Bloodthirsty vegan food, the end of the web & 8 other crazy tech predictions for 2017

By Oliver Smith 14 December 2016

Nesta puts its stake in the ground looking ahead to what might happen next year.

‘Tis the season to make outlandish 2017 predictions – indeed we’ll be publishing The Memo’s own on Friday – and innovation charity Nesta certainly has a spread of its own.

Get ready for plant butchery, VR art and a more… Germanic Britain, but first, why make such predictions?

“The world is full of surprises, and 2016 defied many expectations. But the rise of populist politics shouldn’t have surprised anyone, any more than the escalating debate about automation and jobs. All the signs were there to be seen,” explains Geoff Mulgan, CEO of Nesta.

“That’s why we at Nesta encourage prediction each year, partly to better understand what may happen, but more importantly to focus on what possibilities should be encouraged rather than discouraged.”

Without further ado, here are Nesta’s 10 predictions for 2017:

1. The end of the World Wide Web. To combat the rise of cybercrime and cyberterrorism, “in 2017 countries and regions will increasingly create their own decentralised versions of the internet.”

That might sound shocking to anyone used to being able to find literally anything, just by tapping a few words into Google, but the end of the web has already started.

North Korea, China and Iran are just some of the countries who have censored part or all (in the case of North Korea) of the internet.

Indeed in 2016 global internet freedoms have already fallen to an all time low, Nesta expect this will only continue.

An Impossible Foods burger. Pic: Impossible Foods.
An Impossible Foods burger. Pic: Impossible Foods.

2. Veganism gets bloodthirsty. There’s a new wave of ‘plant butchers’ who are “using vegetables to create steaks, salamis and even ribs that feel, taste and even bleed like actual meat.”

Indeed we took a look at Nishi earlier this year, a vegetarian restaurant that is selling veggie burgers that bleed.

Nesta think these healthy, sustainable, delicious foods will be a big deal next year.

3. Charity begins at home, literally. Volunteer your time, money, and even data from your sofa with new apps and services designed to let you give while fitting in with our busy lives, tight budgets and long working hours.

This sounds like an extension of what food apps like Unsung and Olio are starting to do.

4. Brexit transforms the UK…into Germany. One of Nesta’s more… unusual predictions for 2017, and not quite a technology-related one, but we’ll roll with it.

The thinking here is that Germany has always been the linchpin of the European Union, but now with Britain leaving along with the promise of more money for research and greater regional prosperity, might this role be reversed?

We’ll have to wait and see on that one.

5. The retraining revolution. Here’s one we can really get behind. With the looming rise of automated jobs, along with the economy shifting to jobs centred around digital skills, something needs to be done.

“More resources will need to be focused on retraining and reskilling the human workforce.”

It’s a huge task, and one that’s being solved too slowly by the traditional generational process of educating the young.

We need to retrain millions of adults, but no one quite knows how yet.

VR Art: Virtual reality artists.
VR Art: Virtual reality artists.

6. V-Art. Virtual reality is already being heartily embraced in the world of art, next year Nesta predicts this trend will only accelerate.

“The next year will see the barrier between the virtual and visual will become increasingly blurred giving us new sensory ways to experience art.”

7. People take control of their data. Your data is incredibly valuable, but people still seem happy to idly give it away for free. That might be about to change.

Whether it’s Uber spying on Beyoncé, or banks like Tesco failing to protect our data (and money), a wave of anger is growing over these groups that store, use and often abuse this data.

“In 2017 new technology will allow ordinary people to choose when to release their information, empowering them to bypass digital middlemen like Uber and Airbnb.”

8. Teamwork on the curriculum. Speaking of education and related to the retraining revolution, Nesta predicts that school curriculums around the world will begin shifting next year towards “how students can work together in the creative and social ways most jobs demand”.

This kind of ‘collaborative problem solving’ is all about preparing kids for the actual jobs they’ll end up doing in the real world, rather than say… preparing them to sit exams.

9. Computer Says No – the backlash. No one understands algorithms, but we’re beginning to realise that they don’t always have our best interests at heart.

Whether it’s Facebook choosing the news you see (or don’t see), LinkedIn selecting the job ads you get served, or even tech glitches sending people to jail.

“While they were designed to make things simpler and fairer, there have been issues,” says Nesta.

“Scepticism about digital decision making will gather pace in 2017.”

10. Patients stand up for their healthcare. Technology is letting people take more care over their healthcare. It’s a trend that probably started the very first time someone simply Googled their symptoms, but today it’s gone much further.

From ordering your own DNA and blood tests, to using AI to diagnose patients. As the NHS finds its budget slashed and consumer medical technology continues to improve “the NHS will become increasingly open to people taking control of their own treatment.”

Come back on Friday when The Memo will be publishing our own predictions for 2017.