Silicon Valley Club Names Top 10 Most Important Trends of 2018

Some of the trends include: "New Space Stack Will Enable Extraterrestrial Commerce"; "Voice First Will Open Up Internet to the World"; and "China Accelerates Past the U.S. in Key Technology Areas."

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Have any idea what the top IT trends are for the next three to five years? The Churchill Club, one of Silicon Valley’s longest-running and most successful business/social organizations, does.

The well-respected club, which consists of many IT and venture capital executives and entrepreneurs, revealed its annual Top 10 Tech Trends list May 22 at a dinner in Burlingame, Calif.

Panel members debating the trend list at the event included David Cowan, Bessemer Venture Partners; Sarah Guo, Greylock Partners; Nicole Quinn, Lightspeed Venture Partners; Tomasz Tunguz, Redpoint Ventures; and Mike Vernal, Partner, Sequoia Capital. Masters of ceremonies were Forbes Media CEO Mike Federle and Publisher Rich Karlgaard, co-founder of the club.

Here are the top 10 IT trends for 2018, according to the 2018 pundits:

Trend 1: The New Space Stack Will Enable Extraterrestrial Commerce. After holding back Moore’s Law for 50 years, the space industry is being turned upside down by a new ecosystem of startups developing microsat constellations that replace mainframe-like systems at 1 percent of the cost, with planetary coverage and higher resilience. Companies in tourism, mining, communications, manufacturing, agriculture, energy, defense, media and more will buy the tech and services they need off-the-shelf to operate extraterrestrial fleets.

Trend 2: Move Fast and Change Everything. From self-driving trucks to electric scooters, every segment of the multi-trillion-dollar transportation industry is being invented or reinvented, and the unexpected impact on our infrastructure and our lives will be massive.

Trend 3: Voice First Will Open Up Internet to the World. We are trying to bring the world online. However, 25 percent of the adult population are illiterate so the way to bring them online will be voice first.

Trend 4: The Hunt for Authenticity. Deep learning enables computers to synthesize voice indistinguishable from humans and generate photographs that look real. Plus computers enable disinformation at greater scale than ever (election, net neutrality debate). Determining authenticity will be an important growth area.

Trend 5: China Accelerates Past the U.S. in Key Technology Areas. If you want to have an MRI read today, you might want to fly to China. Deep learning can help radiologists better diagnose cancers, but it'll be years before that technology is widespread in the US. It's already deployed and scaling in China. The strong alignment between the Chinese government and technology ecosystem, combined with a national focus on key technologies like AI and autonomous vehicles, means that China will become the global leader in these core technologies.

Trend 6: High-Density AI Promises Conversational Bots Smart Enough to Disrupt Mobile Commerce. High-density AI will break up NLP into narrow domains that neural networks can master, enabling a generation of conversational bots who can reliably satisfy consumer needs without human intervention. With intuitiveness and immediacy, these bots will displace mobile apps as the dominant UI for computing, disrupting the entire consumer internet economy.

Trend 7: The All-Seeing Eye. Cheap and smart cameras with computer vision algorithms are blanketing the world. New smart camera apps, from your face unlocking your phone to Amazon Go stores, will delight consumers. But this tracking of our every move will also remake expectations and regulation around surveillance.

Trend 8: People Will No Longer Distinguish Between Online and Offline Worlds. We’ve seen eCommerce and retail come together into omnichannel and experiential retail. We’ll see the same for social, dating, media, fitness and everything else.

Trend 9: Decentralization of Data. Today, all of our data is centralized in clouds controlled by a handful of data oligarchs. In the future, users will exert more control over their personal data and use a technology like the blockchain to do it.

Trend 10: Robotics Goes Mainstream Because of the AV Gold Rush. Thousands of engineers and billions of dollars are being poured into the race for an autonomous passenger vehicle. That investment will: (a) massively drive down the price of key sensors and actuators, (b) 100x the pool of engineers trained in perception and planning, and (c) inspire tons of entrepreneurs in adjacent industries (trucking, construction, warehouse management, etc.). We will see a surge in autonomous robots replacing dangerous or laborious jobs across industries.

Churchill Club History

The first meeting of the Churchill Club was held Nov. 12, 1985, featuring keynote speaker Robert Noyce, inventor of the integrated circuit and founder of Fairchild and Intel. More than 275 attended that first program.

The club was founded by Karlgaard, now publisher of Forbes magazine, and Tony Perkins, now Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Red Herring Communications. During the past three decades, the Churchill Club has hosted industry and government leaders and luminaries.

Past speakers include founders and executives of major companies such as IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, Netflix founder & CEO Reed Hastings, SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk; prominent investors such as Vinod Khosla, Peter Thiel, Marc Andreessen, and Ron Conway; and government and other leaders such as former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, filmmaker James Cameron and Hollywood talent über-agent Ari Emanuel.

For more information on the Silicon Valley-based club, go here.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...