The 2010s, Revisited
Using lessons learned from the 2010s to predict the 2020s
By Leroy Yau
Another decade has come and gone. It’s undeniable that tech has shaped much of our society over the past 10 years. The easy answer to what’s defined the 2010s is the deployment of 4G, proliferation of smartphones, commercialization of cloud services, social media craze, and advancement of AI.
What about the future? 5G, quantum computing, the realization of general AI, the propagation of blockchain technologies, and larger mobile devices with amazing cameras are some of the popular answers.
As we ponder all this, perhaps the bigger question is: What have we learned about this last decade that will be of relevance in the upcoming one? Let me get my crystal ball out.
The winner-take-all trend is happening across the globe, as seen with search engines, social media platforms, superapps, and infrastructure builders of the cyberspace. WeChat, GO-JEK, and the beast that is Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp are just three examples, and the amount of data they’re collecting from us will make their AI engines more accurate.
Apart from the economic and political implications of these tech monopolies, the real impact is that a selected few can and will control how new technologies will be developed and deployed. After all, we still understand little about how tech affects us, despite growing pressure on regulators to find out.
It is unreasonable to ask any regulator to fully comprehend the rapid development of technologies, let alone try to manage them. Thus, the real consideration is whether the government can even control big tech in the first place.
There has been a significant amount of buzz surrounding ‘human-centered design,’ but design alone is not going to be enough. We are desperate for technologies that can continue to fulfill our ever-growing personal needs, so future design-thinking experts will need to adapt to even more granular user personas and journeys.
Our obsession with technologies that provide even minute amounts of convenience or instant gratification–a reliance that causes us to overpay for them–will define our future. The data that companies have been busy collecting will provide the fuel. Technologies designed for the individual only magnify our irrationalities, yet next-generation technologies will try to make sense of all these irrational choices, using big data to truly understand us–in a way, perhaps, even more than we understand ourselves.
As these two dynamics come head-to-head, what’s going to happen to our future? Imagine we have the most powerful technologies, whether they originate from a tech giant or another actor, satisfying our ever-more self-centered and individual needs. Does this mean we are controlling the technologies and the companies behind them, or is it the other way around? Who has the fundamental right to moderate this phenomenon?
As we grapple with these questions, perhaps it’s wise to come to terms with the fact that there is no crystal ball after all.
About the Author
Leroy is a Partner at 43 Ventures and an Executive Director of Everiii–both investment and advisory firms that build early-stage business ventures. Previously, he was an advisory partner at EY and has extensive experience in business operations, risk management, cybersecurity, and corporate governance. Leroy is also a fellow member of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants and CPA Australia.