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  • Ekow Duker

The Perils of Predictions

“Quicker and quicker she danced, till she lashed herself into such a frenzy of excitement that the foam flew in specks from her gnashing jaws, till her eyes seemed to start from her head, and her flesh to quiver visibly. Suddenly she stopped dead and stiffened all over, like a pointer dog when he scents game, and then with outstretched wand she began to creep stealthily towards the soldiers before her. It seemed to us that as she came their stoicism gave way, and that they shrank from her. As for ourselves, we followed her movements with a horrible fascination.”

The extract is from King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard and was the first English adventure novel set in Africa. It was first published in 1885 to great acclaim and continues to captivate small boys and certain data scientists to this day. The woman in the extract is an isanusi, or a diviner - we don’t like the word witch-doctor - and the ‘horrible fascination’ that followed her is mirrored in the rapt attention we pay to modern day forecasters.

Surely, there’s no better time than the beginning of 2017 to list the trends technology ‘diviners’ have decided will gather pace this year? Here goes.

Gartner’s top ten strategic technology trends for 2017 include:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced machine learning - going beyond traditional rule-based algorithms to create systems that understand, learn, predict, adapt and potentially operate autonomously

Intelligent Apps and Intelligent Things - making everyday tasks easier by interacting more naturally with people and the environment

Virtual and augmented reality - immersive technologies that transform the way individuals interact

Digital twins - dynamic software models of physical things or systems

Blockchains and distributed ledgers - enabling value exchange using cryptographic trust and assurance mechanisms 

Conversational systems - chatbots and microphone enabled devices Mesh App and Service Architecture - linking multiple apps to an array of back-end services

Digital Technology Platforms - creating the building blocks of a digital business Adaptive Security Architecture - new areas of vulnerability requiring new remediation tools Click here for the Gartner article

Not wanting to be outdone, has identified the following big data trends in 2017:

Blockchain transforms select financial service applications; Companies focus on business-driven applications to avoid data lakes from becoming swamps;

Artificial intelligence is back in vogue; (was it ever out of fashion?) 

Big data for governance or competitive advantage

And that’s not all. IBM Big Data Evangelist, James Kobielus predicts the following trends in 2017: 

New skills will be needed: Traditional programmers will be required to gain data scientist skills in order to stay relevant, employable and effective in their careers;

Data science will become more embedded in business: Data scientists will hold operational responsibilities that focus on designing, deploying monitoring and managing real-world experiments, machine learning and predictive analytics assets in line with core business processes and customer touchpoints;

More and more automation: More stages of the machine learning development pipeline will be automated through advances in unsupervised learning: and

We won’t get enough of AI: People who can design AI powered products that combine (take a deep breath) robotics, embodied cognition, IoT fog computing, deep learning, predictive analytics, emotion analytics, geospatial contexutalisation, conversational engagement and wearable form factors will be most in demand.

There you have it - a set of predictions that would make an isanusi proud and cause foot-dragging executives to quake in their boardrooms. So how does our story end?

“Suddenly the end came. With a shriek she sprang in and touched a tall warrior with her forked wand. Instantly two of his comrades, those standing immediately next to him, seized the doomed man, each by one arm, and advanced with him towards the king.

He did not resist, but we saw that he dragged his limbs as though they were paralysed, and that his fingers, from which the spear had fallen, were limp like those of a man newly dead.

As he came, two of the villainous executioners stepped forward to meet him. Presently they met, and the executioners turned round, looking towards the king as though for orders.

"Kill!" said the king.”

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