NESTA is an independent charity that works to increase the innovation capacity of the UK. It acts through a combination of practical programmes, investment, policy research and the formation of partnerships to promote innovation across a broad range of sectors. As such it has a really good insight into what organisations and companies are researching and investing in for the future and is certainly an organisation the BIC is closely linked to.
There are 10 NESTA predictions for 2017, I previously looked at the first six Predictions which can be seen on our website and now look at the final four predictions which I hope you find of interest.
A New Artistic Approach to Virtual Reality
As artists blur the boundaries between real and virtual, the way we create and consume art will be transformed in 2017. AR and VR are also being embraced beyond the gaming industry, as museum curators and artists start to explore the potential these technologies have to help them better engage with their audiences and art creation will become more collaborative and playful .
The technologies behind virtual art will also have an impact on the artists themselves as they will need certain skills to reproduce them beyond their artistic skills. Questions will also arise – can a virtual painting or sculpture be stolen, hijacked or pirated? Who will own the art? The artist or the technology provider who enabled the realisation of the work in the first place?
Hopefully it won’t destroy traditional visual arts – after all, photography didn’t wipe out painting as an art form. Quite the opposite, it will blur the boundaries between real and virtual and provide new avenues for artistic expression until the next radical art-enabling technologies emerge.
Computer Says No: The Backlash
In 2017, public disquiet about the decisions that algorithms make, the way they affect us, and the lack of debate around their introduction, will become mainstream. An algorithm is a step-by-step sequence of rules that sets out how to make a decision about something – computer programs are nothing but complex algorithms that tell computer hardware how to make decisions. Algorithms have replaced human decisions in huge swathes of life. While removing human biases can make decision making fairer in some cases, it is not necessarily always the case.
In the coming year, the backlash against algorithmic decisions will begin in earnest. The trigger could take many forms. It could be a politician forced to resign over fake news pushed by a news algorithm. It might be a murder committed by a violent thug released on bail thanks to court software. It might be an employer successfully sued over a discriminatory recruitment system or a pedestrian killed by a self-driving car that’s protecting its passenger.
But it is algorithmic decision making as a whole that will be in the firing line when the controversy comes to life.
When this happens expect business to start advertising algorithm-free services, ranging from mortgages approved by real bank managers, to a resurgence of news websites with humans curating the content. Just as customers are willing to pay more for food without genetically modified crops or pesticides, people will place a premium on decisions made by humans if they don’t trust the machines.
Next Generation Social Movement for Health
We have already heard of incredible stories of the power of passionate people working together to drive change, not just in the healthcare system, but in the wider culture and environment in which health and healthcare happen. They use social media, protests, campaigns, self-organising, sharing knowledge and other means to change minds and systems. For example, the disability rights movement and HIV/AIDS campaigns have engaged with social attitudes, stigma and justice.
In the future they will be increasingly enabled by digital technology, with movement leaders and members communicating, collaborating and co-ordinating across nations and continents without ever meeting in person bringing the world closer to people’s experiences. However there are real difficulties for established health and care organisations to work alongside people who are ‘raging and roaring’. The challenge therefore is how social movements and the health and care system can engage together in ways that forge new paths and develop ‘win-win’ solutions, rather than fighting each other.
How Brexit turned the UK German
When Britain voted to leave the European Union, few people expected it would result in the UK becoming more like Germany, the country that runs the European show. But that’s what has ended up happening. Brexit inspired the government to invest £23 billion in infrastructure, skills and research just like in America, Israel, Finland and, of course, Germany.
It is now expected that there will be a rise in urban devolution driven by Scotland, Wales and certain major cities such as Manchester already pushing for a Northern Powerhouse. As a result public investment will increase across the country, and places outside the South East will see the benefit. Some would call it the growing Bundesrepublik of GB.
Followed on by the increasingly illiberal United States under Donald Trump and from France under Marine Le Pen, Britain and Germany, having seemed on a collision course at the end of 2016, will find increasing common ground, striking accords on joint defence, trade and diplomacy.
Brexit seems to ironically have brought Britain closer to Germany, economically, politically and constitutionally. Will Britain end up the better for it?