The second one of my speculative thought pieces reflecting on significant developments of -6m/+6m in tech as I see them. Reflecting on 2021 so far and predicting the next phase.
Looking back on the last six months, three major themes stood out in technology:
1. Crypto's mainstream moment:
To my extreme pleasure, cryptocurrency, NFTs, and decentralized finance went ballistic, riding a perfect storm of pandemic savings, stimulus checks, and boredom. Once a fringe concept, crypto is now a fixture in pop culture and finance.
Let's ignore all the scams and the fact that most projects have no real utility. The blockchain tech is here to stay, and for better or worse, it kept us entertained. Also, many made small fortunes (many lost them), like in any proper unregulated bull-market run.
2. Artificial intelligence's advance:
AI (or I should probably say ML) permeated new sectors like finance, transportation, and medicine. The pandemic necessitated automating more knowledge work and services. I would expect AI's proliferation to accelerate because models are good enough for many real-life industries and use cases.
3. Spatial computing's rise:
Virtual and augmented reality gained (I'd say, again) a bit of traction by powering hybrid work and immersive entertainment during lockdowns. The foundations for mass adoption are laid down, but will they be really useful?
I can't say. I'm a big fan of VR/AR technology, but I find the current state of this particular technology uninspiring, boring, and hard to use with really limited use cases on gaming and maybe virtual meetings. The rest is just marketing smoke.
Gazing forward, the next six months will feature:
1. Climate tech boom:
We hear more about it; our planet is in bad shape. This should lead to more funds pouring into sustainability, which in turn should lead to an explosion of startups leveraging technology to combat climate change across sectors like energy, transportation, and agriculture.
I have to acknowledge that this will not happen in the next 6 months, but I believe it could start as a visible and robust trend if we can get out of the Covid rut.
2. Remote work revisions:
This might be just me, but I hear a lot of discussions and behind closed doors analysis about remote-only work tradeoffs. That means employers are realizing this en-mass. We may not be going fully back to the office but expect to see more hybrid models blending physical and digital - searching for balance between flexibility and collaboration.
3. Healthtech leaps:
Telemedicine saved us all, and I'd like its rise to inspire new health tech services and novel wearables. Consumers now become accustomed to virtual care, and digital health innovation should follow.
One thing to remember is that a new wave of health tech innovation is being born from technology advances in computation power and ML models. Yes, all these DNA sequencing and genetic code manipulation techniques depend on it. We're not far from "engineered humans", let's just hope it will be done in an ethical way.
It seems to me that this pandemic (my first) and its effects will continue to reshape technology's direction in lasting ways. Expect swings of mood between virtual and physical experiences as we enter the next normal.
If the past year taught me anything, it's to keep my imagination alive.