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Robot lawyers, smart cities and a political crisis could sum up 2019, UK firm predicts

Key Points
  • Global innovation foundation Nesta has published its predictions for innovation in 2019.
  • Highly sophisticated fake videos could spark a geopolitical crisis, the organization warned.
  • Other innovations may include robot lawyers and a global rise in smart cities.
Robot 'Pepper' communicates with journalists and guests in the exhibition 'Out of Office': When robots and AI work for us' at a press conference in the Museum der Arbeit.
Christian Charisius | picture alliance | Getty Images

A "highly authentic-looking malicious fake video," robot lawyers, smart cities and an exam-free curriculum for students are some of the things that the world could see by the end of 2019, according to Global innovation foundation Nesta.

Tech and innovation experts from the organization published 10 predictions on Tuesday, with both risks and benefits on the cards.

CNBC looks at these predictions in detail:

Fake video will trigger a political crisis

In its predictions, Nesta said that Deepfakes – an AI technology that creates videos of people almost identical to the real thing – will be weaponized next year.

Nesta warned Deepfakes could be used to create footage of a leading politician talking about committing election fraud, a false declaration of war by a world leader, or a feigned assassination of a head of state.

"We predict that within the next 12 months, the world will see the release of a highly authentic-looking malicious fake video which could cause substantial damage to diplomatic relations between countries," the organisation predicted.

'City brains'

Competition to build smart cities – or "city brains" – could be 2019's answer to the Space Race, according to Nesta's predictions.

The U.S. will be prompted to invest in technology as China edges ahead in the use of AI to solve urban challenges, the organization said.

Robot lawyers

"Legal AI" will become mainstream next year, according to Nesta, making legal services cheaper and more accessible.

It was predicted that AI will allow people to sue their employers, dispute an immigration decision or get a divorce using their smartphones, instead of physically visiting a law firm.

Random research funding

Investors will change their approach to funding innovations next year, Nesta predicted, allocating funds on a more random basis. This would reduce the risk of investment bias towards male researchers, which the firm said is currently a concern.

Speaking to robots

Nesta predicts that in 2019, people will begin demanding to know whether they are speaking with machines or human beings.

They'll also make demands for firms to clarify whether decisions impacting their lives are being made by algorithms or people.

A new working week

Nesta experts said the five-day, 40-hour workweek would see an overhaul in 2019.

It could potentially be replaced with a workweek comprised of fewer days.

Personalized nutrition

According to Nesta, 2019 will see a rise in the public paying to test the bacteria in their own digestive systems – leading to an emerging industry in personalized "microbiome management."

Biotech firms would sell products tailored to individual needs, Nesta said.

Assistive technologies

Traditional technologies that assist people with disabilities – such as wheelchairs – will see rapid improvements by using new innovations eye-gaze control to interact better with the human body.

Nesta noted that this was an area which had traditionally been slow to innovate.

AI disrupting education

Examinations may be rendered futile in 2019, Nesta said, as AI begins continuously assessing students.

Nesta explained that instead of using binary right or wrong approaches to assessment, AI could be used to give a more in-depth analysis of students' work and could be applied to a broad range of topics. For example, an AI algorithm had the potential to assess the content, structure and style of prose in an essay.

Drug-resistant superbugs

As antibiotic resistance increases, 2019 will be the year that everyone in the U.K. knows someone who has, or has had, a drug-resistant infection, Nesta said.

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