During my most recent episode of Metaverse, I spoke with technological futurist Shara Evans. Shara is the founder and chief executive of Market Clarity, an award-winning technology analytics firm founded in 2006 that provides insight, intelligence and advice on all aspects of the telecom and emerging technologies markets. In March 2020, Shara was one of the few technology futurists featured in Forbes list of the world’s top 50 female futurists, and she is a regular speaker and media commentator on technology issues. With an engineering background with an understanding of how society would respond to new technologies, Shara’s future tech research covers everything from smart cities and robots, to jobs of the future and space travel.
As someone who’s got an impressive track record of calling “the next big things” over the past several decades, it was exciting to get Shara’s insights on the latest technology trends and what advances we might see coming down the pike. Shara believes combining artificial intelligence and robotics with the nascent technology of quantum computing will result in acceleration across nearly every kind of technology imaginable, from advanced data analytics to facial recognition to driverless cars. She’s also super interested in advanced healthcare: smart contacts are moving towards commercialization, meaning we could get AR without wearing glasses, and stem cells could allow organ replacement or skin grafts entirely made up with the cells from our own bodies. We also touched on how nanobots could enter our bloodstream to fight diseases like Covid at a microscopic level, while genetic engineering could eradicate conditions like sickle cell anemia or cystic fibrosis.
We touched on the rise of pervasive AI in a lot of our daily gadgets, from voice recognition in our smartphones to using chatbots online, and how it’s important that we stay involved in its evolution. We now have datasets that are far too large for any human to sort, but AI can help us monitor for misinformation, social bias or hate mongering. She believes we have to work with AI to ensure we’re moving forward ethically– AI can do the things we can’t, like processing “humongous amounts of data,” while we handle the human side of making sure the outputs reinforce our values and move us towards the greater good.
As a lifelong robot lover, Shara was eager to share the insights she’s gained from working in research labs and talking to roboticists– who apparently hate the term “drone”– “flying robot,” please! Whilst most of us think of humanoid robots like Rosie from the Jetsons or the Terminator, Shara notes robots come in all shapes and sizes, and are more machines built for specific roles. We’ve got robot vacuums built to sense dirt, farming machines loaded up with sensors to assist agriculture, and our cars have had adaptive cruise control for years– we’ve been working up the software to empower driverless cars for quite some time now.
In looking towards the future, Shara notes how, as many others have experienced, Covid massively impacted her work as a keynote speaker– she’s learned all kinds of new skills in order to act as a “virtual speaker” with her own virtual studio. Shara has also become a “virtual futurist in residence” for many companies: with the twists and turns of the pandemic– and the potential of different variants throwing us yet another curve ball– it’s crucial for companies to keep their eyes open. Bringing in a futurist consultant like herself allows them to connect to thinking that’s outside the box, helping companies stay abreast of new developments and technologies that might empower them to pivot and adapt where necessary.
It was refreshing to speak to a futurist sharing my same undying love of technology and its myriad potential to change our world for the better. To hear more of Shara’s fascinating work and more behind-the-scenes insights, you can listen to our full conversation here.