2021 Tech Trends Report Released From Future Today Institute


In March, quantitative futurist and author Amy Web tweeted out her delight in making available The Future Today Institute 2021 Tech Trends Report. 

The @FTI 2021 Tech Trends Report has officially launched! With a twist... The cataclysmic events of 2020 led to hundreds of new signals. This year's report covers 500+ tech and science trends -- so we're publishing *12 separate volumes.*

Download ➡️ https://t.co/uhHcwqZoFp pic.twitter.com/Htesd29fEB

— Amy Webb (@amywebb) March 16, 2021

As Webb notes, the amount of material is massive and the Institute web site estimates that consuming each individual "volume" will require roughly fifty minutes to read. Specifically, topic areas include:

  • Artificial Intelligence; 
  • Scoring and Recognition; 
  • New Realities;  
  • Work, Culture & Play;  
  • Health & Medical; 
  • Consumer Electronics; 
  • Government & Policy; 
  • Privacy & Security; 
  • Blockchain & Fintech; 
  • 5G, Robots, Mobility; 
  • Energy, Climate, Space; 
  • BioTech and Agriculture

Artificial Intelligence

The Future Today Institute bills itself as a data-driven, technology-led research and advisory organization, serving both businesses as well as governments.

Our 2021 Tech Trends Report features an in-depth view into China's plans for the future of AI. A key finding to track: the rise of AI nationalism. #2021TechTrends https://t.co/Hy8K9qUZmL pic.twitter.com/tZcYLlQkLM

— Future Today Institute (@FTI) March 24, 2021

As a sampling of what the content encompasses, here are some of the bulleted highlights from the Artificial Intelligence report

+Natural language processing is an area experiencing high interest, investment, and growth. 

+ No-code or low-code systems are unlocking new use cases for businesses. 

+ Amazon Web Services, Azure, and Google Cloud’s low-code and no-code offerings will trickle down to everyday people, allowing them to create their own artificial intelligence applications and deploy them as easily as they could a website. 

+ The race is on to capture AI cloudshare—and to become the most trusted provider of AI on remote servers. 

+ The AI community still operates using a closed-source model. Researchers’ reluctance to publish their full code leads to less transparency and reproducibility, and makes accountability murky.

+ Natural language processing algorithms— typically used for text, words, and sentences—are being used to interpret genetic changes in viruses. 

+ The SuperGLUE benchmark, which measures AI’s human language ability, will likely be surpassed by the end of 2021.

+ A new wave of AI nationalism is rising as governments institute new restrictions on M&A and investment activity. 

+ Several countries will launch national AI strategies in 2021 and 2022. 

+ New measures to regulate the creation and distribution of deepfakes will be introduced throughout 2021 and 2022.

+ Technical alliances that help drive future R&D could also challenge existing geopolitical alliances. 

+ Future wars will be fought in code, using data and algorithms as powerful weapons. 

+ We continue to fail to see China’s growing AI proficiency as a military, economic, and diplomatic threat. 

+ New software could be viable for 100 years by using AI to adapt to changes around it.

Each report includes additional insights as well:


Artificial intelligence represents the third era of computing, generally defined as the ability for a machine to per- form cognitive functions as well as or better than humans. Such functions include perception, learning, reasoning, problem-solving, con- textual understanding, making inferences and predictions, and exer- cising creativity. 


The convergence of groundbreaking research, business use cases, the explosive growth of data, and improvements in computing power and storage are enabling advances in AI. The global artificial intelligence market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 42.2% from 2021 to 2027. 


It costs a lot to train a model. Several variables influence those costs, all of which have increased in the past few years. For example, it costs an average of $1 per 1000 parameters. OpenAI’s 175 billion parameter, GPT-3, likely cost more than $10 million to train. For smaller research groups and companies, the costs are out of reach. Some in the AI community are instead allowing the big tech companies to pre-train and publish big models.


Equally of interest to members of the information community is blockchain. Here, the discussion suggests some interesting trends: 

+ Large crypto-currency holdings will catalyze innovation in 2021, as bitcoin is used to collateralize new or experimental decentralized financial instruments. 

+ Decentralized financial technologies will be adopted by the enterprise. 

+ Environmental, social, governance (ESG) goals are driving blockchain adoption, as investors seek proof of improvements in supply chains. 

+ Demand for modern, impartial, and secure systems to settle trades and transactions will increase as the global financial system digitizes.

+ Smart contracts will remove intermediaries, such as management and distribution companies, in creative fields. 

+ Investors are using fractional ownership to divide the costs and risks of assets. It’s a time-share model, based on blockchain, for fine art and collectibles. 

One scenario associated with blockchain has to do with content provenance and permanent archiving. 

KEY INSIGHT Blockchains can be used as a universal index of content authorship and edits. This is a powerful tool to authenticate content and to combat censorship and misinformation.

DISRUPTIVE IMPACT Governments and large corporations routinely delete, alter, or censor online information, but blockchain lets us create a shared permanent ledger from which nothing can be deleted. By adding original content or an index to the blockchain, journalists and media companies can make their content permanent, verifiable, and traceable. Expect more blockchain experimentation for verifying original online content and its origins, and for more secure archiving. This is key: The decline of internet freedoms globally over the past decade means more internet censorship, more media manipulation, and less access to information. In an increasingly digital world, small newsrooms and large media companies struggle to maintain permanent archives. 


Associated Press • Internet Archive • New York Times • InterPlanetary File System

Another scenario covers Web 3.0

KEY INSIGHT Web 3.0 allows for web browsers and mobile applications to perform more complex processes and enable entirely new kinds of transactions. In this new iteration of the internet, individual users would potentially have more autonomy and control of their privacy and data.

DISRUPTIVE IMPACT The world wide web celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2019. Decentralization and collaboration are driving its next iteration. Smart cities, Internet of Things, and AI-enabled tools are simply not possible without Web 3.0 software and infrastructure. Just as cloud computing revolutionized how businesses manage and store information, blockchain and distributed computing will enable a new wave of innovation for information technology and databases.


Blockstack • Cosmos • Lightning Labs • RSK • The International Political Economy Society


The full scope of the Future Today Institute publication is too far reaching to be adequately summarized here. It is however well worth executive time and effort to explore the various segments. The full set of reports are accessible here. No registration is required to access or download individual segments of particular interest.