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Technology is changing society. Digitization is challenging the way we live. These changes create conveniences and ways of problem-solving that were never possible before. Along with the positives, there are also challenges that need to be overcome.

Here are three trends that are taking us to a phase of civilization that’s quite different than anything that’s come before.

1.   Increasingly capable systems

We already live in a world where non-human systems can do things that previously only humans could do. In some cases, these non-human systems can do tasks even better than we can. Artificial intelligence can now mimic human speech, translate languages, diagnose cancers, draft legal documents and play games (and even beat human competitors). We’re already in a society where systems can accomplish tasks we didn’t believe would be possible in our time. The capabilities of non-human systems will continue to expand.

2.   Systems become more ubiquitous

Systems are becoming more capable and more integrated into the world around us. It used to be very easy to distinguish between technology and non-technology. Today and increasingly in the future, technology will be dispersed in the world around us in objects and artifacts that we never previously thought of as technology such as smart homes with smart appliances and in public spaces in smart cities dense with sensors.

3.   Increasingly quantified society

We generate more data now every couple of hours than we did from the dawn of time to 2003. What that means is that when that data is caught, captured, and sorted those who own it and control it have an insight into our lived experience beyond anything that anyone in the past could ever have dreamed of into what we think, what we care about, how we feel, where we go, what we buy, who we speak to, what we say, what we do on any given day, who we associate with. We leave a trail of these things that offers a window into our soul both individually and collectively that dwarf anything that the philosophers or the kings or the priests of the past could have dreamed of.

These three trends are accelerating, and it seems highly unlikely that we as humans are going to be unchanged in the way we live together as a result of them. We’ve never had to live alongside such powerful non-human systems. We’ve never known what it’s like to be surrounded by technology that’s never switched off. We’ve never been in a world where our lives are identified to such as extent.

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