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The UK worries about the regulation of robots and the prospect of an award winning AI-artist in 2018, yet welcomes the Highway Code becoming the Skyway Code for drones

Nesta launches 10 annual predictions for the year ahead, revealing public attitudes towards each of the possible futures

19th December 2017, London - A poll revealed today by innovation foundation Nesta shows that more than 2 in 5 (43%) of UK respondents think robots are likely to start to become regulated by governments in 2018, with just a quarter (27%) deeming this positive.

First machines took over manual labour, but in 2018 they’ll smash the last frontier, creativity. With AI emerging as a game-changer for the creative sector, the winner of the 2018 Turner Prize could be an AI and artist duo. Respondents didn’t welcome this prospect with less than 1 in 5 (19%) feeling this would be a positive advance for the industry, however, only 21% felt it was a likely one.

In 2018, drones could deliver public benefit, not just parcels. Cities in Britain will make the laws, rules and infrastructure decisions for drones to take off, creating an airborne version of the Highway Code. A third (34%) of respondents believe this is a likely possibility, with more than a quarter (29%) regarding it as positive for cities in the UK.

The poll was released alongside Nesta’s agenda-setting annual predictions for 2018 (2), revealing consumer attitudes towards the likelihood and sentiment of these possible futures. Nesta’s remaining seven predictions for next year are:

  1. Emotional surveillance goes mainstream: In combination with new forms of facial recognition, AI is being trained to read minds and moods with increasing accuracy. In 2018, artificial intelligence that can read your emotions and predict mental health outcomes will become used and abused. More than a third (36%) feel this is likely, yet almost a third (32%) also feel negatively about it.
  2. The collaborative economy changes direction: 2017 was the year the tide started to turn against ‘disruptive’ brands like uber and airbnb. In 2018, we’ll see the people working in the collaborative economy start truly collaborative services and organisations to disrupt the marketplace once again. Under a third (31%) believe this is a likely future, yet almost half (47%) feel positive towards this prediction.
  3. Tech giants race to buy a healthcare provider: AI is already showing impressive healthcare capabilities - diagnosing Parkinson’s via audio recordings, and cancer via molecules in breath. Tech companies are investing heavily in healthcare, and in 2018 one or more will buy a healthcare provider and turbocharge their efforts. Almost 2 in 5 (38%) thought this was likely, with 2 in 5 (39%) also feeling positive towards it.
  4. The year the internet goes green: Bitcoin transactions consume more energy than Ireland, smartphones use 63 chemical elements and globally we generate nearly 50 million tonnes of e-waste a year - 2018 will be the year we start to take action on the impact of the internet on the planet. Almost a third (32%) thought this was likely, with 2 in 5 (41%) welcoming it.
  5. The nation state goes virtual: In 2018, citizenship will no longer be determined by the geographical boundaries of a country. We will see the rise of experiments in e-Residency as governments begin to make the nation state virtual. Citizens may be able to choose to educate their children in Finland, access healthcare from South Korea and run businesses in New Zealand, without leaving the comfort of their homes. A third (33%) feel negatively towards this prediction, but almost half (47%) feel it is unlikely in 2018.
  6. SimPolicy: Smarter policy through simulation: Much like SimCity trained a whole cohort of city planners, simulation will become a mainstream innovation method in 2018. Simulation tools will be used to test out new government policies in a virtual world, before rolling out in the real world. More than a quarter (29%) think this is likely and more than quarter (28%) feel this is a positive prediction.
  7. Regulators wake up to consumer data: 2018 will mark the year when data starts to become a powerful tool for regulators and consumers, as regulators catch up with the data revolution and citizens are put in charge of their data as this movement gathers momentum. A third (35%) feel as though this is likely and a third also feel positively towards it.

For media enquiries and interviews please contact Anna Zabow or Juliet Grant at [email protected] / 020 7438 2543 or call Anna on 07414 875765 or Juliet on 07866 949047.

Notes to Editor

  1. The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 2009 respondents aged 16 + in GB between 13.12.2017 - 15.12.2017. The survey was conducted from a random sample of UK adults. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.
  2. As a horizon scanning organisation, part of Nesta’s role is to engage with the emerging trends that will shape our lives in years to come. This year marks the seventh anniversary of the launch of the Predictions series, which since 2011 has seen Nesta experts accurately predict the growth of 3D printing, the rise of crowdfunding, the advent of the mobile wallet and a spike in job automation.
  3. Interviews are available upon request with Celia Hannon, Director of Explorations, Eddie Copeland, Director of Government Innovation, and Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive Officer.
  4. The full predictions and illustrations for each of the predictions are available on request.
  5. Nesta’s 2017 predictions can be found via:

About Nesta

Nesta is a global innovation foundation. We back new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time, making use of our knowledge, networks, funding and skills. We work in partnership with others, including governments, businesses and charities. We are a UK charity that works all over the world, supported by a financial endowment. To find out more visit

Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833.

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