In the Age of Fake News, Establishing Authenticity is #1 Top Tech Trend

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Churchill Club celebrates 20th annual event with Silicon Valley VC forecasts

In the current era of “fake news,” methods for determining the authenticity of information emerged as the #1 tech trend over the next few years – as established by Churchill Club, Silicon Valley’s venerable thought leadership forum.

This was the 20th edition of Churchill Club’s annual Top 10 Tech Trends debate, which convenes notable venture capitalists to uncover “non-obvious or underestimated” trends for the next three-to-five years. This year’s event in Burlingame, CA, brought together partners from Bessemer, Greylock, Lightspeed, Redpoint and Sequoia to submit their best guesses. Forbes Media’s CEO Mike Federle and Publisher Rich Karlgaard emceed and provided color commentary.

Guests were treated to a hilarious “Bubbleproof” parody video on “counter intuition,” starring guest VC Michael Fertik of Heroic Ventures and panelist David Cowan of Bessemer Venture Partners.

“Betting well on the future takes vision, intuition, and tenacity,” Churchill Club CEO Karen Tucker noted as she opened the event with a look back at “hits and misses” of the predictions made over the past two decades. While Tucker noted many of the trends made 20 years ago were remarkably prescient – such as Software-as-a-Service and the rise of mobile devices and apps – “Whether or not our predictions come to pass, it’s important to continue imagining the future and exchanging thoughts and ideas,” Tucker said.

While some of the evening’s predictions might have been bolder and less obvious than others, the panel discussion was lively and sometimes pointed. Panelists first voted on each others’ predictions, displaying green or red paddles for a thumbs up or down. Then with the help of polling partner, Poll Everywhere, nearly 500 audience members used their mobile voting system to agree or disagree with the panel’s predictions.

This year’s trends, ranked by percentage of audience agreement (with panelist votes also noted), are:

1. The Hunt for Authenticity
Deep learning enables computers to synthesize voice indistinguishable from humans and generate photographs that look real. Plus, computers enable disinformation at greater scale than ever (election, net neutrality debate). Determining authenticity will be an important growth area.

  •     Tomasz Tunguz, Redpoint Ventures (Panel: 1 agreed; 3 disagreed)

2. China Accelerates Past the U.S. in Key Technology Areas
If you want to have an MRI read today, you might want to fly to China. Deep learning can help radiologists better diagnose cancers, but it'll be years before that technology is widespread in the US. It's already deployed and scaling in China. The strong alignment between the Chinese government and technology ecosystem, combined with a national focus on key technologies such as AI and autonomous vehicles, means that China will become the global leader in these core technologies.

  •     Mike Vernal, Sequoia Capital (Panel: 2 agreed; 2 disagreed)

3. Robotics Goes Mainstream Because of the AV Gold Rush
Thousands of engineers and billions of dollars are being poured into the race for an autonomous passenger vehicle. That investment will (a) massively drive down the price of key sensors and actuators, (b) 100x the pool of engineers trained in perception and planning, and (c) inspire tons of entrepreneurs in adjacent industries (trucking, construction, warehouse management, etc.). We will see a surge in autonomous robots replacing dangerous or laborious jobs across industries.

  •     Mike Vernal, Sequoia Capital (Panel: 3 agreed; 1 disagreed)

4. The All-Seeing Eye
Cheap and smart cameras with computer vision algorithms are blanketing the world. New smart camera apps, from your face unlocking your phone to Amazon Go stores, will delight consumers. But this tracking of our every move will also remake expectations and regulation around surveillance.

  •     Sarah Guo, Greylock Partners (Panel: 2 agreed; 2 disagreed)

5. Move Fast and Change Everything
From self-driving trucks to electric scooters, every segment of the multi trillion dollar transportation industry is being invented or reinvented, and the unexpected impact on our infrastructure and our lives will be massive.

  •     Sarah Guo, Greylock Partners (Panel: 2 agreed; 2 disagreed)

6. Voice First Will Open Up Internet to the World
We are trying to bring the world online. However, 25% of the adult population are illiterate so the way to bring them online will be voice first.

  •     Nicole Quinn, Lightspeed Venture Partners (Panel: 1 agreed; 3 disagreed)

7. Decentralization of Data
Today, all of our data is centralized in clouds controlled by a handful of data oligarchs. In the future, users will exert more control over their personal data and use a technology like the blockchain to do it. commerce

  •     Tomasz Tunguz, Redpoint Ventures (Panel: 0 agreed; 4 disagreed)

8. The New Space Stack Will Enable Extraterrestrial Commerce
After holding back Moore’s Law for 50 years, the space industry is being turned upside down by a new ecosystem of startups developing microsat constellations that replace mainframe-like systems at 1% of the cost, with planetary coverage and higher resilience. Companies in tourism, mining, communications, manufacturing, agriculture, energy, defense, media and more will buy the tech and services they need off-the-shelf to operate extraterrestrial fleets.

  •     David Cowan, Bessemer Venture Partners (Panel: 1 agreed; 3 disagreed)

9. High-Density AI Promises Conversational Bots Smart Enough to Disrupt Mobile Commerce
High-density AI will break up NLP into narrow domains that neural networks can master, enabling a generation of conversational bots that can reliably satisfy consumer needs without human intervention. With intuitiveness and immediacy, these bots will displace mobile apps as the dominant UI for computing, disrupting the entire consumer internet economy.

  •     David Cowan, Bessemer Venture Partners (Panel: 0 agreed; 4 disagreed)

10. People Will No Longer Distinguish Between Online and Offline Worlds
We’ve seen e-commerce and retail come together into omnichannel and experiential retail. We’ll see the same for social, dating, media, fitness and everything else.

  •     Nicole Quinn, Lightspeed Venture Partners (Panel: 1 agreed; 3 disagreed)

A complete video recording of the event can be watched on the Churchill Club’s YouTube Channel.

Churchill Club is Silicon Valley's top independent thought leadership forum, with the mission to encourage innovation, economic growth, and societal benefit. The 7,500-member, 32-year-old, 501(c)(3) non-profit regularly convenes dynamic, future-focused events where global business and thought leaders meet to discuss and debate, inform and educate, forecast and evaluate the timeliest trends of the day.

Past speakers include executives and founders of major companies such as IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Google Co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, former Microsoft CEOs Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates; Oracle Founder Larry Ellison, Golden State Warriors Owner & CEO Joe Lacob, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg; prominent investors such as John Doerr, Vinod Khosla, Marc Andreessen, and Ron Conway; and government and other leaders such as former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, filmmaker James Cameron, and Hollywood talent über-agent Ari Emanuel.

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Betty Taylor
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Danae Myers
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