What to expect from the next decade? Let’s dive deep into the analysis of the previous years because past behavior is the best predictor of the future behavior. Care to hear about AI, autonomous vehicles, cybersecurity, breaking of monopolies, internet of things, blockchain and encryption, bots and machine learning algorithms smart enough to pose as humans, and the democratic debate over the use and influence of tech innovations? Tune in.
All this and much more will shape our lives in the years to come. Is your privacy under siege? Do you plan for your business to go digital in the next decade? Already have an app or a web platform and think of expanding? Hop in and let’s try to predict how the next 5 to 10 years in tech will affect our daily lives as we know it. After all, it is impossible to think of the 2010s without thinking about smartphone apps.
The 2010s started as a very exciting time but it ended with the feelings of anxiety and unrest. Tech sector will face stricter regulations in the 2020s but, perhaps, our whole attitude towards digital consumption will evolve as smartphones are now widely considered addictive. Well, not smartphones but software platform used for entertainment like Netflix or Instagram. The future will definitely change social media, since 2019 has been a traumatizing year for Facebook and for a reason.
The smartphone has changed everything. Big Tech Boom that came from Silicon Valley penetrated all corners of trade and commerce, changing human lives for better or for worse. Gig economy, targeted digital advertising, the era of connectivity, and even online voting are now a reality we all share. Some call 2010s the decade of disillusionment and others feel better than ever because computer in your pocket gave power to the people. At what cost? That details has yet to reveal itself as we come closer to the epoch of mass digitalization and distribution of everything online.
- AI / Machine Learning
- Political Bots and Deepfakes
- Blockchain / Encryption
- Tech Democracy
- Disintegration of Monopolies
- Digital Doubles
- Cloud Wars
- Streaming Wars
- Social Media Decline
- No Smartphone Rival
AI / Machine Learning
We (as everybody else) covered machine learning and AI countless times. There’s a lot of hype about it since your pizza delivery guy from a grocery store next building may tell you their firm is using Artificial freakin Intelligence to know what kind of pizza you want, where and when. This is bullshit. A lot about it is bullshit because marketers use AI to promote and advertise stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with machine learning or AI.
99.99% of it may be speculation. But the 0.01% has true value. For me personally it is GPT-2. The algorithm named GPT-2 was made by OpenAI, a subsidiary of Google. It is the greatest of the AI algorithms because it can write real text with logical and coherent structure. The future belongs to such systems as language and writing are responsible for us being civilized beings. If not for text, speech, and expression, we’d still be in the caves. GPT 2 can very possibly substitute me in the future.
In brief, it is auto-complete feature but improved to the next level able to write sentences and mix sentences into paragraphs that really tell a story. The machine still lacks what we call ration or human intelligence but its imitation of writing may confuse many as to whether it really can think. In truth, it uses its vast database of text (reddit) to continue the sentences or even the whole paragraphs that you wrote yourself.
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GPT 2 was the most popular algorithm of 2019 and the most interesting implementation of AI/machine learning. It shows that complex systems can learn by themselves and improve over time even if the task at hand requires what we humans call logical thinking. The words convey meanings and ideas. Without ideas they are just words. New AI systems will be programmed to think creatively based on the problems they face. They will still follow commands but the variety of possibilities they will be able to handle is going to increase dramatically.
Political Bots and Deepfakes
This is 2020 and the next presidential elections in US will be the biggest challenge to democracy as political campaigns and ad targeting become more sophisticated. How to tell a difference between a deepfake politician and real Bernie Sanders? How can media consumers see whether a recent Joe Biden commercial is okay or if there’s something wrong about it? There’s no way to tell and by the time truth is revealed some people’s opinions may have been already formed. Bot farms around the internet will continue to spread disinformation and biased news. Whoever has money, power, and influence is going to use internet to promote laws that are not of general public’s interest. Internet will become a war zone (it already is) where bipartisan communities will fight in thread trenches.
How can you tell whether a comment in the feed is real or made by a bot? Remember the debate over the Net Neutrality when hundreds of thousands of comments were left by bots that had stolen people’s identities and commented against Net Neutrality. Political propaganda is everywhere and nobody is safe from lie if he cannot tell a difference. Be cautious in the next decade as to what affects how you form your opinion. Pick you source properly and double-check everything. Without doing a reality check you can never be sure whether what you’re consuming are facts, straight lies or something in between that is put out of context.
Blockchain / Encryption
In the 2020s there will be more apps, especially messengers that also allow money transfers. Such feature has recently been introduced to Viber and is long incorporated in the WeChat, China’s #1 messaging app. It needs end-to-end encryption. To this there are a couple of objections. While China is authoritarian state where any app with encryption has backdoors for government to use for the sake of surveillance, America and Europe tend to do it truly secure. And American and European governments are strongly against it, since it will make it impossible to track, detect and catch the distributors of child pornography and illegal arm deals. Yes, it will make possible minding your own business with no regard to government surveillance is ongoing and while the integration of it our lives is already in process, the future is yet to reveal how blockchain is going to be used. What about bitcoin, though? Don’t ask.
During the 2010s not only the users but whole governments had little idea what the big tech was doing and how FAANG companies operated. Their business models were mysterious back then. Today, big tech behemoths like Google and Amazon are in the spotlight because to regulate them one needs to understand them. The end of the decade how these companies like to handle their affairs, meaning that they are no longer in shadow. Light was shed. And we, as users, now have a say in how the future of the internet will roll out. Why is that, you may ask. Well, because internet and smartphones now have a tremendous effect on our lives. Time to get the power back.
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The ubiquitous App is everywhere, from the moment we get up to the moment we go back to sleep. We carry our phones everywhere we go and cannot imagine living without it. Spend 5 minutes without your smartphone and you start getting nervous. Some call 2010s the decade of disillusionment because all things digital and the ocean of information that constantly flows all around us have caused fatigue and chaotic lack of attention. To be focused and to stay informed with truth and not propaganda seems more and more of a difficult task, though every day of our lives we need to start over and go through chats, social media feed, news, daily urban commute, shopping all done with software as intermediary. Due to all that general consensus now holds it that big tech platforms and software that guides our daily lives should be closely monitored and regulated. But how?
Cyber warfare is on. That is not purely a technical problem. As you know, technology is just a tool that can be used for the variety of different purposes. Thanks to the political turmoil, though, US, Russia, China, Iran and other countries are now engaged in a full-blown cyberwar. Remember the Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential elections? You got it. Today nobody wants their sovereignty to be hacked. China and Russia have their own internet that can be disconnected from the rest of the world in case such need arises.
Prepare for cyberwarfare. The next US elections are possibly going to be hacked. Russia, US and China already wage a full-time cyberwar on all fronts. Information is everything. For this sole reason Huawei was banned in US and Europe, since its 5G technology can very well be a Trojan Horse that will undermine democracy in the West. Ready for what’s next?
Disintegration of Monopolies
In the times to come there will be more local service and less centralized monopolies in certain spheres and industry niches. Why? Because Apple demands 30% of each in-app transaction. Because AirBnB and Booking do the same. While at the same time getting scammed, using this platform or just receiving bad quality customer experience become more and more ordinary. Therefore, prepare for decentralization as more and more local services will start doing business on a smaller scale since every big tech company proved it cannot handle user’s data safely.
It is already a tendency for small local businesses to develop their own custom software solutions instead of depending on third-party services. Consider it a return to the cozy grocery store in your block instead of using a big supermarket. These services will be more client-oriented with an eye for detail and a better client experience. Facebook is great because everybody is there so it is “too big to fail”. But the trend is already set and decentralized service platforms will proliferate even more in the future. Software has become more accessible and rising competition always ends up in the products of a higher quality.
More and more work in manufacturing and services will be automated in the next 5 years. Some claim it will affect white collar job market while others argue that automation will significantly reduce routine labor at the same time creating more high-class jobs in software development sector. Expect more automation in the future but also more sophisticated job processes to accompany it as there will be more time to think with free hands. Amazon fulfillment centers already employ robots but at this stage they can perform only the simplest tasks and depend on humans to program them.
What is a digital double? Here’s an example: when you move around, using different kinds of transportation, you leave a carbon footprint. Same applies to internet. When you’re browsing, you leave a digital footprint. Your digital double is a bunch of data tied to you. It consists of your location, browsing history that is tied to social media profiles and time you spend on certain pages, etc. To have such a digital double is first and foremost valuable to advertisers. Yeah, it makes browsing more comfortable as it helps website and apps to recognize you, acknowledge your preferences, tastes, and choices. Nevertheless, your digital double will make it easier to deceive you in case some political entity is trying to reshape your opinions or, God forbid, put you in concentration camps for your beliefs, views, and opinions as it happened with Uighur Muslims in China (google it).
Amazon and Microsoft will continue to battle against each other for the majority share of cloud services market. We are yet to know who is going to win but tech sector must definitely pay attention to the innovation in distributed cloud systems and edge cloud technologies.
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More businesses will need more computing power. The expansion of cloud services will definitely continue as Microsoft and AWS are going to help more users migrate their business operations to the most optimized server locations for enhanced performance.
Monopolies are never good but Netflix will do everything to fight against Disney+ and the likes of it. This is perhaps one sphere where centralized platform will try to offer users as much diverse content as possible to make them disengaged from even a thought of switching to another subscription.
Streaming is going to be very popular not just in TV and cinema sectors but in video games and journalism. Netflix and the likes will make entertainment more addictive and they are going to continue to lock users in their ecosystems. The competition between Disney+ and Netflix will bring about a better product but it is now clear that subscription models once cheap are going to add up and result in a price we once paid for our cable TV. Switching between the different subscriptions in order not to miss anything will become confusing and somewhere over horizon there’s Google that feeds us news and Facebook that finds us dates, so which platform is going to have our full attention in the future encompassing everything? I prefer HBO+.
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Social Media Decline
There will be less social media in the future. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram are all on the decline. Every day more and more people become frustrated with how digital activities have alienated us and disconnected our minds from live experiences. What once was a minority opinion of the conservative retrograde is now a widespread notion because, let’s be real, we’ve been fooled. Cozynet and friendly WorldWideWeb are in the past. The decade of disillusionment with Brexit and Trump cleared the fact that internet made us angry and we don’t know what to do about it. Make internet great again? Highly unlikely. It was great in the past but it cannot return to it.
What’s next? Nobody knows. Same can be applied to the Late Stage Capitalism we all now live in. One thing is for sure and that is the notion that we know what’s wrong but don’t know what is right. Social media platforms have become arenas where bipartisan trolls exist in bubbles and fight each other for the sake of stupid warfare with no concrete resolution on the horizon. The many benefits Internet has given us start to fade in the face of rising anxiety, feeling of loneliness, and disconnection from reality and our own identities. The next decade may very well end with feeds substituting reality altogether. You live in a feed. Do you want it?
No Smartphone Rival
As it was pointed out earlier, smartphone is the most important invention not only of the last decade but the early 21st century. Tech specialists claim that smartphone is it. They will become thinner, cameras will improve, software will continue to be updated regularly but nothing else will have such a disruptive effect on our lives in the years to come. More gadgets will become connected such as your car, your watch, your smart home and your kids’ bicycles but the Smartphone will definitely be in the center of it all, your remote control for everything in life from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep. VR is a bubble and its use is very limited by certain niches and industries. Same applies to AR. Laptops are still going to be used by content creators all around, however, smartphone is going to dominate our world and our minds.
Less Data-Focused Targeting Ad Campaigns
Targeting will become more difficult to do since we all finally approached the revelation that our data is ours to have and we don’t want to trade our privacy for more client-oriented advertising. Apple has definitely made it harder for app developers and service providers to track iPhone owners. Therefore, prepare your marketing department for the coming challenges, since people are going to disallow tracking them in favor of some kind of incognito mode because, frankly speaking, seeing vacuum cleaners all around if I was interested in buying them is a thing I can do without but stealing my digital double to post bot-comments in some heated online policy debate is a big no-no, don’t you agree?
What else is there to say? Embrace the challenges, be in touch with reality, and get fueled with optimism. You need positivity to survive the next decade. We live in a troubled realm but the times of crisis are always the times of opportunity. Use the aforementioned problems to streamline you energy and do some good. Technology is a tool. If the tool is used wrongly, the user is to blame. We at GBKSOFT will use the tech tools and software advancement to fight for the better of humanity because there is simply no way to stay aside when a conflict of tech degradation unfolds all around us.
Will autonomous vehicles decrease the number of fatalities in car accidents? Can we return back to reality at the same time using all the optimization shortcuts provided by smartphones? Will Elizabeth Warren break up Google and Facebook? Should they be broken down? Will internet continue to be disintegrate into RuNet, Western Free Net, and ChinaNet? How streaming is going to coexist with traditional cinema? How the workforce is going to survive automation? I don’t know. Nobody knows. The future is in shadows but as we move closer to it we need to see the warning signs clearly in order to avoid the catastrophe.
Prepare for a turbulent decade full of interesting things, exciting events, and the great beyond. Beyond what? Beyond everything we knew. I will see you there. Godspeed!