Join me on a journey into the future, where we will consider the profound transformations that are set to take place in financial services, economies, and the way they interconnect. Over the next three decades, a multitude of factors including artificial intelligence (AI), climate change, and inequality, will reshape our world. I invite you to envision your role in building the infrastructure for this future and to explore the mission that will guide our economies forward.
The coming decade will mark the consolidation of AI's integration into society. It won't be a battle of man versus machine; rather, it will be the era of man with machine. AI will augment our businesses and careers, revolutionizing various industries. As seen with the digitization of financial services through mobile wallets ─ exemplified by the remarkable success of China's ecosystem which involves more than double the transaction volume of all of the plastic cards in the world ─ we are at the forefront of a transformation. We will see a decline in the use of cards, and of course in the use of cash. By 2025, mobile wallets are projected to account for 55% of global retail banking transactions, with card transactions at 30%, and cash at just 10%.
The impact of AI will also extend beyond financial services. Industries such as healthcare, law, and accounting will leverage AI to enhance their expertise and provide more accurate and timely advice. Imagine doctors empowered by AI to immediately provide precise diagnoses and financial advisors utilizing AI to optimize investment portfolios. We will start trusting AI to give us the best advice, leading to the integration of AI systems into our daily lives.
By the 2030s, our trust in AI will enable us to grant it agency, allowing it to act on our behalf, both as individuals and corporations. AI will manage our finances, healthcare, and day-to-day challenges, augmenting our lives in profound ways. Early intelligence systems will shape our economies, enabling the emergence of smart contracts, digital health services, real-time voting, and cross-border trade facilitated by central bank digital currencies such as China's e-RMB. These smart economies, driven by AI, will prioritize resource efficiency and reduce reliance on traditional human processes.
Everything that's smart in this world will need to be counted and will need to trade. Autonomous vehicles are going to have to pay road tolls and for access to electricity to charge their batteries, and will need programmable money to do so on their own. These smart devices that are in the world around us will start to operate alongside human systems, but they will be largely autonomous in terms of operation.
In this AI-powered era, smart devices will coexist with human-operated systems. Wallets, whether for cars, corporations, or individuals, will reside in the cloud and essentially become bank accounts in the cloud. Traditional bank accounts will be replaced by tokenized versions, tied to identity forms and applicable to both machines and humans. As AI cannot use physical wallets, the computing systems of financial services will rely on cloud-based infrastructure. Advances in renewable energy generation, such as China's significant solar deployment, will power these smart economies.
The down sides of AI, on the other hand, is that it is designed to eliminate human labor from the system. From the earliest times of imagining robots and AI, we've always thought that they are going to do the jobs that we don't want to do as humans. Jobs that come to mind include truck drivers, delivery persons, accountants, lawyers, and bankers ─ but we're all going to feel the effects of these technologies in the end.
How we transition into this state, where AI takes jobs from humans, is something we are still debating. Many argue we need universal basic income or similar such systems, but we are going to have to solve this problem either by creating more jobs for humans to do or finding some way to create a social safety net. The smart economies and smart cities that emerge are really going to redefine the way we live in society. Examples of smart countries and cities that already exist include Shenzhen ─ one of the smartest cities in the world today ─ and Saudi Arabia, who is currently promoting Neom. People will ultimately choose to live in AI-based smart economies because of the benefits it brings to their health and wellbeing.
By the 2040s, we are going to have to confront the challenge of climate change. In early June, we saw the air quality index in New York shoot up to 170 because of forest fires in Canada. This type of problem is going to become commonplace, but we have the technology to address many of these issues. We will begin to see the development of thorium and fusion reactors that solve the energy problem of how to power the autonomous world based on AI.
We will leverage technology to develop sustainable solutions, such as 3D-printed homes to address homelessness, and vertical farming and genetically engineered crops to ensure food security. Smart cities will prioritize food security through hydroponic vertical farms and lab-grown proteins. Simultaneously, advancements in AI will revolutionize healthcare, enabling us to live longer, healthier lives. However, we must maintain a balance between AI's potential to eliminate human labor and ensuring societal well-being. What we really have to start working on over the next 20 years is making our cities and populations climate-resilient. That would involve energy systems, financial systems, cloud-based systems, and infrastructure.
Coming out of this in the 2050s, we will see a clear delineation between smart economies that have built their financial services, health systems, and transportation systems on AI, versus those that are still stuck in the past. These smart economies will be the lifeblood of incredible growth economically across the planet. Most of our economy in the 2050s will be machine-to-machine AI-based economies, which means banks in the 2050s are mainly going to be comprised of an algorithm. What will a bank be if it's an algorithm in 2050? How do you give a bank license to an algorithm? These are the sort of questions we will have to ask ourselves.
With all of the changes that AI will bring, the world has some major decisions to make, which will in turn determine how the future unfolds. There are four potential socioeconomic scenarios that could come to pass: Failedistan, Luddistan, Technosocialism, or Neo-feudalism.
• A Failedistan scenario involves responding to climate change too late, a global depression, wars over resources, and general autocratic rule.
• A Luddistan scenario involves a failure of capitalism, where technology is rejected, and human employment is prioritized.
• Technosocialism would result in a highly automated society, broad equality, sustainable prosperity, and ubiquitous access to technology.
• Neo-feudalism would result in enclaves of rich populations living in walled-in cities, massive inequality, and a huge technology divide.
Some may advocate for canceling AI due to its impact on employment, while others may falter by failing to adapt to the changes brought by AI and climate change. The two competing models will likely emerge are the approach of Neo-Feudalism, which aims to use AI to supercharge capitalism, and the collective technosocialist approach, emphasizing using technology for the collective good of humanity. Every financial institution and corporation in the future will require a social mission, or it will fail.
As we shape the future of financial services, we face a critical choice. We can try and accelerate the returns of corporations and make them more profitable and more efficient, but without a social consciousness we aren't going to be able to tackle the biggest problems humanity is going to face over the next 20 to 30 years. With the aid of AI and in response to climate change, we must strive for optimal human functionality and to ensure that the benefits of AI and smart economies are shared equitably.
The future beckons us to embrace AI, transform our economies, and address the pressing challenges of our time. By leveraging AI's potential, we can revolutionize financial services, improve healthcare, and build smart economies that prioritize resource efficiency. However, success lies in adopting a collective approach, empowering AI to enhance our lives while safeguarding societal well-being. Let us shape a future where financial services, economies, and AI work hand in hand to create a sustainable and prosperous world for all.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, position, products, and technologies of Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. If you need to learn more about the products and technologies of Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd., please visit our website at e.huawei.com or contact us.