5. Rust Belt 2.0

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The technological wave sweeping the globe in 2017 will trigger a historic, rapid transformation of how societies live, work and play.

With astonishing effect, our machines increasingly will do the thinking for us.

“Big data,” computers’ ability to gather vast amounts of information in complex databases, will be stored in the limitless spheres of “The Cloud.” And the “deep learning” capability of artificial-intelligence software, able to learn from its own mistakes and experiences to improve functionality, will progressively eliminate the need for humans to perform thousands of tasks.

Nearly every industry will be significantly impacted or transformed by the expanding capability and affordability of robot and intelligent automation. Innovations will come from all corners of the globe. They’ll sweep across virtually every commerce, business, professional and lifestyle category.

And that will form the Rust Belt 2.0 trend.

Death of Silicon Valley?

As the trend evolves, Silicon Valley, once the beacon of high-tech American innovation and entrepreneurism, will lose its status as the global center of technological transformation. It will no longer attract the top tier of tech talent. It will no longer lead new discoveries.

In the process, it becomes an enduring symbol of Rust Belt 2.0.

“Breeding Robots,” one of the Trends Research Institute’s Top Trends of 2016, will usher in an era of automated intelligence with virtually no boundaries for the application and usefulness of these new technologies.

Simply put, robotic and related technologies no longer need to be programmed with explicit instructions. This technology learns through trial and error. And that opens up a world of usages.

In the Rust Belt 2.0 world, sophisticated technology, once exclusively the property of large corporations, is now affordable and available to anybody. Creative tech-savvy individuals and small companies, virtually anywhere in the world, equipped only with smartphones, database access and desktop-publishing capability, can create, market and sell internationally. In this new tech-driven global economy, a company’s value is based more on the innovations it brings to market, not its physical assets.

While these new technologies have been emerging for a generation, the affordability, adaptability and range of uses that only now have come to market are the driving force behind Rust Belt 2.0.

TRENDS FORECAST: In 2017, with dramatic frequency, service-sector jobs will fall to technology. That’ll be followed by middle-management positions being eliminated across the retail spectrum. Customer-service functions and assembly-line work will shrink as well.

On education and skills-training fronts, Rust Belt 2.0 explodes, giving rise to the first generation of virtual-reality education (see our separate top trend). Curriculums will take off in medicine, information technology, accounting, cybersecurity and other fields.

Automation also finds its way into the public sector. Citizens, with increasing frequency, will be able to access records, conduct municipal business and engage local, state and federal governments through virtual-reality-assisted technology.

Moreover, those sales, manufacturing and customer-service jobs that had been sent overseas to low-wage-paying countries can now be done here, via technology, at lower cost.

From Silicon Valley to new, smaller tech centers emerging across the country, American technology now finds itself on an equal plane with the rest of the world… in the era of Rust Belt 2.0.

Investment in artificial intelligence, deep learning, robotics, virtual reality and chip technology is powering Rust Belt 2.0 to levels that will greatly and quickly surpass the dot.com boom of the 1990s.