselves is negative, so we stop doing it. (Just ask yourself, how much do you enjoy weighing yourself every morning?) Finally, we also know that people expect the body to react very quickly to changes. After a good day, we expect to see weight loss the next day, and after a bad day, we expect to see weight gain the next day. But, the body doesn’t react this way. With this type of delayed and stochastic feedback loop, we get very confused about the efects of our actions (eating and exercising) on our weight. So, what did we do? We separated the act of stepping on the scale, which we know is good for us, from the act of reporting the results. We decided to report the results at a granularity that hides the fluctuations and is more compatible with the way we make decisions. When people step on our scale, they get positive feedback, “Congratulations, you’ve stepped on your scale!” And we give them their weight not in kilos, but on a five-point scale (you are “just the same”, “slightly worse”, “much worse”, “slightly better” or “much better”). On top of that, if you are a woman and you are on your menstrual cycle, should we tell you that you have gained weight? Of course not; water retention is just temporary and it has nothing to do with your understanding of how eating better and exercising can influence your health. So we account for that as well. We have just finished a five-month study of our system and have found that the group using the standard approach (using scales to measure how much they weighed) gained a bit of weight. Those who used our system, however, lost about one per cent of body weight per month, every month.

We’ll have fully autonomous cars on the road sooner than we think Cars may become truly driverless before 2018 is over – and if any company can pull it off, it’s Tesla By Jimmy Wales


completely automated Tesla will be available by the end of 2018. Although other companies revise their estimates for self-driving vehicles in the consumer market – Waymo has pushed its date back from 2018 to 2020, for instance – Musk is being coy. He’ll have it ready even sooner. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International) has established five widelyaccepted steps to vehicular autonomy. Level five equates to true driverlessness, where cars can drive as competently as humans (or, hopefully, more so). The preceding four are colloquially known as “feet of, hands of, eyes of and brain of” – and I believe Tesla will unveil a consumerclass level-four vehicle long before 2018 is over.

But wait, we haven’t had a level-three Tesla yet – doesn’t that have to come first? Actually, no. While the five levels make sense in theory, in practice, there’s no useful distinction between levels three and four. In fact, level three – eyes of, but brain on – could be considered dangerous because it combines all the things humans are bad at: quickly switching between tasks, maintaining focus on two things at once and staying awake on dull English motorways. If you don’t need to have eyes on the road but you do need to be alert, what do you do? Read, talk, watch TV? OK, picture this: your seat’s reclined, your window’s down and Tyrion Lannister just delivered a killer piece of snark. Would you notice your car – which you hadn’t paid attention to for the past hour – was in need of urgent course correction? Would you be able to switch from sleepy Netflix bingeing to crisis aversion in milliseconds? The odds aren’t great. We’ve already seen this problem occur. Tesla’s Autopilot is a level-two system that still requires you to be cognizant of what’s going on around you. But humans can’t concentrate just a little bit. In 2016, Joshua Brown’s Autopiloted Tesla Model S mistook a white lorry for a clear expanse of sky, and Brown – who was watching a film – couldn’t correct it in time. The car slammed into the lorry and Brown died. Humans just aren’t built to co-operate with machines in this way. It makes sense to stop trying to make humans and drivers share the work, and skip straight to machines taking over. Level four. And Tesla is the company to do it. Why? Because it’s a tech firm as much as a car firm. Its customers are early adopters by nature. This means Musk can afford to take bigger risks than established automotive marques. A disaster such as the 2016 crash could have been the end of any other car brand. But because it was a Model S, when details emerged about the driver watching Harry Potter, Tesla fans were more inclined to blame the man than the machine. In efect, the accident was ascribed to user error and followers continued signing up for the next model. This forgiving mindset of Musk’s fanbase that will ensure Tesla is the first to produce fully autonomous cars. Elon Musk is just crazy enough to make it work – and sooner than he’s letting on.

DEPTH PERCEPTION – The ImageNet database has helped train algorithms to describe 2D images using natural language. Its reference was 14 million labelled pictures of items from apples to zebras. In 2018, ImageNet’s creators will do the same for 3D objects, which will help robots identify them in the real world. Amit Katwala


– is an internet entrepreneur and a co-founder of Wikipedia and WikiTribune


PART N E R S H I P Created in partnership with Audi, WIRED explores technology’s growing influence in world football

FOOTBALL’S DATA-DRIVEN NARRATIVE Everybody has their views on how to improve the beautiful game, but a combination of cutting-edge technology and a data is making this a distinct possibility. Technology is no longer just a means for football to be broadcast on TV and the radio, or as an operational tool. It is more than that – as WIRED found out from its trips to the Audi Cup and Audi Summer Tour 2017. Data is now being used to make big decisions – such as which player a football club should buy, who should play in the next game, and how specific players can avoid serious injuries. All of these decisions are made possible through new technologies such as drones, wearables and analytics. But it’s not just about player data: fans are a crucial ingredient of the game, too. After all, without them, the game wouldn’t exist as it does today. For years, fans were limited in how they could engage with the club, the players and fellow fans. But now, thanks to social media and fan park zones, they’re more engaged than ever. Social media in particular has helped to cultivate a whole new breed of supporter – one that’s able to get involved wherever they are in the world, at any time. Giant steps are also being made to enhance existing technologies, including the way football matches are broadcast. Faster and more dynamic cameras are able to capture moments that have never been seen before, giving the game a more modern look and feel. Audi is not stopping there: refereeside cameras showing television viewers the officials’ exact line of vision are next on the agenda. This will provide more insight into the critical decisions made in-game.



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The next step is for football clubs to consider technology from the outset when they’re designing their new stadiums. Adding interactive dashboards to give fans the ability to see replays or statistics and gearing seats with advanced augmented and virtual reality could give them the opportunity to blend visuals on to the live experience. A network of new transportation methods will add to the ease in which fans can access stadiums, from self-driving car lanes and drone-delivery systems. Meanwhile, AI will help all of these technologies to coexist and flow automatically, enabling supporters to get the best experience possible. The stadia of the future will become part of the city’s ecosystem and will also incorporate advances in engineering with lowcarbon footprints, renewable energy and green areas in order to offset CO2. Technical innovation by companies such as Audi is feeding football. In fact, it may have just become more beautiful.


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important edge. Before it became a medicine, It was 5,000 researched compounds. 87 different protein structures. 500,000 lab tests. 1,600 scientists. 80-hour workweeks. 14 years of breakthroughs and setbacks. 36 clinical trials. 8,500 patient volunteers. And more problems to solve than we could count. Before it became a medicine, It was an idea in the mind of a Pfizer scientist. Now it’s a medicine That saves lives every day.

Š Copyright Pfizer Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Driven to discover the cure




0 47
















scientific inventions of all time, preventing millions of cases of disease every year and helping to consign once-deadly outbreaks to history. Yet these vital public-health tools are under threat from growing public mistrust in immunisation and the rise of so-called “fake news” drowning out expert voices. This “antivax” sentiment and pushback against scientific evidence threatens public health around the world, from measles outbreaks in the US and across Europe, prompting stricter vaccination laws, to persisting polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan. If this trend continues, 2018 could see a devastating resurgence of deadly diseases previously on the brink of eradication. In the Global Risk Report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2013, two of the top three global risks were digital wildfires in a hyper-connected world and the dangers of human hubris on health. The key message of the report was that, while there are some clear benefits of digital communication, “The global risk of massive digital misinformation sits at the centre of a constellation of technological and geopolitical risks.” One of those geopolitical risks is a massive disease outbreak as a consequence of intentional or inadvertent false information driving panic and refusal of the very interventions that could contain or prevent the spread of disease. As the recent Ebola and Zika epidemics have shown, these outbreaks create local – as well as global – financial and system stresses, impacting travel, commerce and social stability. In 2018, five years after the 2013 WEF report, the highlighted risks will only become more entrenched, converging to allow misinformation to spread in digital wildfires and disrupt vaccination and other health campaigns. These are disruptions that set back, rather than advance, scientific progress. Examples range from the 2017 WhatsApp and Facebook anti-vaccination campaigns in South India, which sparked fear and refusal of the measles rubella vaccine – some linked to now debunked autism anxieties around the MMR vaccine nearly 20 years ago in the UK – to similar social-media-propagated false rumours provoking vaccine refusals, measles outbreaks

How fake news could lead to global epidemics Distrust in scientific expertise puts our health at risk By Heidi Larson and Peter Piot


– is director of The Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine


– is director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

and diphtheria deaths in Malaysia. As a result of declining immunisation levels, between 2016-2017 Europe experienced 35 deaths due to measles, a disease that was nearly wiped out. All of those tragic deaths were preventable. Rumour outbreaks and their contagion not only put stresses on immunisation programmes, they are ubiquitous across the health field. Ebola rumours propagated disease spread among those who feared the motives for quarantine measures in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, while other rumours went viral on social media in Nigeria, stating that eating salt and bitter melon could prevent the virus, sickening some and killing others. In Brazil, rumours that Zika was caused by bad vaccines drove a decline in vaccine uptake and remains a problem, even while the Zika transmission has slowed. In 2018, the appetite for fake news will show no sign of waning, especially because of the propagation of distrust in “experts” as well as institutions. The risks are not only for sustaining confidence in the vaccines that have saved lives for decades, but preparedness for the next new emerging disease outbreak or global pandemic. The year 2018 will mark the 100th anniversary of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic which caused an estimated 50 million deaths – more than those killed in the first world war. There was no digital communication then to disrupt – or aid – the outbreak response, but there were also far fewer health technologies available, while rapid spread of the virus by plane travel was very limited. In 2018, when we face the next major infectious disease outbreak, it will be a test of how well we use – or abuse – the technologies and knowledge we’ve gained since 1918.




M ED I CIN E Telemedicine takes a big leap for mankind Remotely administered medical help can benefit those in Earth’s isolated areas By Beth Healey


THE NEURAL LACE RACE – A breakthrough that will allow humans to control machines with their minds will go into clinical trials in 2018. Stentrode is a matchsticksized device that can be inserted into the brain through blood vessels. It’s hoped it will help paralysed patients move by controlling their exoskeletons.

travel, with astronauts needing to access treatment from a doctor thousands of kilometres away on Earth. In 2018, recent developments in telemedicine for astronauts will also help people on Earth. The first widespread use of telemedicine was during the 1988 Armenian earthquake, in which expert consultations were provided remotely by military and civilian medical centres from the United States and the then-Soviet Union. Since then, many more applications have emerged, many of which are funded by investment from space agencies. Telemedicine in space has a long history. The first telemedicine link from space was set up as part of a ten-day Spacelab mission in the 90s, when, for the first time, doctors could study images of an astronaut’s heart from Mission Control. Today, due to improvements in satellite communications and connectivity, space agencies have expanded its applications. The practice is now a key component of astronaut medical care and ofers preventative, therapeutic and diagnostic help for humans in space. Tele-diagnostics using ultrasound is a proven tool for diagnosing and informing management plans from Earth for patients in space.

Innovations in space medicine are also being augmented by commercialisation via new space companies such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. In August 2017, SpaceX transported Techshot’s ADvanced Space Experiment Processor, which houses regenerative medicine experiments, to the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS is an important test bed for experiments that can enhance our understanding of telemedicine. Astronauts are now undergoing longer missions aboard the space station, which are providing important data on the physiological efects of long periods in microgravity. But similar research is also taking place on terrestrial analogue platforms, which replicate space conditions. On Earth, crews at the Concordia station in Antarctica are taking part in experiments that will help us manage the healthcare of human settlements on places such as Mars. Due to its inaccessibility, altitude and low light levels, Concordia is often referred to as “White Mars”. Crews there are completely isolated due to the extreme conditions – temperatures there fall to below -80°C and 105 days a year are without daylight – and the fact that no aeroplanes are able to land there for nine months out of 12. (These conditions aren’t found anywhere else on Earth.) The base is used by the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop telemedicine technology for the physical care of researchers living there – the base doctor uses the technology for specialist advice and remote guidance. But it also provides insights into the psychological efects on crews who know they cannot evacuate, even in an emergency. This research will translate into new technologies and procedures for space. In 2017, if an astronaut has a medical problem on the ISS it is possible to evacuate them in a matter of hours. However, as we look at travelling further into the reaches of space, this will no longer be possible. As part of our preparation for deep-space missions, scientists are developing technologies and telemedicine techniques to manage potential emergencies should they arise. Telemedicine’s development is an excellent example of a spinof technology that can also be used in a wide range of terrestrial settings. These include providing remote healthcare to people in areas in which they would not otherwise be able to access treatment – during natural disasters or conflicts, for example, or to those who, because of their condition, cannot travel to receive specialist care. Ultrasound telemedicine technology is already being made available in parts of the world where access to imaging and specialist advice would otherwise be unavailable. Projects include the World Interactive Network Focused on Critical UltraSound (WINFOCUS),


– is a former ESA research MD at Concordia Station Antarctica

which has been developed to improve access to care in Earth’s remote regions. Earlier in 2017 in Geneva, the United Nations, the World Health Organization and other space agencies held a summit, Strengthened Space Co-operation for Global Health, to agree further ways of working together to meet modern challenges. In 2018, we will see a continuation of research in telemedicine over ever-greater distances. This will allow us to continue our exploration of space, at the same time, and improve the healthcare of people here on Earth. Why precision medicine has to rely on big data


scientists working on the Human Genome Project completed the final first draft for the human genome – a DNA blueprint for human life. This monumental achievement involved thousands of dedicated people, took more than a decade, and cost over $2.5 billion (£1.95bn). The public availability of a completed human DNA map ushered in the genomics era, giving rise to personalised, or precision, medicine. Now, 15 years later, major advances in DNAsequencing technology and its commercial development have driven down the time and cost of sequencing a human genome. In 2018, we will at last start to understand the commercial, clinical, regulatory, ethical and legal issues unlocked by the Human Genome Project. Today, a fully analysed whole-genomesequencing test costs about $600 and takes just a few weeks to complete. This nextgeneration technology is changing the way doctors manage patients with rare inherited diseases and cancer. In 2018, DNA sequencing will continue to improve, with new applications such as screening for disease in newborns. But, as is common with other disruptive technologies, our advances in genomics have outpaced the ethical and legal frameworks we need to responsibly and sustainably deploy them. In 2018 we will need to find ways to provide better assurances of patient safety

DNA sequencing costs have dramatically reduced – but data storage needs to be tackled By Jonathan Heusel and Neil Richards


– is associate professor at Washington University School of Medicine


– is professor of law at the Washington University School of Law

and practical protections against losses of privacy. Patients and physicians alike must also be presented with a realistic approach to expectations, so that public trust in this transformative technology grows. It will require co-operation on a scale that does not yet exist. Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical oicer of England, has recently called for making genomic sequencing as common as other routine blood tests in patients with cancer and rare inherited diseases. This may seem quite reasonable, and is now technically plausible. But, aside from the cost of professional analysis and interpretation, there’s the issue of storing all this information. Current low-cost cloud-based storage is available for £0.004 per gigabyte per month. Sounds cheap, right? But sequencing a single tumour creates about two terabytes of data, so a lab doing just 1,000 cases a year would have to spend around £96,000 annually. Further, readily accessible secure cloud storage that meets regulatory requirements costs significantly more, and these data storage costs are cumulative – thus, our hypothetical sequencing lab might be spending more than £1 million annually after just five years. Healthcare workers will need this information widely available if precision medicine is to work. The data must be scalable, harmonised, and above all available not only to physicians and patients, but to scientists and clinical investigators if we are to continue to learn about the human genome. In 2018, we will work out how we can handle it, store it, share it and make the best use of it. And, by cracking that, we will open the way for a whole raft of other big-data applications that will make the world a better place.




05 3

Artificial pancreases will deliver insulin Open-source biohackers are set to radically improve the lives of those living with diabetes By Stephen Jacobs


anticipating 2018 as the year when several hybrid closed-loop systems hit the commercial market – thanks in no small part to an open-source biohacking community of people living with the condition. Often referred to as artificial pancreases, hybrid closed-loop systems are set to change the daily lives of diabetics significantly. Diabetics of all types have varying degrees of pancreatic impairment or failure which prevents their bodies’ natural abilities to produce or withhold insulin, which helps to regulate blood glucose levels. To manage their condition, they need to keep track of their blood-sugar levels. This means taking readings throughout the day, projecting the impact of the food they are about to eat or the exercise they’re about to engage in, and using this data to determine their


– is director of the Laboratory for Technological Literacy at Rochester Institute of Technology

need to administer the hormone. It’s like having to do some calculus before you eat a meal or jump on a bike. In 2018, several hybrid closed-loop systems will begin to appear on the market. These will measure a user’s blood-sugar levels every five minutes or so and supply insulin subcutaneously as appropriate. A large part of the R&D behind them was done in the open-source community. One such group, the Open Artificial Pancreas System project (OpenAPS), has for the past three years been encouraging diabetic biohackers to explore and improve their existing monitoring and insulin-delivery systems. “OpenAPS was able to move quicker due to the lack of regulatory burden on individuals,” says Dana Lewis, its founder and creator. OpenAPS’s software and data can be picked up and developed by anyone. One manufacturer, the Massachusetts- based medicaldevice company Insulet, is working closely with the company. “Insulet has conducted focus groups with the DIY community and has been concerted in its eforts, identifying what data it actually needs to see on the phone screen,” says Lewis. Medtronic Diabetes, based in Watford, also drew on the open-source community to develop a hybrid closed-loop system, which is due to be in full commercial distribution by the start of 2018. “Many stakeholders have helped to advance this field,” says Ali Dianaty, Medtronic’s vice president of research and development. “Each of them plays an important role in creating awareness and driving the work needed to commercialise this system.” But the arrival of these early systems doesn’t spell the end of OpenAPS and the DIY community. Like any first-generation hardware and software systems, there’s room to apply the learning from the first release to improve the products over time. “We’ve been told that we [already] have more sophisticated algorithms than the upcoming commercial releases,” says Lewis. “We’re not looking to compete with industry. We want them to leverage all the insights of our community. I expect we’ll be doing this for at least another five years.”





developments in cities such as London and New York grow more extravagant by the year. Features now include museum memberships, communal cooking courses, chauffeured electric automobiles and even bespoke shower water infused with aloe and vitamin C. However, as insect-borne diseases spread from the tropics due to increasing temperatures brought about by climate change, these amenities will take on a biological dimension. We are on the cusp of luxury biospheres: proprietary ecosystems built to order and protected by intellectual property law. In 2018, homebuyers will continue to search for properties based on views, kitchen finishes and river-rock baths; but they will also seek property in carefully curated landscapes. For example, UK-based bioengineering firm Oxitec is already offering what it calls “innovative insect control”. Its methods include releasing waves of genetically altered Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in which all of the males have been sterilised. These “friendly” mosquitoes, as they are cheerfully known, are trademarked organisms that help to control – and, in some cases, entirely eliminate – local mosquito populations. In the process, Oxitec claims it reduces the threat of mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and The Zika virus. Parts of Florida, as well as Cairns in Australia, have become lively battlegrounds for determining when the use of such semiartificial organisms is both appropriate and safe. There, Oxitec’s mosquitoes are not the only solution: Cairns and the Florida Keys have both tried controlled releases of mosquitoes deliberately infected with Wolbachia bacteria. This beneficial infection prevents the bugs from carrying – and spreading – dengue fever. Limited-edition designer organisms will soon become socially accepted, must-have luxuries. New housing developments on the edge of Florida’s Everglades will include branded mosquitoes alongside golf-course memberships and 24-hour armed guards. Live the good life – free from crime and tropical disease! Of course, this emerging world of biological amenities will begin with insects, but it won’t

Safer biospheres – for those who can afford it Luxury-home developments will offer designer insects alongside golf courses By Geoff Manaugh


– is editor of the architecture blog BLDGBLOG

end there. True quality of life will require unique access to synthetic companion species. Consider the case of the club apple, patented apple varieties that can only be legally grown by paying members of a “club”. Cultivation without participating in this royalty scheme violates intellectual-property laws. Club agriculture takes a page from the business plans of firms such as Monsanto, who so thoroughly control their proprietary seed releases that farmers caught saving even one seed at the end of a season can be heavily fined. The “club fruit” trend will not be missed by savvy hoteliers, resort-management firms and real-estate developers. Luscious club lemons and mouth-watering club peaches will dangle over private streets. Your new apartment block might feature “club honeybees” – genetically modified bees that are unavailable elsewhere – producing exotic honeys in rooftop hives. In the short term, this will be a mere curiosity – the sign of a property bubble, perhaps – but the long-term effects will be both legally and biologically significant. Entire landscapes, replete with designer insects and subscription seed stock, will have the potential to be recognised as protected intellectual property. The proprietary ecosystem will emerge, financially and biologically controlled by a particular hotel chain, property developer or private homeowner. It will not just be Friendly™ mosquitoes, in other words, but Friendly™ meadows, Safe™ wetlands and Edible™ garden forests stocked with organisms illegal to cultivate elsewhere. The creatures and fruits around you will be partially synthetic – and ruthlessly owned.

Your new apartment block might feature “club honeybees” unavailable elsewhere We are entering a post-plastic world Cheap, easy to grow and abundantly available, seaweed will become the packaging of choice By Pierre-Yves Paslier


– is co-founder of Skipping Rocks Lab


tonnes of plastic – and has consigned 6.3 billion tonnes of it to landfill or the ocean. Plastic not only pollutes, it is resource-intensive. However, a new group of startups is looking for other ways to produce sustainable packaging. In 2018, seaweed, which can grow up to three metres per day, will emerge as an alternative raw material to oil. A quiet revolution is already taking place on the shores of the East China Sea, where the kelp industry is booming.

Several startups are pioneering the use of seaweed in a wide range of applications including biofuel, cosmetics, food and pharmaceuticals. In 2013, Skipping Rocks Lab, which I co-founded, introduced Ooho, an edible water-bottle made from brown seaweed, as an alternative to plastic bottles. Two years later, New York-based Loliware launched its first range of “biodegr(edible)” cups made from agar, which is extracted from red seaweed (it is working on a straw made from the same material). In 2016, three Japanese designers, known collectively as AMAM, unveiled a box for a perfume bottle made from seaweed. They are now working with British designer Max Lamb, who uses waste material to create furniture. Seaweed has many advantages as a raw material. It’s cheap, easy to harvest and extract and is available on every coastline. Moreover, unlike the starch that bioplastics such as polylactic acid are made from, it doesn’t require fresh water or fertiliser to grow. Seaweed’s biggest potential lies in disposable packaging inspired by peelable fruits that have a biodegradable container. As well as being abundant – just 0.03 per cent of the brown seaweed in the world could replace all of the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles we get through every year – it can solve what is known as shelflife gap, the diference between the biodegradability of a container and that of what is in it. As an example, picture a plastic bottle of orange juice. The shelf life of the juice is about two days. Its PET plastic bottle will take more than 700 years to degrade. By contrast, seaweed packaging biodegrades in soil in four to six weeks. Unlike plastic, it doesn’t break down into micro-particles that are impossible to collect. Seaweed is also a powerful agent to reduce ocean acidity. Autonomous seaweed farms, such as those being pioneered by New York startup GreenWave, not only help bring down costs, but also reduce global warming. In 2018, we will see seaweed-based products everywhere. And we will question how it was ever considered acceptable to simply throw away plastic bottles.





– is a London-based science and environmental journalist

one-hectare field of barley that farms itself. Instead of humans, a fleet of automated machines plant, monitor and harvest the crop. It’s an experiment run by Hands Free Hectare, a team of researchers and agricultural professionals from Harper Adams University. “The idea was to start thinking about tackling the plateau in UK agriculture of the past 15 years,” says Jonathan Gill, a robotic researcher on the project. “It’s intended to break into the idea that automation can actually do the job, with technology that’s

Drones will be added to farmers’ robotic armouries New developments will tailor to agricultural needs – from detecting disease to determining the ideal harvest time By Emma Bryce

available.” In 2018, this type of farming will start to become the norm. Hands Free Hectare is part of the growing trend of precision farming, wherein automated machines perform human tasks more eiciently – collecting reams of data on soil, crop disease and climate impacts that can be used to pinpoint problems, tailor farming methods and boost production. It aims to help farmers meet the challenge of feeding a growing world population by plugging some of the gaps in our food system that have been opened by political upheaval and climate change. The opportunity is significant: according to, the market for precision-agriculture devices and services is predicted to grow in 2018 to $4 billion (£3.12bn) – and it’s being driven forward by the ubiquitous, versatile and accessible drone. In the Shropshire field, three drones survey the plot, gathering image data and collecting and sampling grain directly from plants, which enables farmers to remotely judge when it’s time for harvest. Gill likens it to the time-saving eiciency of self-driving cars. “You can use this automated system to work your land without having to physically concentrate, while getting better yields with lower inputs,” he says. In 2018, researchers will trial a new crop – most likely wheat. And, with the harvested barley, they also intend to make the world’s first “hands-free beer”. In the United States alone, there are forecast to be 300,000 commercial drones by 2018, and agriculture will be their second-biggest market, after infrastructure, according to accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. One growing application is to use drones for multispectral imaging on farmland, using sensors to detect wavelengths of light that humans cannot see. This can reveal the early spread of disease in plants, invasion by pests or nutrient deficiencies in soil. In turn, that helps farmers to focus the application of pesticides and fertilisers – saving time and money and reducing environmental impacts. In 2018 and beyond, these applications will become indispensable to farmers. “Eventually we’ll see drones integrated into the national airspace. Companies are going to commission drones to stay up there [and survey farms] for long periods of time,” predicts Nikhil Vadhavkar, president and CEO of Raptor Maps, a Boston-based company that makes software to tailor drones to farmers’ specific needs. “I think drones can and should be used much more surgically.” Raptor Maps is working with potato farmers to produce drone-based imaging software that can determine from the air which farming practices are generating the best-quality potatoes. Drones are finding footing in Africa too, in countries such as Malawi, Kenya and Ethiopia, for instance, where the challenges of climate change are felt especially on the small-scale farms that produce some 70 per cent of the continent’s food supply. “It’s about giving better data earlier, helping to quantify risks and model responses to threats,” says Geoff Simm, director of the University of Edinburgh’s Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security. Looser legislation in Africa is also accelerating the take-of – and take-up – of commercial drones, fuelling the rise of new drone companies. In 2018, Simm and his colleagues plan to work with local companies to roll out a programme for integrating drones into farming in a multiple-country efort. “These technologies can help us spot at a large scale where there are big gaps between potential yield and actual yield,” he says. And farm drones will have another efect: attracting young people to an industry with a diminished workforce, says Simm: “In the future, farmers are more likely to become drone pilots than soil diggers.”

HANDS-FREE PARKING – A UCLA study estimated that 30 per cent of city traffic consists of people looking for parking. In 2018, Audi will trial self-parking cars in Boston that can find their own spots in a special autonomous car garage, and save space by parking closer together because people don’t have to get in or out.

The cryptorevolution will go green Blockchain technology will help eco businesses and consumers to transform financial markets By Bernice Lee




fuels and the internal combustion engine do not quite add up to the birth of a global green economy. For that, we need green money as much as we need clean technology. Far too often, buying green still means paying more. Policies and subsidies have helped lower consumer premiums for renewable technology over the past decade, but the political appetite for using taxpayers’ money to buy down the cost of green products and services is waning. Meanwhile, businesses not only have to foot the upgrade bills and pay for the certification, they also face the risk of losing market share if they get too far ahead of the competition. Green cryptocurrencies will rise in 2018 – and with them, a new form of financing that is as transformative as common stock issues were in their day. This will come from a marriage of technologies such as blockchain and smart contracts with better environmental data and growing corporate interests in raising finance for greenfrontier investments. In turn, these cryptocurrencies will incentivise innovation and leadership, reward cleaner purchases and help tackle some of the thorniest policy issues. With blockchains, supply-chain information from different economic sectors can be pooled into a global, trusted dataset that is fully interoperable. This level of specificity (and transparency) will make it possible to quantify specific environmental benefits – whether that’s clean jet fuels, green proteins or renewable power – and turn them into market commodities. Such data will be included in the “smart contracts” already supported by Ethereum, for instance, which provides a mechanism for exchange, not only of payments but also the life-cycle implications of production processes. That the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, an open-source blockchain alliance, has attracted companies such as BP, Microsoft and UBS also signals its readiness for widespread adoption. Big corporates are already using blockchains to optimise their complex supply chains. The same technology can also track and manage environmental performances

and embed the information – whether carbon avoided or waters saved – in financial and other transactions. On the other end of the supply chain, this will give consumers greater confidence in buying green. If the true power of green cryptocurrency lies in changing the nature of money itself, so far the early movers have failed to capture wider attention. They include GENERcoin, a cryptocoin which can be redeemed for a specific solid biofuel, or traded like bitcoins. The EnergyCoin works more like a local or community currency. Producers can earn SolarCoins, a bitcoin with a twist, by presenting their solar renewable-energy certificates. In 2018, we will see the emergence of new green cryptocurrencies built on the back of blockchain-enabled global datasets of environment-related life-cycle data. Armed with precise data, energy companies could be the first movers in 2018. Pilots abound for peer-to-peer energy transactions and trading platforms – especially where “prosumers” enter the market with rooftop solar power. The entry of these big players will change the markets, though it remains unclear who will win long-term. These green cryptocurrencies will also provide a novel way of tackling the so-called “rebound efect”: when environmental benefits get cancelled out by changes in behaviour. It happens when, having cut our electricity bills through efficiency, we turn up the air conditioning or, more indirectly, when spare cash from less food waste at home goes into an extra holiday abroad or more taxi rides. Rebound effects could be countered by offering consumers units of green cryptocurrencies as reward for eiciency savings, for example, which could be redeemed as payments for green electricity or other blockchain-verified environmental services – be it organic detergent, charging for electric vehicles or household insulation. Airlines could offer these same cryptocurrencies in place of more traditional offsets. The past few years saw great hype around distributive-ledger technologies. The signs are that 2018 will be the year that a revolution in green finance begins.


– is executive director of the Hoffmann Centre For Sustainable Resource Economy at Chatham House in London

GREEN OFFICES – Workplaces will become more like nature. Amazon’s new headquarters in Seattle will feature temperatureand humiditycontrolled biospheres, filled with rare plants, and flexibleworking spaces for employees.



PA G E We will learn how to extract value from dead devices


electronics industry puts into products covers the design, manufacturing and use phases. The end of life of electronics is the preserve of the waste-industry publications, policy wonks, freegans and hackers. Recyclers are constantly playing catch-up to an ever-faster cycle of new products, new materials and new technologies – having to invent new techniques and business models for processing dead devices. And they are in danger of losing that race: the United Nations predicted that electronic waste would reach 45 million tonnes in 2017. This estimate is an amount we can barely comprehend – it’s nearly 1,000 Titanics’ worth of discarded electronics, much of it extremely toxic if its disposal and recycling is mishandled. Europe, alongside Korea and Japan, is a leader in the collection of electronic waste, with a system based on “extended producer responsibility” – putting the burden on producers to ensure electronic waste doesn’t damage the environment. But the bar is low. In the EU, a third of e-waste still ends up in landfill. In the UK, a 2016 survey found that 24 per cent of discarded gadgets are dumped indiscriminately with other household garbage. The EU has set ambitious targets for member states’ collection rates, reaching 65 per cent by 2019. But the UK is unlikely to be part of that programme, however, because of Brexit. The easiest way for many people to recycle is take electronics back to bricks-and-mortar retailers, a service offered in many major markets. However, almost all recent growth in consumer-electronic retail has been online

CLEAN SEAS – The Ocean Cleanup project will start extracting waste plastic from the seas, with the aim of halving the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years. It uses a passive floating barrier to scoop up plastics for recycling. Amit Katwala

Electronic-waste recycling will become as advanced as the products themselves By Janet Gunter


– is co-founder of The Restart Project, a Londonbased charity that works to prevent electronic waste. With thanks to Lauren Collee and Josh Lepawsky

– and giants such as Amazon US are only just starting to use their massive logistics networks in reverse, for trading in functioning gadgets (a little-known service) and recycling (currently only Amazon-branded devices). Amazon UK has not even started, despite research showing UK consumers have an appetite for take-back services like this. What’s more, as we face an increased volume of products on the market, the nature of what we buy – and what we throw away – is changing too. Electronics are coming in smaller sizes and use lower-value materials. This is attractive to the consumer but their complexity means that extracting value from these devices when dead requires more work. And many of the products we buy today are almost designed to be difficult to recycle (LCD televisions being a key example) with glued-in batteries and fiddly circuit boards that require significant human intervention. In 2018 we will see recyclers – as well as those who want to repair things – increasingly demanding products that are easy to disassemble, and easy access to disassembly instructions from producers of electronics. And citizens will discover that somebody has to pay for loss-making waste – either subsidising its processing (at the point of purchase or through other mechanisms) or through providing investment and loans to make recycling economically viable.


06 4



MIT’s pasta transforms with the rise in temperature during cooking until its new three-dimensional shape is formed Start

Stage two

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Shape 7

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Final form

Flavours of 2018 From burgers cooked by robots to a new form of sugar, we explore the innovations coming to your tastebuds soon



By Amit Katwala







PLAYING WITH FOOD – Researchers at MIT’s Tangible Media Group are working on “flat-packed” food that can fold itself into complex three-dimensional shapes. By printing cellulose patterns onto flat sheets of gelatine, the researchers were able to create edible noodles and control how they transformed when submerged in water. Shapes such as flowers could add a theatrical element to high-end dining. Simpler structures inspired by pasta shapes like macaroni could help reduce the room required when transporting food to stores – or even to space.




I, SOW-BOT – British farming is facing a Brexit-induced labour shortage, but robots could provide the solution. They’re already being used to pick larger crops such as lettuce and broccoli, but have not played a big role in tending to plants as they grow. In 2018, French company Carré will release Anatis. Available for €43,000, the farming robot is guided by laser and GPS and can hoe and pluck weeds and send soil, light and temperature data to a smartphone. CLEAN MEAT – Southern fried chicken, duck à l’orange and meatballs will be on the menu of Memphis Meats, one of a number of startups promising to bring affordable lab-grown meats to the table from 2018. So-called “clean meat” is made by taking cells from animals and cultivating them in a lab. In theory it will be more ethical, greener and safer to eat. San Francisco startup Just (formerly Hampton Creek) hopes to launch a poultry product in late 2018.

WOULD YOU LIKE AI WITH THAT? – In a blow for human workers (but a victory for literal-naming), Californiabased burger chain CaliBurger will install burger-flipping robot Flippy at 50 locations across the state. The six-axis robotic arm from Miso Robotics is designed for commercial kitchens, and can flip and turn patties and place them on buns. But the really clever bit is the accompanying AI, which can differentiate between items on the grill and let the remaining human staff know when each beefburger has been cooked to perfection. Researchers have likened their process to making sugar crystals (left) hollow rather than solid, enabling them to dissolve faster

SUGAR GETS SWEETER – A new form of sugar will make chocolate slightly healthier without affecting its crowd-pleasing taste. Scientists at NestlÊ have been studying the structure of sugar crystals using electron microscopy. This research has enabled the company to develop a new structure (left) which dissolves faster than typical sugar crystals (above left) and therefore tastes sweeter. The company says this patented discovery will allow them to cut the amount of sugar they use in their chocolates by as much as 40 per cent as they introduce it in 2018.




THE GREAT SPACE BAKE-OFF – There are no artisan loaves in orbit. Floating crumbs and delicate instruments don’t mix, so bread has been banned ever since an incident on Nasa’s Gemini mission in 1965, when two astronauts smuggled a corned-beef sandwich on board. Their successors have had to make do with freeze-dried tortilla wraps. But, in 2018, a German experiment on the International Space Station will test ways of baking “crumb-free” bread using a specially developed dough and a custom-built, low-energy oven that can be controlled from Earth.

















needs of men whose lives are standardised,” wrote Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier as he presented his pavilion called the L’Esprit Nouveau, or the New Spirit, at Paris in 1925. His idea was to extend the logic of the assembly line to the design of the spaces we live in. In doing so, however, Le Corbusier and his followers forgot a fundamental ingredient: people. Starting from the paradigm of standardised living, many inhospitable Modernist buildings were designed throughout the course of the 20th century. Today’s context has changed. Almost everything – from cars to trainers to school curricula – can be tailored. In 2018, the same will be true in architecture, with the arrival of personalised indoor-temperature control. The way we heat or cool our buildings is done in a standardised fashion, regardless of the presence of people and their preferences. In other words, there’s a missing connection between space usage and energy consumption. The result is that a staggering amount of energy is wasted on heating empty offices, homes and partially occupied buildings. A similar issue holds true for lighting. How can we re-establish a closer match between occupancy and energy usage? Over the past few years, we have been investigating this challenge both at the MIT SENSEable City Lab and at Carlo Ratti Associati, by looking

Buildings with personalised thermal clouds will eliminate energy wastage Digital technologies can help built environments adapt to human need By Carlo Ratti and Daniele Belleri

at how digital technologies – from sensors to AI – can help us make our built environment more responsive. If people have been following heat since the Stone Age, what if we could make the heat follow individuals instead? This was the idea behind Local Warming, an installation we presented at Rem Koolhaas’s 2014 Venice Biennale. The project used motion-tracking sensors to generate the desired climate – through collimated beams of infrared radiations – directly around people. More recently, we had the chance to translate these experiments into the real world. We were asked by the Agnelli Foundation, an Italian nonprofit founded by the Fiat family, to renovate its historical venue in Turin. Now we can use the insights we gained in these projects to roll out the technology to other, real-world applications. For Agnelli, we equipped the building with digital sensors that monitored many variables – such as temperature, light levels and the rooms’ occupancy status – and we matched this information with data on the spaces’ occupancy. When a person enters a building and sets their preferences in term of temperature or lighting, the building-management system recognises them, and automatically responds by activating the heating, cooling and lighting system accordingly. Each person can change their preferences via a smartphone app at any time, so that a thermal bubble is generated, potentially following them as they move through the building. What we aimed to show at the Agnelli Foundation is that by pursuing a tailor-made, non-standardised approach we can achieve not only better comfort levels for building users, but also a substantial reduction in energy consumptions: between 25 per cent and 40 per cent, according to some simulations. In 2018, we can build on this further. And by designing climates we can achieve something even more. We can start developing a new paradigm in design, to substitute Le Corbusier’s inflexible, standardised approach. Architecture can finally turn into a third skin – an endlessly reconfigurable space able to adapt to human needs, rather than the other way around.


– is director of the MIT SENSEable City Lab

DANIELE BELLERI – is communications director at Carlo Ratti Associates




ENERG Y Onshore wind and solar will become the cheapest forms of energy Renewables will be commercially viable – and compelling investments By Alexei Levene


bury our heads in the sand about how we have changed our environment for the worse through our use of, and reliance on, nonrenewable energy resources. But the good news is that 2018 will finally mark a shift in our use of global energy. Next year will see onshore wind and solar power become the lowest-cost form of energy generation across the world. This lower cost means that those with an interest in sustaining our planet are increasingly aligned with those who are driven by profit. As Michael Drexler, agenda adviser to the World Economic Forum, stated in debate in April 2017: “Solar and wind have just become very competitive and costs continue to fall. It is not only a commercially viable option, but an outright compelling investment opportunity with long-term, stable, inflation-protected returns.” The costs of solar and wind are falling each year – and today they are lower than coal. According to engineering consultancy Arup,


– is the co-founder of solar-powered water-desalination company Desolenator

onshore wind is on track to be lower cost even than natural gas in the UK by 2018, especially if it is to be included in the existing Contract for Diference (Cfd) mechanism. In the US, a report by Lazard, the asset-management firm, has shown that onshore wind and utility-scale solar have significantly lower costs today than any other form of energy if the energy playing field is levelled by taking away subsidies. From the US to China and Nigeria to Mexico, investors and governments are rapidly catching up to the new rules of energy. In 2018 we will see smarter regulatory environments, new projects coming online, even greater efficiencies in technologies and energy-storage costs and a further dawning realisation of companies exposed to long-term fossil fuels that their positions are increasingly untenable. And the benefits will trickle down. Citizens across Africa who are spending up to 16 per cent of their household income on fuels such as kerosene or disposable batteries now have multiple options to harness solar energy for their daily needs. “The cheapest electricity in most of Africa now comes from a solar panel on your roof,” says Xavier Helgesen, CEO of Of Grid Electric. “The combination of growing demand for reliable electricity and plummeting costs for solar and batteries has started to spark a distributed-energy revolution in Africa.” In 2018, the world will experience a global energy sea change based on solar and onshore wind being the cheapest forms of energy. No more excuses and no more platitudes from our governments: now the markets and citizens will be the drivers of the energy revolution.

STEAM POWER – The world’s biggest solar thermal power station will open in South Australia. The SolarReserve project will use mirrors to focus the Sun’s rays on to molten salt, which will produce steam and power a turbine to create 150mW of electricity. Our city centres will move closer to becoming carbon-free Greater bike and pedestrian access and the use of autonomous delivery systems will mean cleaner air By Laurence Kemball-Cook



– is founder and CEO of Pavegen

We’ll be reaching a point where the term ceases to be just a buzzword and becomes a reality for many living in the world’s most progressive conurbations. Climate change and resource scarcity mean that more than 55 per cent of the world’s estimated 7.4 billion live in cities. A change to more eicient, healthier urban environments is a necessity. But the good news is that from Paris to Mexico City, Copenhagen to Shenzhen, 2018 will see many initiatives to

make city centres that work for people, rather than cars and trucks with high emissions. Key progress will be made on reducing carbon and NO x emissions, increasing access for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport and by the rapid adoption of autonomous, electric delivery systems. By the end of 2018, urban centres will be healthier and safer, and less traffic will mean that commuting by foot, bike or public transport will become the norm for many. Paris has already established a car-free zone near the Seine. In the autumn of 2018, the area will extend by 1km, with the addition of a guided bus route and extra bike lanes. In Copenhagen, where more than 50 per cent of commuters already cycle to work every day, the city authorities are working on a huge infrastructure initiative to support more bike and pedestrian access. This includes the launch of 37 safe bike routes by the end of 2018. Shenzhen, cited in 2016 by the Urban China Initiative as China’s most sustainable city at 353 square metres of green space per capita, is greener than US and European cities. It will continue to make swift progress in cutting particulates and sulphur oxide emissions, with investment in parks and an expanded metro system underway. Europe’s greenest city, Vitoria-Gasteiz, in Spain, manages only 300 square metres per capita and New York survives on a lowly 26 square metres per person. In London, local authorities will build on recent initiatives such as banning cars from the key Bank junction in the City’s financial district. In 2018, London Mayor Sadiq Khan hopes to launch a new transport strategy which has “healthy streets” as a key objective. This includes targets for getting people out of cars to achieve an average of 20 minutes of exercise via bike or foot during their commute. Khan has already committed to making Europe’s most polluted road, Oxford Street, fully pedestrianised by 2020. My startup, Pavegen, has been involved in a pilot scheme there to convert a forgotten side road into the world’s first smart street. Our technology harvests the kinetic energy of footsteps and converts it into off-grid




ENERG Y electricity to power light and sound. We’re also providing a data feed on power generated and rewarding footsteps via a smartphone app. Alongside air-cleaning startups such as Airlabs and Airlite, we have been able to show how technology can make urban spaces more exciting and interesting while improving health and environmental performance. Trials of cleaner, electric autonomous personal transportation will increase throughout 2018. Safety means that autonomous ways of moving goods around are likely to be accepted by communities much more rapidly. Companies such as Starship Technologies and Dispatch are proving effective at surface level, achieving reliable last-mile deliveries. UAV specialist Flirtey is already delivering Domino’s pizzas in New Zealand and Slurpees in Nevada. In addition, rival Zipline has been flying medical supplies to Rwandan citizens. For aerial drones, there will be teething troubles, especially in cities such as London, which has narrow streets and a haphazard layout. But being able to drop large quantities of goods closer to customers, avoiding traic and with less emissions is inevitable, as Amazon’s recent patent filings for drone “hive” fulfilment centres for aerial vehicles demonstrate. Expect a swarm near you soon. These changes are being driven not by ideology, but by pragmatic business people, communities and the scientists and engineers that empower them. Like many great ideas, the smart city is an easy thing to say but a lot harder to execute. My prediction is that we’ll look back at 2018 and ask ourselves why we didn’t start to get smarter, sooner.

FASTER GREENER CARS – The Faraday FF91, the world’s fastest electric car, will go into production in 2018. It can go from 0-100kph in 2.39 seconds and will include user profiles that automatically adjust seating and temperature settings, and a facial-recognition locking system.

Microgrids will make urban areas more resilient and greener Localised harvesting of solar and wind power will rise sharply in 2018 By Emma Bryce



– is a Londonbased science and environmental journalist

out New York City’s electrical substations, plunging it into darkness. Looting, arson and riots broke out, causing more than $300 million (£234m) in damages across the city. A similar incident caused havoc in 2003 after a surge in the grid hundreds of kilometres away in Ohio. Soon, such devastating blackouts could be a thing of the past. Around the world, cities are moving away from dependency on large, insecure electrical grids to localised energy production – a move that goes hand-in-hand with renewables. Buildings are being used to gather solar energy and capture wind power, and streets are harnessing the power of human footfall – and then storing it in microgrids. In 2018, this growing energy paradigm will make urban landscapes more resilient and greener. This divvying up of energy production – called microgeneration – is being propelled in part by political and legislative forces. In the US, hundreds of cities have pledged to cut emissions to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement that President Trump has snubbed – placing urban green energy at the frontline of the climate fight. And in Europe, legislators will in 2018 be introducing laws requiring that

all new public buildings are almost completely emission-free – enforcing a new era of local, renewable energy production. “Regardless of legislation, buildings are seeing what the future is, and the future is generation on site,” says Hamish Watson, CEO of Polysolar, a UK company developing solar panels that double as glass. The panels use a thin layer of translucent solar-active material that coats a conductive surface to turn sunlight into electricity. Many glass-fronted buildings globally now use Polysolar’s technology, and most feed the energy into microgrids that power the building’s computers or air conditioning. “It’s a no-brainer in many respects. Why wouldn’t you use a building’s glass to generate energy?” Watson says. The company has plans to build its first transparent, solar-powered sound barriers along a US highway. “I think in 2018 we’ll see a move from just a few specialist buildings to a much more standard adoption of [this solar technology],” Watson says. Elsewhere, others are seeking different solutions. “As cities grow and become more dense we need to find ways of creating more self-sufficient structures,” says Rahel Belatchew, founder of Swedish architecture firm Belatchew Arkitekter. Her answer is the

Strawscraper, a conceptual building coated in thousands of straws that would generate an electric current as they’re bufeted by the wind. In South Jakarta, Indonesia, another architecture firm, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is building a skyscraper that channels wind through four turbines at its pinnacle. That will help the building achieve its net-zero energy goal; completion is expected by 2020. Using energy that would otherwise go to waste, these methods can plug gaps in electricity provision. Ryan Harne, a mechanical engineer at Oregon State University, is leveraging that approach on an even finer scale: he wants to harvest the ambient energy generated by urban infrastructure – the natural sway of a skyscraper, or the juddering contractions of a bridge – using devices that convert those vibrations into electricity. “As we move to a more electrified urban environment we have to harvest everything available to us,” he says. By 2018, microgrid production is predicted to rise fivefold from 2012 levels, according to energy market consulting firm Pike Research. In cities, that could mark the beginning of the end for the current energy regime. Says Watson, “The big power companies are potentially a thing of the past.”

NO CHARGE – Researchers at Washington State University have developed a phone that doesn’t need a battery – it harvests power from radio signals. The team hopes to have a version ready for the market in 2018. Amit Katwala


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EN ERG Y Competition will solve the renewable-storage conundrum The race to be the market leader in the field will sound the death knell for fossil fuels By Oliver Bennett


of renewable-energy subsidies in 2016, it sometimes seems as if green-energy initiatives were in retreat. In fact, the opposite is true: in 2017, the renewables sector was up eight per cent on the previous year, indicating that it’s become a truly mainstream concern. In 2018, investors will increasingly look towards storage, rather than supply. Yet despite this urgent gap opening in the market, storage solutions for renewable energy have been elusive. Excess energy has had to piggyback on the infrastructure created for fossil fuels. Moreover, entrepreneurs in the renewables sector have focused on big-picture supply factors – wind turbines, waves, Sun and estuary power – without resolving the supply-and-demand balance. The essential conundrum that solar plants don’t produce energy without sunshine, nor wind farms without wind, has led to intermittent supply. In 2018, these problems will be ironed out as battery storage becomes widely available. “We will see a tipping point,” says Alasdair Cameron, renewable-energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Even IKEA has launched a renewable solar battery power storage for domestic use.” Add this to Tesla’s Powerwall domestic battery (launched in 2015) and, as Cameron says, “Storage is moving from the grid to the garage to the landing at home.” As energy storage for home use becomes more commonplace, mass storage will also grow. In 2016 there was 24mW of commercialbattery storage in the UK; there will be over


– has written for newspapers, journals and NGOs on the future of homes and hotels

200mW by the end of 2018, located in battery installations around the country. Unsurprisingly, investors have followed this growth industry with interest. With headwind provided by The National Grid, companies such as EDF, E.ON and Dyson are investing in storage development. Elsewhere, energy multinationals including Exxon Mobil, Shell and Total are planning for renewable and battery twin systems. The race is on to be the market leader in renewables storage, similar to the contest in electric vehicles, an industry with which it is inextricably linked. This won’t mean the end of fossil fuels or fracking just yet. But there’s cause for optimism. In the summer of 2017, renewables achieved their highest-ever output, meeting more than half of the UK’s electricity demand. Each year, the scales tilt further towards renewables. There is healthy competition between nations and regions to become the first fully renewable zones. In 2017, a major South Australian campaign was launched to find mass storage, with (among others) Tesla’s Elon Musk and Ecotricity’s Dale Vince to help the region become a renewables-only state. It’s an industry in which names are being made. Battery storage is scaleable, from domestic to grid size, with land owners and big companies realising the potential economic benefits. It can help more remote regions as well as population centres: a model is provided by Ta’ū island in American Samoa, which has relied on oil tankers to import energy, but is now supported by Tesla’s Solar City, a battery-storage installation. Norwegian energy group Statoil is installing the world’s first ofshore wind-farm battery system, under the name Batwind, at the Hywind installation of the coast of Scotland. We’re seeing a new generation of battery gigafactories being built in Europe and growing interaction between homes and the grid. According to Hugh McNeal of the wind industry’s trade body RenewableUK and solar expert Simon Virley of KPMG, this storage revolution is capable of transforming the industry. In 2018, it will become even more competitive and reliable – and will sound the death knell for fossil fuels in the process.



PART N E R S H I P Energy is, and will continue to be, one of the defining challenges of our times. The dilemma can be easily summarised thus: globally, to cope with growing demand, we need to generate more, and cleaner, energy. The risk coming from climate change, on the other hand, means that energy must be produced in a way that minimises CO2 emissions. As an energy company, Shell is aware of the magnitude of that challenge. Energy is crucial to enhance quality of life for people worldwide and drive prosperity in developing areas – and in the future, we are likely to need much more of it in order to power a more connected planet, transformed by emerging technologies such as robotics, energy storage, autonomous vehicles and AI. Still, those very benefits might be jeopardised if novel, low-carbon energy solutions are not found. To help solve that, Shell has been promoting a number of programmes that support and encourage young entrepreneurs and innovative businesses at the forefront of energy transition. Among these programmes are Shell LiveWIRE, a monthly grant for 16to 30-year-old founders, and Shell Springboard, designed to help small- and mediumsized enterprises (SMEs) implement and scale up their visions; in 2017 alone, Shell awarded £440,000 in no-strings-attached capital to low-carbon pioneers. Launched in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2015, the #makethefuture Accelerator has toured the world, from Bangalore to Singapore. It returned to London’s inspiring Olympic


HELPING IDEAS TAKE FLIGHT The Shell #makethefuture Accelerator in London was designed to help the ideas of young energy entrepreneurs thrive

Park for Shell’s fifth Accelerator event, held on May 25 as part of Shell’s #makethefuture festival, which celebrates the development of clean-energy solutions through the nurturing and support of bright ideas. At the core of the Shell #makethefuture Accelerator is the idea that financial backing is not the only thing startups need to thrive and succeed in this sector. Guidance, inspiration, the support of a wider network and assistance in dealing with things such as marketing, human-resources management and business planning are all critical factors. The #makethefuture Accelerator is one way Shell strives to provide young entrepreneurs crucial support. Ultimately, though, to tackle our world’s current energy challenges, companies need to fashion themselves into mission-driven organisations. What that means is that companies must embrace a strategy that goes beyond a convincing business plan, and which is instead driven by a purpose able to resonate with investors, staff and customers alike.


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How to do that? Many of the event’s attendees had pretty good insights on the matter. Shell LiveWIRE 2016 winner Carlton Cummins recounted how his startup Aceleron was born to be a clean-tech company. Cummins had initially been working on an electric bicycle powered by used battery packs. The idea didn’t fly with investors, but one of them suggested that he focus on the battery pack, because the idea had potential. Today, Aceleron transforms used lithium- ion batteries from vehicles and appliances into battery packs for bicycles or home-energy systems. “What we do is reuse an existing resource to produce a novel and more accessible product,” Cummins explained. Furthermore, Aceleron aims to inspire other companies in different regions of the world to follow its lead –

and create battery- processing facilities that would both encourage local entrepreneurs and provide the public with cheaper batteries. Laurence Kemball-Cook, whose company Pavegen manufactures special tiles able to convert pedestrians’ footsteps into electricity, also believes in the importance of inspiring and leading by example in order to engage the general public about clean tech. Kemball-Cook, who won the Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas Award back in June 2011, started putting together the technology in his university lab. “I was working all night long, every night,” he said. After he had a prototype, he trialled it by secretly installing it on building sites. Fast forward to 2014, and Pavegen was reaching out to places much farther

than building plots in London: thanks to a collaboration with Shell, Cook brought his tiles to Rio de Janeiro. “We flew to Rio and visited a favela with a huge soccer pitch. Kids there didn’t have anything to live on apart from soccer, but the lights didn’t work,” he recalled. “As part of the Shell #makethefuture campaign, we installed 200 tiles in the pitch. They stored up energy as the kids played and the lights turned on. It’s a cool energy solution, and a way of inspiring new energy entrepreneurs.” Sometimes the real challenge for purpose-driven companies is changing mindsets which have become deeply entrenched. Tom Robinson, who launched the award-winning company Adaptavate to manufacture low-impact construction materials, got the idea for his business while working on a building site. “I was on this site and I thought: ‘What are we going to do with this waste material going to landfills?’” he said. For everybody else, it seemed normal that tonnes of building material would pollute the ground. Robinson decided to prove that things could be better. Similarly, Shell alumnus Arthur Kay – whose company bio-bean transforms old coffee grounds into biofuel


Pictured: Some of the energy entrepreneurs with inspiring advice for attendees of London’s Shell #makethefuture Accelerator

Thomas Keen Founder and partner, Sabotage Design

Emma Fromberg Informal education manager, Ellen MacArthur foundation

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– explained that waste is a mentality: whether something is labelled a waste or a resource all depends on the eyes with which one looks at it. During the event, Shell UK Country Chair Sinead Lynch underlined how Shell LiveWIRE has been key in fostering ideas to meet the needs of a fast-growing population. Over the past

Ilian Iliev Founder, EcoMachines Ventures


Chris Pett Director, Inmost

35 years, Shell LiveWIRE has helped more than 880,000 young people grow businesses, providing £5m of funding. The LiveWIRE programme, which is one of Shell’s many initiatives supporting science, education and innovation – alongside Shell Springboard, Shell Bright Ideas Challenge and other Social Investment activities – has been an invaluable way to build an online community of more than 230,000 members, who give advice and access opportunities to their peers. It doesn’t stop there. Through Shell #makethefuture, the company has supported many other inspiring projects such as the Pavegen installations in Rio and the GravityLight 50night tour in Kenya– which brought a light powered by gravity to areas where kerosene lamps are ubiquitous. Shell’s #makethefuture Accelerator event reaffirmed Shell’s core beliefs. The company has shown its faith in how collaboration and network support can bring about progress and transform lives by bringing more and cleaner energy to those communities in need. Such leadership is decisive at a time when our planet faces a monumental energy challenge. #makethefuture

Mark Chapman Chief engineer, Bloodhound SSC





The economic travails of millennials could herald the era of late materialism. Fewer than a third of millennials own their own home compared to more than half of Generation X at the same age. Very few young people are saving enough for their retirement. Perhaps because these great personal financial goals are increasingly out of reach, more young people than previous generations say they save not to accumulate but “to live my desired lifestyle”. In 2018, this aspiration will challenge the materialism of their elders. The evidence is mounting. Millennials already tend to rate work-life balance over pay. Across the UK, the number of people wanting to work fewer hours now exceeds those who want more. It’s a world where our needs to socialise, communicate, be entertained and organised are all contained in a single smart device. When growing your own, sharing, making do and even mending are all the rage, spare money is for experiences, not stuff (which you have nowhere to store anyway). Materialism has always had its critics, and their voices have been getting louder. Added to the ethical case against greed is the fact that the planet can’t cope with everyone consuming more goods indefinitely, as well as the psychological and political critique that acquisitiveness messes up society and our heads. From Fred Hirsch’s seminal Social Limits to Growth in 1976 and Oliver James’s Aluenza in 2007 to James Wallman’s Stuffocation in 2013, many writers have railed against the impact of possessive individualism. Perhaps Tim Jackson, author of Prosperity Without Growth, summed up consumerism most pithily as the process by which “we are persuaded to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need to create impressions that won’t last on people we don’t care about”. Yet these voices have done little to dent the economic consensus for spending-led growth and, until recently, even less to change the way we live. Those in the mainstream argue societies cannot survive without economic growth, and growth only comes from rising demand. That attitude will increasingly feel misguided. The reality is that we’re already surviving if not

The end of spending-led growth Millennials are leading the way by consuming experiences, not stuff By Matthew Taylor


– is chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts

without growth then with a great deal less. The promise of consumer capitalism, that most of us would get better of year-on-year, has been broken for well over a decade. Isn’t this broken promise of rising living standards precisely what is driving the rise of Donald Trump, the victory of Brexit and the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn? Perhaps, but what happens when the populists also fail to deliver? Human beings adapt to reality. We may rise up but equally we may, as the very British slogan has it, “Keep calm and carry on.” The most difficult challenge for the latematerialist era – one which we’ve hardly even begun to face – is getting the politics, policy and economics right. We need politicians to tell us the truth, shape our expectations and give us hope. We need new forms of living, working, travelling and eating. Latematerialist societies won’t generate enough tax revenue for paternalistic national public services so we need social innovation to help communities do more themselves. Technology too is vital. It can liberate us from drudgery, transform human productivity and free us to be creative, or it can ensnare us in new addictions, intrusions and widening inequality. We could be entering an era of unprecedented human flourishing. Unlike money, possessions or power, I can have more love, friendship, caring and fun without you having less. Beyond populism, young people need a cause that is both realistic and visionary. And 2018 will be the year we understand the huge benefits of late materialism.




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The promise of consumer capitalism, that most of us would get better off year-on-year, is broken

Digital connections will challenge states Foreign policy in 2018 will be driven by NGOs, not presidents By Anne-Marie Slaughter


his intention to pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change. In fact, he cannot follow through on this unless he is re-elected on November 3, 2020, as the Paris Agreement provides for a lengthy waiting period before a stated intent to exit can take efect – until November 4, 2020. Still, he can stop any Federal government eforts to comply with the commitments that the United States made under the Obama administration. His decision




0 89 was a huge blow for US global leadership on one of the most pressing and existential challenges facing the planet. China and European countries such as France and Germany quickly picked up the baton. Within hours of Trump’s announcement, however, many other Americans had stepped up. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tweeted: “We can’t wait for national governments to act on climate change. For solutions, look to cities. #ClimateofHope.” He also announced that Bloomberg Philanthropies would pull together $15 million (£11.4m) to support UN efforts to implement the Paris agreement. Indeed, Bloomberg Philanthropies has spent years organising more than 7,000 mayors worldwide, representing 600 million people, in what is now the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. Not to be outdone by this, the governor of California Jerry Brown announced that he and the governors of New York and Washington state would lead an alliance of states dedicated to carrying out the Paris Agreement even without federal support. The next day 30 mayors, three governors, more than 80 university presidents and 100 business leaders began negotiating with the UN to have their submissions of commitments to reduce carbon emissions accepted alongside other countries. These mayors and other actors are themselves recognised in the Paris Agreement, categorised as “nonParty stakeholders”, who nevertheless have a critical role to play in upholding the agreement and reducing carbon emissions. City and state governments do not have to take the lead here, however. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization was launched by the Gates Foundation, which brought together non-government organisations around the world, big pharmaceutical companies and the World Health Organization. Their goal was to catalyse and co-ordinate a global response both to a deep global injustice – that children born in developing countries continue to die of diseases that children born in rich countries are immune from. They are also tackling the failure to immunise poor children around


– is president and CEO of publicpolicy think tank New America

the world, which could lead to the return of old diseases and the spread of new ones. In 2018, the digital world will also move into this area. Former director of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Fadi Chehadé has proposed an innovative solution for governing the global internet that is composed of transnational networks of private, public and civic actors to develop and implement open-digital protocols. These would consist of non-legal rules covering everything from cyberwarfare to big-data ethics. They would be developed by experts using feedback and input from the general public. Chehadé imagines three levels of expert networks, accountability networks and a global “network of networks”, which would be co-ordinated and orchestrated by a central authority. This is foreign policy for the digital age. Digital technology, for good or ill, is highly democratising. We hear frequently about the malign dimensions of a world in which non-state actors, meaning the participants in the virtual and physical networks that create a web of global relations, can attack each other or governments. Indeed, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen argued in their 2013 book The New Digital Age that “the most significant impact of the spread of communication technologies will be the way they help reallocate the concentration of power away from states and institutions and transfer it to individuals”. The problem is how to combine the energy, innovation and resilience of decentralisation

POLITICAL SCIENCE – At least a dozen scientists in North America are running for Congress in the US midterm elections, which take place in November 2018, partly in response to a series of anti-science policies from President Trump. A group called 314 Action, which aims to train scientists for office at all levels of government, has already received more than 6,000 enquiries.



G O VERN ME N T with the ability to provide some direction and to cumulate and share knowledge, ideas and best practice that comes from centralisation. That is where network design comes in – or, more broadly, strategies of connection. EM Forster’s “Only connect” was not quite right. It would be far less poetic, but far more pragmatic to say: “Only connect correctly.” And what is correct difers by circumstance. But we are not rudderless here. The science of network architecture will become as robust and sophisticated as that of physical architecture, the understanding of what structures best serve what purpose: distributed mesh networks for resilience, decentralised pod networks for local teamwork and innovation directed towards a common goal; centralised star networks for co-ordination and cumulation; and many variations on these forms for response, defence, communication, co-operation and collaboration. Public-policy schools emphasise the disciplines of law, economics, statistics, politics and psychology to educate their students in the art of public problem-solving. Students learn to write memos to hypothetical bosses laying out the problem and potential legal or regulatory solutions in no more than two pages. For the public policy of the future, including foreign policy, a network map will be the new memo. Public problem-solvers will learn to see the world around them in terms of connection, disconnection and misconnection, and will think about how to design networks to connect the right people or institutions in the right way to solve a specific problem. States are not going to disappear any time soon. They continue to wield enormous power and more legitimacy than any other arrangements for human government or selfgovernment. They will continue to fight and bargain with each other: waging war, negotiating agreements, trading and establishing institutions. Statecraft will remain an important discipline for the handful of oicials able to practise it. But in the 21st century world of the web – the internet and the web of economic, civic, educational, religious, social and criminal networks that span the globe – webcraft is open to anyone.

The return of the city state As governments struggle with global issues such as climate change, megacities will rise to the challenge By Roman Krznaric


support the Paris Agreement on climate change in June 2017 (see Anne-Marie Slaughter, previous page) are the latest sign of a trend that will crystallise in 2018: the growing prominence and autonomy of cities around the world, on a scale not seen since the age of Renaissance city-states such as Florence or Venice. An increasing proportion of the world’s population is living in megacities, from the 12-million-population Greater São Paulo to the Taiheiyō Belt megalopolis in Japan, which is home to more than 80 million people. The United Nations predicts that by 2030 there will be 41 megacity clusters containing two-thirds of the world’s population. These cities, which are the economic powerhouses of the countries in which they exist, are becoming political powerhouses too. They’ve been organising into interdependent networks, such as the Global Parliament of Mayors, the C40 global network of cities committed to acting on climate change, and the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities. These networks have accumulated enough organisational experience and influence to make a significant mark in 2018 in international arenas such as COP24, the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Poland in December 2018. We may also see new initiatives of what the international-relations expert Parag Khanna calls “diplomacity”, where cities make independent trade agreements with one another, much like the cities of the Hanseatic League did in northern Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries.



PA G E The growing autonomy and influence of cities has risen due to several factors. One is the global trend towards devolution. In England and Wales, for instance, there were no directly elected mayors at the start of the millennium. Now there are 23 and their electoral contests are attracting an increasing number of high-profile candidates. A second trend is that cities are leading tech innovation, such as the smart-bus network to be introduced in the Chinese smart city of Zhuzhou in 2018. They are also at the forefront of energy transitions from fossil fuels to renewables. For example, the Indian government has created a masterplan for establishing 50 solar cities and the state of Chhattisgarh is due to make huge investments in local solar generation in 2018 as part of its Development in Solar Cities Programme. A final, overarching trend is a growing recognition that nation-states are – compared with cities – unfit for modern challenges. They have failed to deal effectively with issues arising from migration, climate change, wealth inequality and terrorism. This failure partly

RE-WIRED WORLD – The completion of the 12,800km Pacific Light Cable Network that connects Hong Kong and Los Angeles will boost internet speeds in North America and Asia. It’s funded by Facebook and Google, and can carry enough data to host 80 million HD video calls at once.

explains the declining faith in traditional political parties in many countries and in the value of democratic government itself. But it is also behind the rise of cities, which are much more efective at pragmatic problem-solving on issues ranging from flood management to dealing with increasing numbers of refugees. It’s worth remembering that nation-states are a new historical invention and have only been the dominant form of political organisation for the past two centuries. Cities, in contrast, are the greatest and most enduring social technology ever invented by humankind. That is why cities such as Istanbul have lasted thousands of years, while empires and nations have risen and fallen around them. It is true that nations will not disappear quickly or completely, but we may remember 2018 as the year of the return of the Renaissance city-state. Get ready for bold initiatives from cities and their mayors in areas such as global warming, while national political parties bicker with each other and intergovernmental conferences remain locked in stalemate. The ancient ideal of the polis is back.


– is a social philosopher and author of Carpe Diem Regained: The Vanishing Art of Seizing the Day (2017)

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G O VERN ME N T Basic income will reach a tipping point Automation will lead big tech firms to endorse government-supplied wages By Andrew Keen


old idea that will finally go mainstream in 2018. Invented by Sir Thomas More in Utopia, his 1516 “no place” imagining of the perfect society, UBI is the idea that the government should provide all its citizens with a living wage, irrespective of whether they work or not. Over the past 500 years, UBI is an idea

that has been revisited many times – most notably in the mid-19th century by Karl Marx, who imagined a post-capitalist industrial economy of such collective wealth that it would leave all of us free to “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening and criticise after dinner”. But, for all its political seductiveness, UBI has never really convinced anyone except radical idealists such as More and Marx. So why is this rather kooky 500-year-old idea suddenly about to go mainstream? The answer, as with everything else these days, is smart technology. Known broadly as artificial intelligence, it is about to change the 21st-century world as radically as industrial technology changed the 19th-century world. Most troubling is that the smart machine is about to replace human labour in every area – from manual to highly skilled jobs such as medicine, law and teaching. Over the next quarter of a century, it will make many of us, perhaps even most of us, redundant.


– is author of The Internet is Not the Answer (2015) and How to Fix the Future (to be published in February 2018)

SWEET SURCHARGE – Soft drinks will get more expensive from April, as the UK brings in a tax on drinks with more than 5g of sugar per 100ml. Fruit juices and milkshakes are exempt, but a can of cola could cost 8p more. Amit Katwala



PA G E Climate change is the greatest technological issue of our age. The trauma is expected to be epochal. In a much-cited white paper, two Oxford University economists predict 47 per cent of jobs in the US will be at risk over the next 20 years. Elsewhere, a 2017 McKinsey report suggests smart technology could eliminate half of today’s jobs by 2035. So how will 50 per cent of humanity survive if they have no jobs? Thus the renaissance of the idea that the government should provide all citizens with a living wage. UBI is back in vogue. In 2016, the Swiss held a (defeated) referendum on implementing UBI nationally. In January 2017, Finland began a two-year pilot to provide a guaranteed income to 2,000 unemployed citizens. European cities including Utrecht and Livorno, as well as the Canadian province of Ontario, have launched similar trials this year. The year 2018 will be critical for UBI because the idea is about to be embraced by the powers-that-be in Silicon Valley. The idea has already been supported by Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Sam Altman, the wunderkind CEO of the seed accelerator Y Combinator, has co-founded an institute committed to investing $10 million (£7.5m) in UBI projects in 2018 and 2019. Altman has also funded a basic-income project in Oakland, the city on the other side of the San Francisco Bay. Stanford, the university which spawned Hewlett-Packard and Google, is creating a Basic Income Lab to study the idea further. Add all this together and we will have arrived at Malcolm Gladwell’s “tipping point”. This is the hard-to-quantify moment when an idea catches fire and becomes mainstream. In 2018, with Silicon Valley’s intellectual and financial might behind it, UBI will take the centre stage in our discussions about a smart future dominated by technological unemployment. Progressive American politicians will embrace it. Experiments currently occurring in Finland and elsewhere around the world will be transformed into more formal policy initiatives. It’s taken 500 years to get to this point, but 2018 will be the year of universal basic income. Utopia will finally become a reality.

We will reclaim our personal data New laws will give us power over our private information By Irene Ng



– is professor of marketing and service systems at WMG, University of Warwick and chairman of the Hub of All Things Foundation Group

in 2017: DeepMind’s controversial datasharing deal with the NHS; Facebook’s €110 million (£98m) fine; Google’s €2.4 billion fine; scammers selling personal data. We woke up to the idea that a few big companies, such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and WeChat, had used our data to become near-monopolistic entities. In 2018, EU regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation and the second Payment Services Directive will give consumers new rights and change their power relationships with these companies. And new technology such as private-data accounts will help us acquire, use and share our data for our own benefit. Private-data accounts are like individual bank accounts, but they contain personal information, not money. Hosted by data stores such as,, and the Hub of All Things, of which I am the founder and chairman, many will let us legally own our own data, bringing it in and pushing it out as we wish, without our having to identify ourselves. And they will do this automatically or at the touch of a button. Inside these accounts, our data will become our asset, one to which we can give specific access rights in return for services. This will flip today’s internet (in which we give up all of this data in return for access to services) on its head. A new generation of apps and websites will arise that use private-data accounts instead of conventional user accounts. Internet applications in 2018 will attach themselves to these, gaining access to a smart data account rich with privately held contextual infor-



G O VERN ME N T First data: online ownership will switch from business to consumer

mation such as stress levels (combining sleep patterns, for example, with how busy a user’s calendar is) or motivation to exercise (comparing historical exercise patterns to infer about the day ahead). All of this will be possible without the burden on the app supplier of undue sensitive data liability or any violation of consumers’ personal rights. It will also be possible to gather future data. For example, organisations and governments will be able to offer benefits for future digital actions such as reducing energy use (future energy data), or taking more exercise (future Fitbit data). Assuming the data can be validated (and there are many blockchain applications ready to do this), the incentivisation of digital action fulfilled through data exchanges will create a new capability on the internet that is as big as the invention of video streaming in the 90s. Such incentivisation has always been possible at an app level. Fitbit encourages us to work towards our exercise goals. However, the game changer is that private-data accounts will allow this to happen across all data and all apps. New apps are already being built to leverage this new capability. Shape\ Influence, a startup on the Hub of All Things’ private-data account, enables merchants to directly “buy” influence by ofering benefits for tweets, posts and reviews (future data) from all of us, not just celebrities. The more we share data on our terms, the more the internet will evolve to emulate the physical domain where private spaces, commercial spaces and community spaces can exist separately, but side by side. Indeed, private-data accounts may be the first step towards the internet as a civil society, paving the way for a governing system where digital citizens, in the form of their private microserver data account, do not merely have to depend on legislation to champion their private rights, but also have the economic power to enforce them as well. Paradoxically, the internet will become more private at a moment when we individuals begin to exchange more data. We will then wield a collective economic power that could make 2018 the year we rebalance the digital economy.



PA G E A new way to learn Flexible education platforms will break down barriers to access By Lior Frenkel



– is co-founder of nuSchool, Tel Aviv

pace. Technology is generating entirely new industries and jobs, while eradicating antiquated ones. Some may feel uneasy with these shifts, attempting to come to terms with how to survive, but others see them as an opportunity. In 2018 we will see the arrival of Homo adaptus – the newest class of worker. Homo adaptus understands that it needs to be in a state of constant evolution. Rather than resisting technological developments, it seeks to use them as a tool in order to thrive. As stated in the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, the most valuable skills in the 21st century are critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity. However, they are not gained solely through academia, but through experiential forms of learning. Until recently, a professional had two options: continued education, managed by conventional educational institutions; or online education. The former doesn’t fit Homo adaptus’s lifestyle and requires a major investment of time and money. Conversely, online education, which is accessible, afordable and relevant, hasn’t lived up to its promise. The rate of completion for those who sign up for an online course is only five to ten per cent. Sitting by oneself to watch a video course with Gmail and Facebook appearing in neighbouring tabs is a challenge, even for the most focused students. The US National Academies of Sciences published a report in 2017 called Where Are We and Where Do We Go from Here? It stated: “The education system will need to adapt to prepare individuals for the changing labour market. At the same time, recent

IT advances offer new and potentially more widely accessible education.” Alternative educational platforms have emerged to bridge the gap between what professionals know they need and what they can access. The altMBA is an educational programme founded by Seth Godin. “It is part of a new era of non-video-based online learning,” Godin says. “Instead of mimicking school or creating infotainment, it is cohortbased, project-oriented and transformative.” The altMBA takes place over the course of one month, during which participants are put through a rigorous curriculum of intensive study and work. Through teamwork, coaching, and tri-weekly online group sessions, each participant has to complete 13 projects in four weeks. The programme emphasises the belief that participants learn most effectively through creating and critiquing one another, rather than by passively attending lectures. San Francisco-based startup Jolt is creating micro-campuses in venues such as co-working spaces and function rooms. This is designed to give local people access to high-quality education without the need for new infrastructure. Participants receive unlimited access to classes and programmes such as Product Management or Hacking Freelance. Jolt’s plan to mix online and oline worlds involves a live-video session with a worldclass practitioner. Twelve students sit around the table, watching and conversing online with an expert who may be located anywhere in the world. After the class, the participants go on and mingle, creating valuable connections with similar-minded professionals. “We found the ultimate learning experience is conversational and experiential,” says Roei Deutsch, Jolt’s CEO. “Knowledge is no longer owned by an institution, but shared in the minds of practitioners.” The educators are put through intensive vetting, which includes training for effective content creation, workshops and peer reviews of each discussion that they prepare. Both examples are new education systems that are built with the Homo adaptus in mind. To make a real difference, though, they’ll need to be quick to adapt themselves.

Multiroom speakers that complement your home










REEBOK FLOATRIDE SPACE BOOT SB-01 – Rebook has developed a new type of footwear for a 2018 mission to the International Space Station. Described as a hybrid of a runner, sandal, wrestling shoe and aviator boot, the SB-01s use Reebok’s Floatride Foam to cushion the midsole without adding weight. As a result, these kicks are considerably lighter than astronauts’ usual tough-leather shoes.




ESSENTIAL PH-1 – Designed by Android developer Andy Rubin, this new entrant to the smartphone market aims to raise the levels of design and performance of non-Apple handsets. The Essential PH-1 has a dual-camera system with monochrome sensor, a Snapdragon 835 processor, fingerprint reader and 128GB of storage. $699






APPLE HOMEPOD – Available in December, the 172mm-tall HomePod is Apple’s entry to the smart-speaker market dominated by Sonos, Google Home and Alexa. Seven tweeters and a four-inch subwoofer provide audio muscle, while the A8 chip inside will map your room and adjust audio equalisation accordingly. You can also ask Siri to do your bidding. £tbc

E-VOLO VOLOCOPTER 2X – After six years in development, in 2018 the 2X multicopter from German company Volocopter will be ready for launch. The lightweight vertical take-off and landing craft is electric and can be flown by holders of a sport pilot licence. Inside is space for a pilot and passenger, but it can also be controlled remotely and is capable of autonomous flight. £poa

EINRIDE T-POD – Swedish startup Einride will commence testing its T-pod, an electric autonomous truck, in 2018. With a 200kWh battery providing a maximum range of 200km, it is intended to replace heavy-duty lorries. Designed entirely for remote human operation and autonomous driving, the vehicle has no need for a cabin – which means more room for payloads.




LOEWE BILD X CONCEPT TV – Scheduled to go into production in 2018, the Bild X is a super-thin 2.5mm OLED screen suspended within a steel frame, which relies on magnets to hold the form. At its base, a polished-marble puck or steel cross maintains stability. This modular concept by designer Bodo Sperlein also makes swapping and updating components a possibility.



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We’ve had Generation X, Millennials, Generation Y and Generation Z. Now, there is a new cohort in town. Those born from 2010 onwards – branded Generation Alpha by social researcher Mark McCrindle – are the latest, and they all have something in common: they will all be interacting within an unprecedented environment of digital technologies as they grow up. And this environment will change at speeds that we have yet to experience. New research by WIRED Consulting and Hotwire suggests that the Alpha brain is likely to be even more specialised than previous generations. Digital technologies have moved us away from the operational generalists we used to be and drawn our focus towards an increasingly narrow set of activities and problems. Professor Michael Merzenich, one of the pioneering scientists behind neuroplasticity, suspects that this generation could even herald “a class of super-specialists”. Whether this is a positive or negative development is a contentious issue. Some suggest that younger generations will have improved hand-eye co-ordination, visual attentional processing and higher IQs; others, however, say that dependence on technology – and screens in particular – can ruin attention spans and cause anxiety and depression. Yet this might change as the next wave of digital technologies begin to decouple from the screen. The introduction of conversational and gestural interfaces has begun and is likely to accelerate. Generation Alpha may indeed be the last group to be anchored to the screen. Alpha will also be the first generation to form

emotional connections with AI toys and devices. Our research explores the growing internet-of-toys industry and reveals how it will introduce an intimacy that product developers will cherish – and dataprivacy watchdogs will lament. It is in communicating with Generation Alpha where implications for organisations arise. They will need to double down on platforms such as video and experiment with forms such as augmented reality. Socialmedia strategies will need to consider the multiple identities that Generation Alpha create online. And they will be dealing with a demanding audience. As Birk Rawlings, head of US media company AwesomenessTV, told WIRED Consulting: “They want everything and they want it now.” What the Alpha era may introduce more than anything else, however, is the death of broad demographic analysis in marketing. Given the sheer quantity of information that organisations have on Generation Alpha’s kids, we are entering an era of personalised and targeted marketing. Talking ‘bout my generation? Maybe not for much longer.


– is director of WIRED Consulting

This report, produced by WIRED Consulting and supported by Hotwire, explores the Alpha Generation brain. We’ve aimed to reveal the unique characteristics of this fledgling demographic, as well as the lessons organisations should bear in mind when communicating with them. If your organisation is interested in exploring the effects that disruptive technology will have on business, society and culture in the future, please contact WIRED Consulting directly at


A new tribe has arrived – and it could spell the end of an era in marketing




BU S I N ES S Amazon will start to threaten Google and Facebook’s advertising duopoly

The retail giant has the means to mount a serious challenge By Martin Sorrell


“What keeps you awake at night?” Almost without exception, the answer that comes back – whether I’m talking to a retailer or a brand owner – is “Amazon”. Many of our own people at WPP say the same thing. The list of insomniacs grows ever longer as Jeff Bezos’s formidable creation relentlessly expands its territory and influence. Bezos is on a quest to make Amazon “the world’s most consumer-centric company, where consumers can come to find anything they want to buy online” – a vision that places most businesses within Amazon’s competitive set. Two companies that don’t lose much sleep over the competition, though (because, for the most part, there is none), are Google and Facebook. The duopoly’s stranglehold on digital advertising means they will take as much as 75 per cent of global online ad revenues in 2017 and almost all new spending. But in 2018 they will start to feel the possibility of competition – and Amazon is one of the companies that might provide it. Both Google and Facebook have grown fat by eating other people’s lunch (that of traditional media companies in particular), but Amazon may be the one organisation that is big enough to eat theirs.


– is founder and CEO of WPP

Long the leading platform for product search (more than half of US online shoppers begin their searches on Amazon), it is now making a concerted efort to become a major platform for advertising too, with promoted listings, targeted ads based on users’ purchase histories and a growing range of other options. Amazon’s market-leading AI and voice technology will inevitably form part of its offer to advertisers, and that’s one of the reasons why the other four of tech’s Fearsome Five (Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook), along with Alibaba and Tencent, are launching AI/voice technology too. Amazon doesn’t disclose its advertising revenues, but analysts suggest they were more than $1 billion (£780m) in 2016 and will be around $2.5 billion in 2017. Some estimates see them rising to nearly $6 billion in 2018. While this is tiny compared to Google and Facebook – which between them had advertising revenues of more than $100 billion in 2016 – on a recent earnings call, Amazon said it was rapidly expanding its advertising sales team and was pleased with the results from this still-nascent business. Advertisers want measurable return on their investment, and in this respect Amazon may hold the trump card. Unlike Google and Facebook, Amazon has a treasure trove of data on what consumers actually end up buying. Its 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods will add another huge tranche of data about shoppers’ habits in bricks-and-mortar stores. The more it figures out how to use those on- and oline insights to help advertisers, the more of a threat it becomes to the duopoly. Amazon is not the only company vying to become the “third force” to challenge Google and Facebook in digital advertising. Snap may be struggling to meet Wall Street’s sky-high expectations (expectations it did little to manage before its IPO) but it remains a contender. WPP’s investment in Snap on behalf of our clients is growing rapidly, and will double this year to around $200 million. This, however, compares with almost

Amazon is making a play to become a major platform for advertising $6 billion spent with Google and more than $2 billion with Facebook, so for now it’s still just a flea on the elephant’s backside. Verizon’s new AOL-Yahoo! combination, Oath, says it is not looking to take on the duopoly directly, but its CEO Tim Armstrong has pointed out that, with Google and Facebook, his organisation is one of “only three companies in the world that touch one billion consumers digitally”. With an audience of that scale, and with targeted annual revenues of between $10 billion and $20 billion, there is little question that Oath also has the potential to broaden the choice for advertisers. Elsewhere, telecoms giant AT&T plans to use its recent acquisition of Time Warner to build an automated ad platform for TV and premium video, while Pinterest has recently moved from the test phase of video advertising to a full rollout, hiring talent from Google and Facebook. As much as advertisers would benefit from a loosening of the duopoly’s grip on the market, it is unlikely that a true challenger will emerge as soon as next year. We should, though, have a better idea of who that third force might eventually be. (I’m making no predictions, and ofer only this observation: few people have made money by betting against Amazon.) And maybe the threat will come from elsewhere. In the longer term, the biggest threat to the duopoly (and indeed Amazon) may be success itself. As the dominance of these companies grows, they may i n c re a s i n g l y b e s e e n n o t a s p r i v a te corporations but universal public utilities – with all the regulatory scrutiny such a profound change in status entails.

Super investors will pave the way for Europe’s next $100bn tech company The continent’s booming ecosystem will attract those with the deepest pockets By Niklas Zennström

SOCIAL SCORING – Social credit checks will replace financial checks by lenders. Startups like the UK’s Social Credit offer a score based on your social-media activity, others on your internet use. China plans to introduce a social score for every citizen.




key elements: an abundance of great entrepreneurs; talented teams to support them; and investors covering every stage from the earliest seed to supersonic growth. Over the past ten years, Europe has not only seen a flourishing of entrepreneurs, but also a generation of talent emerge from local-hero tech brands. These range from ARM to Zalando, via, Skype, King, Klarna, Supercell, Spotify and others, many of whom have gone on to found companies of their own. Investment has followed a similar trajectory. Forty per cent of successful entrepreneurs are angel investors or mentors to the next generation of founders, while angel investment across Europe grew to €6.1 billion (£5.5bn) in 2015, from €5.5 billion two years earlier. In 2007, Europe had just one notable startup accelerator, Seedcamp. Today, there are well over 100, as well as a proliferation of operatorled early-stage investors including Cherry Ventures, Mosaic Ventures, Lifeline Ventures, Firstminute Capital and LocalGlobe. Alongside the likes of Accel, Index Ventures and others, new entrants such as private-equity firm EQT Ventures and our own $765 million (£579m) fund – one of the largest ever raised in Europe – ensure Series A-, B- and C-stage startups have the horsepower they require. Meanwhile, Europe’s clusters of talent and expertise grow ever denser. Led by London, Stockholm, Berlin, Paris and others, the ecosystem has developed at a frenetic frontier-town pace. While those cities remain the hubs, entrepreneurship has ignited across the continent. In Germany, for example, investors are not just converging on Berlin, but on Munich, Cologne and Bonn, too. Lisbon, Madrid and Barcelona have become VC staples, as have Zurich, Vienna and Budapest. Yet despite this, Europe has only one solitary $100 billion technology company – SAP – in modern times. In 2018, this trend will change. In part, the reason for the virtual absence of European $100 billion tech companies lies in the funding gap between Europe and the US. According to our own research, adjusted for GDP, VCs in the US raise 5.3 times more than their European counterparts. The gap is


– is the CEO of Atomico

BYE-BYE BAGGING AREA – Standard Cognition’s autonomous checkout for supermarkets will detect what is going into people’s baskets and present a bill at the exit.

narrowing, but it remains pronounced at the later stages, meaning fast-scaling European startups are hobbled by a lack of available finance to go global and make acquisitions. Now, a new breed of super investor is joining the party. The pre-eminent North American example is Alphabet, with GV (previously Google Ventures), Capital G (Google’s growth equity fund), and now Gradient Ventures (which backs early stage AI startups). Even they appear to be taking an almost tentative approach – given the size of their balance sheets – when compared to Japan’s SoftBank, and Chinese behemoths Tencent and Alibaba. SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund, which so far includes investments in Nauto, Nvidia, Improbable and ARM – the latter two being European companies – was conceived to make macro bets on the technologies that will be vital to human life a decade or so from now. SoftBank’s founder and CEO, Masayoshi Son – famous for his 300-year plan – takes long-term holdings. This means no IPO, nor the distractions of the stock market or complex M&A. Equally, Tencent is making large-scale investments and acquisitions. Its stake in Supercell is a prime example of this exit strategy, and recently it demonstrated its appetite for venture capitalism by leading Lilium Aviation’s $90 million Series B funding round. SoftBank’s ownership template, in which they enable VCs and other investors to exit, leaves founders very much in the cockpit and with a sizeable – around 20 per cent – ownership stake. Now other technology players with robust balance sheets, particularly the American giants, are playing catchup, making long-term bets outside of their core business. With the European technology ecosystem swelling, in 2018 entrepreneur-investors such as Larry Page, Pony Ma, Jack Ma and Masayoshi Son will increasingly look to the continent. These founders, like us, are looking for businesses with bold intentions led by those with the ambition to tackle the world’s biggest challenges. There are a growing number of companies in Europe who fit that bill. Founderinvestors who prioritise entrepreneurs and share in their vision, offer a compelling alternative to traditional sources of capital.



BU S I NE S S Improved customer care – courtesy of a dedicated message-bot Machine learning will offer competitive advantage through communication By Michael Sikorsky and Rita Gunther McGrath


customer experience than human-to-human chat exchange, following the explosion of messaging services that have changed the way companies interact with their customers. Today, more than two billion messages are exchanged between people and companies every month on Facebook Messenger alone. Other major players have been investing heavily in the space, creating platforms to support companies in their pursuits to engage customers where they are and in the way they prefer. In 2018, this will give rise to AI customer-service agents that we are happy to deal with. However, many organisations will fail to create the customer experience they desire because of a fundamental misunderstanding of human-to-machine interaction. In their belief that human agents give the best experience, many will develop messaging applications that stress person-to-person conversations. But companies will learn that using AI-powered bots, supported by human “escape hatches”, which seamlessly pass on the interaction to a


is CEO of Robots & Pencils RITA GUNTHER MCGRATH

– is a professor at the Columbia Business School

human, will provide a vastly better experience than a standalone human-to-human exchange. This feels counterintuitive. But consider this. Human-to-human chat exchanges are limited to text inputs. Moreover, they are often open-ended conversations, creating a less guided experience for the user. Bots, on the other hand, can respond immediately, and combine prompt buttons and other visual cues along with supporting textual conversations to ofer a much richer, guided user interaction. More importantly, AI can scale and apply its knowledge much faster and more consistently than a human as its algorithms improve and it learns. Human agents, on the other hand, need to be trained, respond inconsistently and need to be motivated to care about the customer. As customers interact with a company, bots can capture data to learn behaviours, habits and preferences – and then anticipate needs. These interactions then improve the entire user base’s customer experience. To try to capture and apply this same data is hard when Banks will lose the battle for customer data to tech companies

Facebook and Amazon will be able to capture valuable payments information that’s vital for banking systems By David Birch


it is free flowing, non-guided text, and nearly impossible when it is human-to-human chat. By harnessing this machine-learning ability, businesses using bots can acquire customer-experience advantage faster than competitors doing human-only chat. The new frontier is not without its challenges. Businesses will have to put in work upfront to make the most of their AI systems. Companies will need to create clear routes through conversational maps, understand the outcomes customers are trying to drive and prime the system with smart defaults. Many algorithms already surpass or match the average person in some areas of human language and comprehension. This is the main reason these AI systems won’t feel like the infuriating phone menus of the past. But we wouldn’t recommend turning everything over to a bot. Instead, offer an escape hatch when the bot can’t be of help. It’s the adroit combination of people and machine that offers the best prospect for creating competitive advantage.


– is a fintech consultant and founder of Consult Hyperion

mindshare to the GAFAMs (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft) and the BATs (Baidu, Alipay, Tencent). The proof? Take a look at the trajectories of Paym in the UK and Venmo in the US. Non-banks are simply better at this than banks are. Non-banks are about to get a huge boost from European and UK regulators, thanks to the European Commission’s Second Payment Services Directive (PSD2), which becomes law in January 2018. Combine this with the UK Treasury’s Open Data initiative and the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) open banking “remedies”, and the UK’s nine biggest banks will start the year with APIs in place for third parties to gain access to their customers’ bank-account data (with your consent, of course) and initiate payments on your behalf. This means that when Amazon asks for access to your bank account in return for an extra month of Prime, there’s nothing the bank can do to stop them. It won’t just be Amazon doing this. Facebook will ask for (and get) direct access to your bank account and the payments infrastructure. Next time you need to send your friend a tenner, you’ll instant-message them the money, rather than opening up your boring bank app, fiddling about finding their bank details, authenticating yourself again and finally firing of the cash. You’ll just type “+£10” in your WhatsApp chat. No big deal, you might think. But remember that almost all customer interactions with banks are payments. If banks never see the SPACE TOURISM RETURNS – Virgin Galactic’s commercial spaceflights will launch in 2018, while SpaceX plans to fly two customers around the Moon. RSC Energia hopes to use empty seats on Soyuz to the ISS. Amit Katwala

customer making payments, they lose their most important resource: data. We’ve already seen it happen in China, where the banks have waved goodbye to payment revenues because of WeChat and AliPay. But, more importantly, they will not get the data about payments too – and they are far more concerned about that. Banks need payments data to develop new value-added financial services, but also because it’s the essential oil for the risk-management machines at the core of banking. If they can’t feed their machine-learning AI supercomputer risk engine, then they can’t price. And that will threaten new products for customers. At least one bank, ANZ in Australia, is planning to introduce direct risk-based pricing in 2018, so that when someone asks for a mortgage they’ll get terms specific to them. But LinkedIn probably has just as good an idea as to whether they are worth lending to,

and if Microsoft can check their bank account as easily as a rival bank, Money Supermarket or payday lenders, then what exactly is the special sauce for the bank to serve? The efect of this is that AI in 2018 will be a kind of event horizon for financial services. No one can see what is on the other side. But when Google feeds all the data from someone’s bank accounts into their advertising engines it’s fairly certain that bank profits – based on information asymmetries, product friction and brand loyalties – will vanish. To stay in the loop, retail banks may choose a strategic option built around identity, trust and reputation – if they get their act together and regain thought leadership in the space. If not, 2018 will be the start of a fundamental realignment as banks become nothing more than heavily regulated pipes for the tech giants to use for their profit.





caused a stir. It was a little-known project with an esoteric purpose: to build, in the words of its website, “a new decentralised blockchain that governs itself by establishing a true digital commonwealth”. Yet it succeeded in raising finance to the tune of $232 million (£178m) – and not a cent of it was traditional venture capital. Instead, Tezos had scored the money from the crowd via an emerging funding model called a token sale. Token sales are a hot topic in the booming world of digital currencies. Sometimes more colourfully referred to as an initial coin ofering (because ICO sounds pleasingly similar to IPO), it’s a novel way to fund a project by creating a token that will have a role within its ecosystem. For instance, say you were founding Twitter. You could design a token – a tweetcoin, perhaps – that users would have to spend when they wanted to tweet. You could sell tweetcoins to the public pre-emptively to finance building the service. These could immediately be traded for other currencies, so backers would enjoy greater liquidity than if they had made a traditional VC investment. As well as being a way to fast-track capital, Tweetcoins would later be used to remunerate people who ofer their computing power to the service and keep it running. This would have an ideological benefit. “It would be an open network,” says Jerry Brito, executive director of the digital currency think tank Coin Center. “So there would be no company that China could go to and say, ‘Please censor this.’” ICOs have generated more than $1.67 billion to date, $1.38 billion of which was raised in 2017, according to the cryptocurrency news site CoinDesk. Such is the hysteria, when the web-browser startup Brave held its ICO in May, the sale reached its $35 million cap in just 30 seconds. All expectations are for this sector to grow further in 2018. So far, so compelling. Yet, token sales are not without their detractors. It’s an environment ripe for scams, and even when founder intentions are good, investors are often placing their trust in nothing more than an idea with a shiny website, clever marketing and a dollop of hype. Viewed pessimistically, it’s akin to giving

The ICO bubble will burst New rules are set to reduce the proliferation of scams and create a more professional marketplace By Charlie Burton


– is senior commissioning editor at GQ

money to a man in a pub for tickets to a film that he says he will make. However, Johann Gevers, founder and president of the Tezos Foundation, argues that investing through a token sale isn’t unique in its riskiness. “It’s exactly the same for traditional startups,” he says. “Google did not have a revenue model when it started. The first investor was one of their professors who said, ‘Look, here’s $100,000, who do I make the cheque out to?’ They said, ‘Sorry, we don’t even have a company yet.’ So he just made the cheque out to Google Inc, then they had to create an entity and open a bank account to deposit the cheque. This is just startups.” Still, in 2018, token sales should become less of a Wild West. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which regulates tradable financial assets in America, has become increasingly interested in ICOs. “What happens in the US is going to drive what happens to ICOs broadly,” says Brito. “I think that we are going to see enforcement actions against clear scams.” The need for token sales to comply with SEC rules, combined with investors’ desire for greater confidence, may lead to a new trend, says Brito. “In 2018, we’ll see the emergence of platforms for the ofering of new tokens that will better qualify the tokens before they’re allowed to be sold, and will help investors make better judgments about them.” Brito predicts that initially these platforms will only be open to accredited investors so, as the industry professionalises, we may perceive that the ICO bubble has burst. In fact, a slowdown would indicate that there are simply fewer scams. “As a new funding model,” he adds, “ICOs are here to stay.” FOLLOW WIRED ON I N S TA GR A M














The blockchain rave scene is growing in San Francisco, Moscow and Berlin







been encrypted. In its heyday, when news of illicit parties spread by word of mouth, you just needed to know the right people. But new technologies are adding another layer to this. Throughout the last year, rumours of a crypto-enabled rave revival have been rife on the dark net and in closely guarded members-only forums, with some referring to these gatherings more publicly as crypto-raves, trustless raves or the “decentralised autonomous rave scene”. This underground phenomenon has been driven by creative tech, in the form of the blockchain. Technologist and artist Mat Dryhurst has seen this first hand. “Like most good things, it emerged slowly and organically,” he says. “The first time I went to a crypto rave, I got a text message from a friend who was given a few invites, received my own unique keys to enter and was given an invite of my own to share.” The keys he’s referring to can take diferent forms: PGP-signed messages stored on public blockchains; or decentralised tokens distributed by DAOs (decentralised autonomous organisations), with each token representing a single ticket, in line with the recent explosion of ICOs and the tokenisation of everything that has come to the world of cryptocurrencies. “One needs a number of ‘block confirmations’ to have passed to ensure access,” explains Amnesia Scanner, a Berlin-based collective of designers and musicians who have been anonymously contracted to play at some of these decentralised autonomous raves. “Once you’re in, you’ll often be given access to a decentralised application that uses a hybrid of proof-of-stake and proof-of-work, that secures the scene,” they say. Instead of peer-to-peer, it’s friend-to-friend. The blockchain is secure and anonymous and, by using it, party organisers can keep their identity hidden and automate usual organisational overheads, while ensuring that the event is open only to people that they trust. “We know of gatherings broadcast on insecure networks such as Facebook being targeted by the police, or worse still, right-wing factions who are intent on doxing and harassing partygoers,” Dryhurst says. These events have undoubtedly been inspired by a growing worldwide interest in cryptography and digital privacy, but they have their roots in the concept of the “temporary autonomous zone”, a term that was coined in an influential 1991 book of the same title by anarchist

Rave culture moves on to the blockchain Crypto-parties planned on decentralised platforms are helping youth culture reclaim its illicit spark By Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Ben Vickers


– is artistic director at the Serpentine Galleries, London


– is chief technology officer at the Serpentine Galleries, London

and arch-hermetist Hakim Bey, and which would go on to influence events such as Burning Man. Because of their autonomous nature, there’s no single type of music or scene represented at these events, although so far it’s mostly been dance music such as techno and jungle. “The common element is an emphasis on privacy and community that I think augments whatever music is being presented,” Dryhurst says. The blockchain isn’t the only technology that is being experimented with at these events. Electronic duo Amnesia Scanner has witnessed AR and VR apps that employ hypnotic techniques to induce altered states that drug the user. The pair say that there are rumours about a German decentralised autonomous rave scene where participants ingest sleep medication and force themselves to stay awake. The scene is growing in places such as the San Francisco Bay Area, Moscow and Berlin, but its greatest potential could be outside big cities, at the periphery of electronic music culture. The technology in use here could also unlock possibilities in music and wider culture more generally. “The magic of blockchains and smart contracts for me is the ability to encode ideology into the things that you create,” says Dryhurst. “This could be groundbreaking for music as a medium. Rather than being limited to implying ideology through stylistic gestures and poetry, we are now able to execute ideology.” Establishing automated systems of trust through the blockchain could support an explosion in ad-hoc gatherings – not just raves, but theatre, live-action role-playing games, parties and protest movements, all equipped to evade oppression and stagnation. Disneyland’s biggest rival? Your lounge Tech-enabled micro parks will further augment the real world By William Welser


the future of entertainment will begin to ebb. The reason? Its technology is still years away from delivering products that meet the experiential expectations of most users. But entertainment won’t be standing still in 2018. We will see the arrival of micro amusement parks – where technology-based rides deliver the excitement offered by the likes of Disney World, but in a fraction of the physical space. Micro parks ofer experiences in smaller, more intimate spaces – think gaming with your friends. And unlike big amusement parks, their rides can be constantly updated. One such park will be opened in 2018 by the Los Angeles-based startup Two Bit Circus. This will be a 4,600-square-metre space ofering technology-based gameplay and activities that can be continually refreshed. Some even require physical exertion. At an early demonstration of what will be on offer, I rode in a digital horse race – which I narrowly lost – against five other guests. As I hopped off the adult-size rocking horse that had translated my motion to the horse on the screen in front of us, I had to get a well-deserved drink from the robot bartender on my way to one of the other digital escape rooms. We won’t need to go to an amusement park to play immersive games – we’ll be able to do it in the street. Apple’s promised iOS-native development platform for augmented reality (see Leander Kahney, Technology section), which can overlay digital efects on to the real world, will encourage entrepreneurs to develop the kind of products that young adults showed they


– is director of the engineering and applied sciences department at the RAND Corporation

wanted with the success of Pokémon GO. Apple’s development platform is just the starting point towards a world where playing a video game will involve grabbing your goggles and controller and turning your physical surroundings into the setting of your game. It will become commonplace to take a shot at aliens popping up from behind your sofa, dodge flocks of pterodactyls dive-bombing Trafalgar Square or racing virtual drivers down your local motorway. Players won’t need avatars because the game is built into the real world. The reason the entertainment space is being disrupted is the democratisation of technology through cheap and capable technologies, which are available to everyone. These decreasing barriers to entry will allow entrepreneurs, gamers and makers to compete with the large multinational firms that develop and deliver entertainment today. This will meet an increasing consumer demand for spontaneous, individualised entertainment experiences that change regularly. In 2018, the emergence of micro parks and AR will pave the way towards a new definition of amusement, one that is focused on smaller sites, easier access and a constantly changing range of options – with consumers, rather than celebrities, as the star.






1 2 1 The blockchain will disrupt the music business and beyond


wave of major disruption in media-content distribution. The immutability and “trustless” nature of the blockchain means that it can be used in instances where record-keeping and auditable data is key, including data about who owns what assets, such as music and movies. Once you have verified the validity of an asset entered into the “chain” in the first place, continuity is ensured from then on. Already, blockchain’s potential to disrupt content rights distribution is coming to fruition in the music business. Streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer require an additional layer of intermediaries to ensure that the artists’ rights management process is conducted properly. As a result, content creators need diferent contracts in each jurisdiction – often via multiple intermediaries – to protect their copyright and to enable distribution of their content. But putting content on a blockchain, and having the connectivity for peer-to-peer transactions – via a digital currency such as Bitcoin or a smart contract such as Ethereum – allows complete transparency and automation of execution, as well as direct payments to copyright holders. With these elements all in place, new startups such as Musicoin and Revelator propose using the blockchain to simplify digital-rights management by bypassing the usual intermediaries. This will enable micro-payments from fans buying music directly from the artists themselves. One of the early innovators in this area is Grammy-winning British singer and songwriter Imogen Heap, who in 2015 used the Ethereum blockchain-based Ujo platform to launch the song “Tiny Human” for $0.60 (45p) per download. Now she is working on her own blockchain-based ofering, Mycelia, a fair-trade music business that gives artists more control over how their songs and associated data circulate among fans and other musicians. Following the music industry, the blockchain may also have an impact on the news industry, by facilitating journalists’ rights management, allowing anonymous writers to post content and be paid for by readers, securing micro-

Content creators will protect copyright and receive direct payment for their work By Nicolas Harle and Kaj Burchardi


– is senior partner and managing director of the Boston Consulting Group


– is managing director of BCG Platinion

payments of advertising and eventually facilitating a pay-per-read model. Independent bloggers and startups such as Civil, a blockchain-based publishing platform, have started exploring this avenue. Initiatives such as these will disrupt the market for content intermediaries, lower the price to consumers and increase returns to the content creators themselves. While blockchain technology essentially ofers a new form of distribution, there are a couple of ways that it could quickly scale and become a major source of disruption across media and entertainment. It could expand in the coming months through organic growth, which would be dependent on a number of large content originators – artists such as Imogen Heap – opting to publish content through this type of venue to drive user acquisition, demand and profit. This could occur if several major artists decide to quit their current deals with major labels and to shift to a blockchain-based solution. Alternatively, the blockchain revolution might be led by either streaming players or digital retailers themselves. If companies such as Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, Amazon or Alibaba choose to transition their content distribution platforms to private blockchain platforms, it would blow open the use of the blockchain to a broad set of content generators and users, and in the process cut a wide swathe through the complex intermediation process. It might initially occur as just an alternative payment, but it can quickly enable a total realignment in the world of managing artists’ rights.






ME DI A The year of truly personalised reading A new wave of decentralised networks will enable smarter recommendations By Natalia Kucirkova


readers, suggesting titles or articles based on individuals’ reading history. They are attractive for a time-poor, information-rich society, but their simplistic application has led to unintended consequences: personalised newspapers have turned into echo chambers; recommendations have become little more than commercialised traps; and filtered reading can lead to superficial reading habits. This is something we can change in 2018. One problem is the simplistic logic of the algorithms used to make recommendations. If the news or book titles match the preferences specified by the reader, they are considered personalised and of higher value. However, there are many purposes for which we read: to be informed; to communicate with others; to imagine an alternative world. We need diferent approaches for diferent reading purposes, and algorithms that not only blend users’ data but also providers’ data, raising the question: who is distributing online content, and why? In 2017, there has been an increase of politically charged technology, savvy startups such as DECODE and open-source networks such as The Things Network, where users can represent and share their data. Proponents of these decentralised systems argue that, currently, corporations and governments have access to unprecedented amounts of aggregated data that give them knowledge and the ability to act. Instead, decentralised datamanagement systems are designed as blockchain networks that can be accessed and managed by anyone and everyone. Among them is The Hub of All Things (HAT), a set of data-management tools that ofer a


– is a senior research associate at UCL Institute of Education

less quixotic solution to the socioeconomic inequalities of data monopolisation. Devised by academics and backed up by legislation – notably the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into efect in May 2018, and the EU’s updated ePrivacy directive – HAT’s personal-data accounts are able to store sophisticated information and hand the personalisation capability back to readers. When combined with personalised adaptive reading, they will be able to deliver new reading-recommendation systems. These new systems will consider the proportions, sequences and combinations of content relevant for individual profiles stored in a HAT personal data account. For example, a six-year-old girl’s book recommendations will be based on her age, gender and literacy scores, as well as the more standard options such as past reading history and language. In learning-theory terms, the 2018 reading algorithms will move from hierarchical individual models (think of a typical classroom setting) to distributed individual models such as Massive Open Online Courses. These models will be controlled by individuals, not governments or private corporations. However, unless they can offer a lot of highly specialised content, they will have a high attrition rate. This is because distributed individual models work best for self-motivated, confident and capable individuals. Those who struggle to use the internet will struggle to personalise it. We will therefore need distributed collective models of reading algorithms. In these models, readers will feed of each other’s knowledge and support each other to deal with fully editable recommendations based on their online and oline reading history.

GROENING MOVES TO NETFLIX – Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons and Futurama, will release a new show on Netflix. Disenchantment is an animated medieval fantasy focused on a hard-drinking princess and her companions, a feisty elf and a demon.







AI will prove a powerful creative tool Algorithms will perfect photos, make surreal images and design clothes By David Hambling IN 2018, A NEW KIND OF AI WILL SHOW OFF ITS

ability to produce artworks that can not only imitate old masters but which can take of in startling new creative directions. Generative adversarial networks (GANs) bring a new level of sophistication to graphics. Not only can they produce totally convincing artificial images on demand (“Donald Trump on a skateboard being chased by a polar bear”), they can tweak existing images in subtle ways (“make it look like the Sun is shining”). A GAN involves two separate neural networks, a generator and a discriminator. The generator produces images and the discriminator rates them. For example, the generator might be fed a large database of images of dogs and attempt to produce its own imitation dog picture. The discriminator then tries to tell the diference between the fake dog and real ones, and feeds back to the generator. The generator rapidly gets better at producing dogs, and the discriminator becomes better at spotting fakes. GANs have exploded since Ian Goodfellow from Google Brain published a paper on them in 2014, though the basic idea is much older. The results can be impressive. A team that included art historian Marian Mazzone and members of Facebook’s AI lab in California used a GAN working with a database of 80,000 paintings to produce pictures in the style of great artists. An Amazon team based in San Francisco is developing a GAN fashion designer. This learns about a particular style from images, then generates more clothes in the same style. US and Japanese researchers have used a system called DRAGAN to generate unique, high-quality animé characters based on a given set of characteristics. Others use GANs to generate computergame scenery and clean up blurry video. InfoGAN, developed by Peter Chen at UC Berkeley, has the ability to manipulate images of faces. It can change the pose, lighting or camera angle while keeping the face the same. It shows InfoGAN has worked out for itself the features that make up the face, and how to change the image while keeping these intact. All of these applications use GAN’s power not just to process images but understand their content. By grasping the essential “Trumpiness” of Donald Trump, a GAN could turn out

INFINITE CONTENT – There will be a huge increase in original content. Netflix plans to spend $7 billion on programming in 2018, and wants half of its library to be self-produced. Facebook and Apple are also reportedly prepared to spend $1 billion each. Amit Katwala

convincing images of the president in situations that never occurred. Perhaps the most advanced GAN is DABUS (Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience) developed by Stephen Thaler, CEO of Imagination Engines. Thaler has been working on this approach for more than two decades, and believes that DABUS’ architecture represents the best prospect for an AI able to approach genius levels of creativity. DABUS does not just tweak the style of a picture, but creates a whole new composition out of elements it finds aesthetically pleasing. One image started with a classic car, which was morphed into a shark. Then the car/shark was depicted devouring a victim. DABUS entitled it “Road Shark Kill”. It does not just shule pixels, but manipulates ideas. However, Thaler says such artworks are just an appetiser. “The art is an introduction to the system,” he explains. “Like Einstein entertaining us with his violin before telling us about relativity.” DABUS can produce innovative concepts in fields as diverse as corporate strategy, economic prediction and scientific theorising. Thaler won’t reveal specific details or who he’s working with, but he does say that DABUS has been working on stock-market prediction. “Some important players would like to use the DABUS system for predicting the future on an unprecedented scale,” is all Thaler will say. We can expect to see GANs producing surreal artworks, perfectly retouched photographs and cool clothes in 2018. And these may be the least of their achievements.


– is a freelance technology journalist

MUMMY, WHAT’S A STEERING WHEEL? Who’d have thought that driverless cars would become commonplace within the next decade? Thanks to our partnership with autonomy software specialist Oxbotica, we’re not just investigating the future of risk. We’re also asking the right questions and investing in the future of mobility. For more Forward Thinking, visit

XL Catlin, the XL Catlin logo and Make Your World Go are trademarks of XL Group Ltd companies. XL Catlin is the global brand used by XL Group Ltd’s (re)insurance subsidiaries.





from household accounts to lovingly kept records of our baby’s height and weight. But when data like this is stored centrally it can be used to benefit lots of other people, too. This is the basis, for example, of the enormous business that has grown out of mining aggregate information for use by advertisers. Customers enjoy free services such as social media, webmail and photo storage and the providers get unlimited access to customer data, allowing them to earn money from recommendations and targeted adverts, and conduct market research based on users’ interests. But this sharing of data comes at the cost of privacy. And it has been hard to find a balance between anonymising data so that it protects individuals’ confidentiality and maintaining its usefulness. We know from experience that anonymising data by simply removing identifiers such as names and dates of birth (so-called primary keys) and replacing them with pseudo-anonymous random numbers doesn’t work. There are too many diverse holders of records to prevent re-identification, by joining data from various sources and inferring who the subject is. Adding noise to the data can help, but it can reduce its usefulness. In 2018, we will see the emergence of several solutions to this conundrum. Firstly, we will find a way to identify the balance between what we want to achieve in terms of privacy and what’s useful to those mining the data. This is the idea behind Microsoft’s proposal for “diferential privacy”, which involves putting an “envelope” around data, and only allowing access to what is revealed by inputting specific search queries. You could, for example, find out how many people in a dataset live in a certain postcode, but without getting access to the identities of the individuals who do so. Diferential privacy works by filtering data, fuzzing certain features of it, or analysing and blocking intrusive queries. And given that most market-research-style analytics are concerned with identifying groups in the data, this may not impact on its usefulness at all. It doesn’t, however, solve the problem of how to target advertising to individuals, nor does it remove the risk of re-identification.

We will make anonymised data more useful New regulatory laws mean our information will be shared while maintaining privacy By Jon Crowcroft


– is the Marconi professor of communications systems at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory

One promising technique is homomorphic encryption. This involves a lot of computation, but allows an outsider to ask an encrypted question, on encrypted data, producing an encrypted result, which gives them the data they need and nothing more. The maths behind this is sound, but, to date, practical software to achieve it is still thousands or even millions of times slower than the plain-text approach. More encouraging is the idea to protect data by just leaving it where it is. Instead of moving it to a single place where it might be leaked, this “edge cloud” approach leaves data in people’s devices and distributes the programmes that do the analytics (see Irene Ng, Government). This moves the results to businesses that wish to use them, but without ever moving the raw personal data. And, since there would be no central data or cloud storage, there’s no need for the provider to cover its cost. Change will come not from technology, but the law. The General Data Protection Regulation, being introduced in May 2018, will make “intentionally or recklessly reidentifying individuals from anonymised or pseudonymised data” an ofence. Those who knowingly handle or process such data will also be committing a crime. By creating a business relationship between each individual and the company that uses their data, the incentives for privacy will be aligned. Companies will have even more reason to safeguard it.

In 2018, we will see several solutions to the data conundrum THE DISCUSSION ABOUT THE INTERNET AND

privacy has been simmering for more than 20 years. In the 90s, when the web was still a frontier domain inhabited by a few million people and a few thousand websites, the debate was esoteric and theoretical. Leading technology companies recognised the issues around protecting individuals’ privacy, but for at least a decade afterwards were more prone to say, “Get over it,” or “Don’t worry, we’re not evil,” or have debates with government agencies and charities in quiet meeting rooms outside of the public arena. In the past ten years, however, billions of new people, websites, apps and devices have been connected to the internet. This number is expected to be around 50 times bigger by 2028. It’s not hard to foresee that, within our lifetime, nearly every one of us will be connected to the internet – all day, every day. This has given enormous presence in our lives to companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. All four subscribe to what Google calls a “toothbrush test” for its products: something you do at least once or twice a day, and which improves your life. This strategy has been incredibly successful. These four companies account for nearly $2 trillion (£1.5tn) of value between them and hold well over $500 billion in cash on their balance sheets. This gives them a collective GDP around the level of Sweden and $100 billion more than Nigeria. In 2018, we will start getting to grips with this power and see much clearer lines being drawn in the discussions between citizens, governments and businesses over personal data, privacy and security. There is a lot at

Data will split the Big Four Privacy laws will begin to hit some internet giants harder than others By Saul Klein


– is a partner at LocalGlobe, a London-based venturecapital firm

stake and, given the potential application of big data and machine learning in preventing cyberattacks and cyberterrorism, we will see the stakes increase in the discussion between who owns the data and when it’s OK to share it. Apple’s run-in with the FBI in 2016 was a warm-up for this. Exactly where the four online giants decide to draw the line may ultimately depend on how much they rely on access to data to fund their businesses. All four have developed profound expertise in networks, software, security and AI that both serve and surveil individuals. In the arguments about how much companies should retain control and full access to their customers’ data, we will start to see more of a split between Google and Facebook on one side and Amazon and Apple on the other. Apple and Amazon – as well as governments – have little economic reliance on our personal information compared to Google and Facebook. Not even one per cent of Apple’s income comes from advertising. For Google and Facebook, however, gathering and using as much customer data as possible is core to their business model. In 2018, we will see new pressures for companies to change the way they collect and use their customers’ data – and that pressure will come from governments. Companies such as Google and Facebook may have to agree to regulation that could hurt their business models. Apple and Amazon will be in a stronger position to resist.



PA G E Malicious AI will get to know us better in order to trick us better As cyberattacks become more refined, they will start mimicking our online traits By Mike Lynch


autonomous weaponised artificial intelligence that delivers its blows slowly, stealthily and virtually without trace. And 2018 will be the year of the machine-on-machine attack. There is much debate about the possible future of autonomous AI on the battlefield. Once released, these systems are not controlled. They do not wait for orders from base. They learn and make their own decisions often while deep inside enemy territory. And they learn quickly from their environments. However, autonomous AIs are already starting to be deployed on another type of battlefield: digital networks. Today cyberattackers are using AI technologies that help them not only infiltrate an IT infrastructure, but to stay on that network for months, perhaps years, without getting noticed. In 2018, we can expect these algorithmic presences to use their intelligence to learn about their environments and blend in with the daily commotion of network activity. The drivers of these automated attacks may have a defined target – the blueprint designs of a new type of jet engine, say – or persist opportunistically, where the chance for money– or mischief-making avails itself. As they sustain their presence, they grow stronger in their inside knowledge of the network and its users and they build up control over data and entire systems.


– is co-founder of Autonomy Corporation and founder of Invoke Capital

Like the HIV virus, which is so pernicious because it uses the body’s own defences to re p l i c a te i t s e l f, t h e s e n e w m a c h i n e intelligences will target the very defences deployed against it. They will learn how the firewall works, the analytics models used to detect attacks and times of day that the security team is in the oice. They will then adapt to avoid and weaken them. All the while, it will use its strength to spread, creating new inroads for compromise and contaminating new devices with brutal efficiency. AI will also attack us by impersonating people. We already have AI assistants that do our scheduling, email on our behalf and ask us what we’d like to order for lunch. But what happens if your AI assistant gets taken over by a malicious attacker? Or, indeed, what happens when weaponised AI is refined enough to convincingly impersonate a real person who you trust? A stealthy, long-term AI presence on your network will have ample time to learn what your writing style is and how this differs depending on who you email, your contact base and the distinctions in professional and personal relationships based on the language you use and key themes in your conversations. For example, you email your partner five times a day, particularly in the morning and afternoon. They sign their emails “X”. Your football team emails weekly with details for Saturday’s five-a-side games. They sign their emails “Be there!”. All of this is fodder for AI. As to what we should do about these malicious AIs: they will be too fast, too clever and too stealthy to combat other than with other AIs. This is one arena we will have to give up control, not take it back.

THE GREAT FIREWALL – China will clamp down on VPN software used by millions to evade the government’s censorship of the internet. The country’s three biggest telecom companies – all state-owned – have been ordered to block access to VPNs by February 2018.


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S ECU RI T Y Hacking machines will gain competitive advantage over human rivals Once AI learns how to beat its creators, it will be key not only in cyberdefence but also in attack By Keren Elazari


travelled to Las Vegas with their human creators. They were there to compete in a global-hacking event: the DARPA-sponsored Cyber Grand Challenge designed for machines that can hack other machines. The winner would take home $2 million (£1.5m). The battle was waged over dozens of rounds, with each machine striving to find the most software vulnerabilities, exploit them and patch them before the other machines could use the same tactics to take it out of the game. Each machine was a cluster of processing power, software-analysis algorithms and exploitation tools purposely created by the human teams. This was the ultimate (and, so far, the only) all-machine hacking competition. The winner, code-named Mayhem, now sits in the Smithsonian National Museum of American history in Washington DC, as the first “non-human entity” to win the coveted DEFCON black badge – one of the highest honours known to hackers. Mayhem’s next tournament, also in August 2017, was against teams of human hackers – and it didn’t win. Although it could keep hacking for 24 hours like its Red Bull-fuelled human counterparts, it lacked that surge of energy and motivation that competing humans feel when, for example, a rival team fails to spot a software flaw. A machine can’t think outside of the box and it doesn’t yet


– is a researcher at Tel Aviv University Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Centre

possess the spark of creativity, intuition and audacity that allowed human hackers to win. This will change in 2018. Advances in computing power and in theoretical and practical concepts in AI research, as well as breakthroughs in cybersecurity, promise that machine-learning algorithms and techniques will be a key part of cyberdefence – and possibly even attack. Human hackers whose machines competed in 2016 and 2017 are now evolving their technology, working in tandem with machines to win other hacking competitions and take on new challenges. (A notable example is Team Shellphish and its open-source exploit-automation tool “angr”). From a defensive point of view, cybersecurity professionals already use a great deal of automation and machine-powered analysis. Yet the ofensive use of automated capabilities is also on the rise. The majority of informationsecurity professionals (62 per cent) surveyed by Cylance at Black Hat USA 2017 think that hackers will weaponise AI, and begin using it ofensively in 2018. And at DEFCON in 2017, a data scientist from Endgame (a US endpointsecurity vendor) demonstrated and released a malware manipulation environment for Elon The next Daesh: coming to a news feed near you in 2018 Terrorist groups will recruit by using psychographic targeting By Cameron Colquhoun


Musk’s popular OpenAI Gym, the open-source toolkit for learning algorithms. Endgame created an automated tool that learns how to mask a malicious file from anti-virus engines, by changing just a few bytes of its code in a way that maintains malicious capacity. This allows it to evade common security measures, which typically rely on file signatures – much like a fingerprint – to detect a malicious file. With several new such tools in development, and competitions fuelling innovation, it is not hard to imagine that the next few steps in this evolutionary ladder can create an autonomous system that will adapt, learn new environments and immediately identify flaws and bugs, which it can exploit. This will be a true game changer.

I, ROBOCOP – The Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, in February 2018 will be protected by robots, from small surveillance machines to humansized anti-terror bots. Intel, meanwhile, will provide drones and VR tech to the Games until 2024.


– is a former cyber and terrorism expert for British intelligence and the founder of Neon Century Intelligence

mountains and with Special Forces crawling in the foothills beyond, the town of Miran Shah was possibly the most watched place on Earth in the 00s. It was one of the few towns in Pakistan’s mountainous frontier province that had internet access, and was therefore a vital artery for al-Qaeda. Couriers would risk their lives attempting to upload grainy propaganda videos and download messages from al-Qaeda’s global network of operatives. Those al-Qaeda couriers would envy the ease with which their Daesh counterparts can communicate today. Even in war-torn Syria, there are dozens of ways to get online. A decade ago, it would take al-Qaeda weeks or months to release a video, whereas a recent study by Quilliam, the counter-extremism think-tank, found that Daesh publishes around 35 unique pieces of content per day (dwarfing the output of many consumer brands). As Daesh emerged out of the remnants of al-Qaeda’s Iraq branch, dozens of digitally native recruits filled its ranks, producing professional-looking, polished videos. Its media professionals are part of a privileged professional class, with salaries roughly seven times that of the average Daesh fighter. Syria has become the world’s leading incubator for 21st-century propaganda. Like all brands, Daesh’s propaganda and narrative is now beginning to feel dated.



S ECU RI T Y And it will inevitably be disrupted by a third global terrorist group. Let’s call it 3.0. To understand how 3.0 may evolve, we need to explore the emerging technologies. Just as Daesh ruthlessly exploited Twitter, t h i s n ex t g ro u p w i l l i n e v i ta b l y ta k e propaganda to the next level by jumping on innovations in the digital space. Among these is psychographic targeting, a form of bespoke advertising designed to appeal to an individual’s personal psychology and seen by many as the most powerful development in politics for decades. Psychographic targeting was used by US- and UK-based data-mining company Cambridge Analytica in support of the Trump presidential campaign in the US and the Leave side in the UK’s EU referendum, both in 2016. Millions of potential voters received personalised adverts designed to trigger emotive responses and push up turnouts. Within a few years, these capabilities will be available to the average user, as dozens of companies enter the psychographic targeting game. A new global terrorist group will inevitably harness this technology in a bid to capture the hearts and minds of millions of potential sympathisers. Supercharged by artificial intelligence, new platforms will allow the speedy creation of bespoke, personalised adverts and messages. Simply upload your key messages and the platforms will create content uniquely tailored to each individual. The potential power of psychographic targeting for terrorist groups is significant. The inevitable (and ironic) consequence of these developments is clear: power and influence will belong to world-class storytellers. Both al-Qaeda and Daesh excel at storytelling – communicating a narrative that inspires thousands around the world. By using artificial intelligence, psychographic data and billions of online posts, those who can lucidly package all of this data into a rich and compelling narrative will amass global political influence and power far greater than Daesh’s current reach. The good news is that we are already starting to fight back. In the US, there is a small but growing community of researchers who

TURING TESTS – Bletchley Park, where Alan Turing and others cracked the Enigma code during the second world war, will become the home of the National College of Cyber Security in 2018. Talented 16- to 19-year-olds will be trained to protect the UK from digital threats. Amit Katwala

understand the threat of hyper-charged psychological warfare. These people have lobbied the US government for more resources for what is known as “cognitive security”, highlighting that “in the future, researchers, governments, social platforms and private actors will be engaged in a continual arms race to influence – and protect from influence – large groups of users online”. Today, drones are circling over another town: the Syrian city of Raqqa now finds itself at the centre of a global manhunt. In 2018, many of Daesh’s leaders will be killed or captured. From Tehran to Moscow and Washington DC, the victors will proclaim that evil has been defeated and peace has prevailed. But the reality is that many of Daesh’s youngest and most talented propagandists have already left the war zone. In today’s world, however, they are far more dangerous of the battlefield than on it. ISN’T IT TIME WE LISTENED TO THE FISH? Who’d have thought the key to understanding climate change would be the migration patterns of fish? Our ocean science research is dedicated to exploring the impacts and risks posed by the changing oceans. If we ask the right questions, we can all be prepared for what might happen next. For more Forward Thinking, visit

Announcing the inaugural Ocean Risk Summit. A chance for leaders from across the political, economic, environmental and risk sectors to identify their potential exposure to the impacts from ocean change. The summit will consider the consequences and generate new solutions to build resilience and address the risks.

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