Robots in the Boardroom and Other Technology Tipping Points

09 Sep 2015

Oliver Cann, Public Engagement, Tel.: +86 139 4119 4487 / +41 79 799 3405, email


  • Survey of 800 executives by the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software and Society predicts dates when game-changing technologies become mainstream
  • Nearly half of respondents expect the first AI machine to be on the board of directors of a business by 2025, while the first transplant of a 3D-printed liver is likely to become reality by 2024
  • Download the full report here

Dalian, People’s Republic of China, 9 September 2015 – The world is about to enter a period of exponential change, with new technology promising to soon make real concepts that were firmly rooted in the realm of science fiction only a few years ago. This is according to a survey of leading software executives and other experts for the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software & Society.

The Council aimed to identify tipping points for 21 “game-changing” software-enabled technologies, or the points in time when they are expected to become mainstream. According to the survey, 11 of these technologies, including the first robotic pharmacist, 3D-printed car and implantable mobile phone, have a high expectation (over 80%) of occurring by 2025.

In the survey, the tipping points, or “shifts”, are grouped into six distinct megatrends. These are: people and the internet; computing, communications and storage everywhere; the internet of things; artificial intelligence and big data; the sharing economy and distributed trust; and the digitization of matter.


With the first tipping point predicted for 2018 and the last for 2027, the survey also provides a snapshot of how likely any given technology is to reach its tipping point in any given year. For example, in 2025, 90% of respondents believe at least 10% of people will be wearing clothes connected to the internet, 75% believe the US will have its first robot pharmacist, 63% think the world will have its first traffic-light-free city and 45% believe an artificial intelligence machine will sit on a company’s board of directors.

The mandate of the council is to help society navigate and prepare for the societal impacts of software technology by raising awareness and understanding of its implications. “We are entering a time of momentous societal shifts brought on by advancements in software. These changes will impact people around the world. This report is a small first step in understanding the changes that lie ahead. We hope it will provide important insights to consider as we navigate the complex issues related to changing technologies,” said Victoria Espinel, President and Chief Executive Officer of BSA – The Software Alliance and Chair of the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software & Society of the World Economic Forum.

“We already feel like technology has changed our lives, but the results from this survey indicate that we are just at the beginning of a fundamental shift in society. Any one of these technologies by themselves would change our lives significantly. Taken together, they represent a fundamental re-write of what’s possible and how we organize our society – raising deep economic, political and ethical questions which we must address together,” said Derek O’Halloran, Director, World Economic Forum.


Notes to Editors

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All opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Economic Forum Blog is an independent and neutral platform dedicated to generating debate around the key topics that shape global, regional and industry agendas.

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