2016 Predictions: Technology & Politics
For me, personally, in 2016 I will be positive about any idea that decentralises the stifling old monopolies of government, big business and the boomer generation, and any idea that provides leverage for the young to be less oppressed and more successful than the generations that came before them.
Evolution does not favour the organism that is the smartest, biggest, or fastest in the environment. It favours the organism that is the fittest for the environment as the environment changes. For 2016 I am on the side of survival as the environment rapidly changes.
To me last year had a lot of tipping points that makes the next few years unpredictable. I shall start with the tech, then move over to the political, because I don't think those boundaries exist anymore.
On the corporate tech side; I see an ever-increasing demand on those that know how to do systems from an increasing number of customers who don't. The world is awash with freshly minted and highly trained specialists who just assume that the tech can do anything, and sit there dumbfounded when they find out that it can't do simple things. Graduates graduate into the corporate world and find out that the world does not run on apps like the ones on their iPhone, and sit there paralyzed with no tools to express their genius. It's like the world of work forgot how to train people for work. Technology is work. In fact it is HARD work, and requires specialist people. I think that's why APIs and concepts like Watson are on the rise; customers are desperate for light touch (in terms of specialist recruitment) ways of doing and trying things. Cast into that space, in any vertical, and you should find a bite or two. In come cases you can cast out an empty hook and they will bite that; because it is shiny and new and entertaining for a moment.
Which brings me to clouds and tools like Docker. I would love to see a metric that shows that companies that have adopted the cloud have ACTUALLY increased productivity, reduced cost, turned off legacy hardware, and increased security. Just the most bluntest, non vendor,- non CIO-provided metric of any kind would be fascinating to me. So on the services side, if you have a specialist service, I think 2016 is good for verticals. As long as they are cloud solutions with APIs, provide a Docker container for developers to get started, and enables your customers for AI and the IOT.
Which brings me to my next point; AI. I like how AI has been debased from Artificial Intelligence to Assisted Intelligence. Therefore Excel is AI (probably more than most realise, actually). On that basis, expect AI to be a super big buzz word in 2016. It's ephemeral, elastic, and the social networks do it, so grab it and run with it.
Which brings me to my next point; security. Security is becoming like the Y2K phenomenon: a boogie man always in the future that is so horrifying that regulators will tell us we need to stop whatever the business was doing with the technology, and just focus on the boogie man in the technology. The difference with security is that it can't be tested or removed; it remains the dark space next to the closet in a child's bedroom that will throw out horrors for ever and ever and ever. My experience of the last 5 years is that people will change their attitude to security rather than worry about it. They will grow up and just ignore the closet and the stories. In the meantime, lots and lots of work to be had selling night time stories to scared C suites so the big Cs (children) can get to sleep at night.
Which brings me to my next point. History has shown that if you create a security apparatus, the boogie man is real. He comes out of the dark place and takes away your freedom. So while the world ignores the big dark spot and tells themselves soothing stories about how the bad things won't happen to them, the dark side of human nature will always exploit the opportunity presented to it. You can see that with ISIS; you blow a dark hole in the world, and the boogie man moves in to fill in the vacuum while the rest of the world ignores it. Why people think that the dark holes that we are ignoring in the western world are immune to the same forces is beyond me. But I don't see anyone in the global parade of fools defending the state and corporate apparatus against the Wikileaks & Snowden revelations, daily hacking incompetence stories, protestations about "trust us, we are the good guys", as being people from whom I am willing to hear a soothing bedtime story.
Which brings me to my next point. States and corporations are the same family. Corporations are legal persons, allowed to incorporate by rules set by the state. It's like saying that your child is not part of your family. It is, by direct lineage, and that family is increasingly looking like the Cosa Nostra; and companies will need to step in line with their compliant brothers and sisters or get their knee caps blown off. Let's see how the debate goes this year in terms of what Bruce Schneir calls the "The Four Horsemen of the Information Apocalypse: terrorists, drug dealers, kidnappers, and child pornographers." You can bet that 2016 will be the year that father reminds the children where their place is at the table.
Which brings me to my next point. I think that the state is a pre-internet phenomenon. Do we think that nation states would be formed based on geography if there was global communication? Of course it wouldn't. So why do we think that geographical political boundaries can survive global communication? Of course it can't. That is why ISIS is able to cause havoc; it is a state of the mind, and it is transported over the internet. It is why Donald Trump can say to the whole world that one human in America is American; because he shares the same state of mind, but another human in America; the Mexican or Muslim or Anti Wall St socialist, is not his version of an American. States are now outed as hegemonic states of mind. And more and more people in the states are sick of it.
Which is why my final point is a positive one. People want to get on with creating bright futures. No one has a kid and says "let's send them to war." Or," I really like that minefield, let's make some more and send the kids out to play." People have kids and say "let's send them in to a future that is a place better than the one that was handed to me." The problem is that the elites have defended their wealth, and supported regimes that defend their wealth for two centuries at the expense of others. It is intrinsic to the western model all the way down to the way the last dollar of capital in a 401K pension plan is managed, and the shiny iPhone is produced. That is the hegemonic state of mind that is under attack from the internet - because it is unfair and it excludes people regardless of their geographical state. If you're an elite, or if you work for a government or corporation or church or family that is part of the elite apparatus, you can't ignore the rest of the world or what the apparatus is doing to the world, the internet is going to bring it to you. And it won't be an app.
The internet truly is a revolution. And we see more of it in 2016.