Tech Trends

Algorithmic personality detection. Did you know that some life insurance underwriters are attempting to assess your personality — via your magazine and website subscriptions, the photos you post to social media, and more — in order to determine how risky an investment you are? Some lenders have used personality algorithms to predict your future financial transactions. (The data show that if you look at two people with the same professional and personal circumstances, the one with a higher college G.P.A. will be more likely to pay off a debt.) Algorithms will harness personal data in order to assess an employee’s predicted success at work: for example, how likely she is to bounce around jobs.

Bots. Software applications that run automated tasks are called “bots.” This year will bring a host of creative bots that will supercharge our productivity, keep us company, and help us track what others are doing.

Bots do more than offer conversation. News organisations will soon use bots to sort and tag articles in real time. We’ll see advanced bots manipulating social media and stocks simultaneously. The intelligence community might deploy bots for surveillance and for digital diplomacy. HR managers can use bots to train employees. Bots within that environment will help automate meetings and status updates and so on, saving time and increasing productivity.

Glitches. Expect to hear more about “glitches”. While there have always been software bugs, what we’re seeing now is so much new technology coming online so quickly — without the usual testing — that we don’t know what the interactions will be in advance.

In many cases, glitches have to do with degraded network connectivity or a miscalculation of the bandwidth needed. But a lot of times, glitches have to do with newer technologies, which we are learning break in unexpected ways. Glitches aren’t software bugs, which can be tested and rectified. Glitches are a newer phenomenon, which are difficult to predict in advance. This is not an argument against technology — it’s a recommendation for increased systems monitoring and regular conversations with IT managers.

Backdoors. Backdoors are lines of code developers intentionally install in firmware so that manufacturers can safely upgrade our devices and operating systems. It’s a way for manufactures to get into your system to fix a problem without interrupting your experience. The challenge is that backdoors can also be used surreptitiously to harness everything from our webcams to our personal data. Some government officials will be advocating for a set of “golden keys,” which would allow law enforcement to use backdoors as they wish.

Augmented knowledge. We don’t recognise it as such, but we are living in an age of digital telepathy, where we can send information directly to each other’s brains via the internet. Scientists at the University of Southern California have been working on a cognitive neural prosthesis that can restore and enhance memory function. This research has a practical and altruistic purpose: to help victims of stroke or traumatic brain injury regain their cognitive abilities and motor function. Rather than having to relearn, they need only reload those memories.