The Next Decade’s Technological Tsunami Will Change Life as We Know It
January 10, 2020 10:44 AM   Subscribe

Imagine the world of 2010: no Airbnb (Telegraph, 2012; archived), no Uber (The Street, 2019), no iPad or advanced tablets (Future Timeline), Siri or self-driving cars on the roads (Techno Giants). The technological advances of this decade have happened so quickly that their breadth is difficult to comprehend. The next decade? That, times ten. (Vanity Fair, Dec. 30, 2019; archived) "The best way to know the future is to invent it" (Inside MIT's Future Factory, 2018) Future forecasts: 204 visions of the world in 2030 (Quantun Run's list of predictions, with a slider to move forward in one-year increments, out to 2050)
posted by filthy light thief (83 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
What do they say in the investment bank ads? Something like, "Past performance is not a guarantee of future growth."
posted by at by at 10:55 AM on January 10 [42 favorites]


Quantum Run's list shows a lot of cheery predictions for Canada.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:00 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Doomsaying from a place of total credulity, it's a weird flavor!
posted by anazgnos at 11:09 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


How are Air BnB and Uber technological advances? They are examples of regulatory failure and/or laissez faire regulations, which has nothing to do with technology per se.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 11:13 AM on January 10 [81 favorites]


Anyone who's using the MIT media lab to tell the future is not your friend.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 11:16 AM on January 10 [39 favorites]


If nothing else, the 2010s were the years when "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should" died a sad, lonely death.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:23 AM on January 10 [24 favorites]


AirBNB is nothing, period. I used VRBO in like 2002 for one of the best vacations of my life so far. I see now that VRBO is doing TV commercials so I'm guessing they've also redone their website, which was "1996 awful" to use for years and years. Point being, they may suck now but it's not hard to run a good one. AirBNB's problem (and maybe VRBOs now or soon, and perhaps e-commerce in general) is that they just don't give a shit about foreseeable problems until they affect their image. This is Uber's problem too, as I see it, and I guess it all comes down to greed. If Uber was still about the "limousine downtime rental," I would still be singing their praises. But alas, everybody needs to get huge or die trying.
posted by rhizome at 11:25 AM on January 10 [11 favorites]


Trying hard to think of a great technological improvement from the 2010s that's really changed my life and coming up dry.
posted by octothorpe at 11:32 AM on January 10 [6 favorites]


[A couple comments and replies removed after commenter's regret about a not-great link.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:33 AM on January 10


AirBNB, Uber, and others like them show the power of deferring expenses and costs to their employees, customers and suppliers, then obscuring them.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:33 AM on January 10 [17 favorites]


Reasonably Everything Happens: Anyone who's using the MIT media lab to tell the future is not your friend.

Can you elaborate? I'm not doubting you, but I'm not familiar enough with the issues with them. I found the quote "if you want to know the future, invent it" a bit much, and mentally added "and hope people actually use it," but I thought that the list of self-described "crazy ideas" were interesting, though some in a frightening sort of way. For instance, I couldn't imagine believing what an internet search told me as AI listened to my conversation with someone.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:33 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Skynet sent androids to our timeline but they all work in marketing.
posted by head full of air at 11:35 AM on January 10 [16 favorites]


How's that carbon neutralizing technology coming?
posted by captain afab at 11:40 AM on January 10 [10 favorites]


Can you elaborate? I'm not doubting you, but I'm not familiar enough with the issues with [MIT Media Lab].

If I may interject, along with the Joi Ito controversy last year, there was quite a bit of taking second looks at what the Lab actually does. Which is, apparently, not much.

Previously: 1, 2
posted by rhizome at 11:42 AM on January 10 [23 favorites]


Trying hard to think of a great technological improvement from the 2010s that's really changed my life and coming up dry.

Okay octothorpe.
posted by valkane at 11:44 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


rhizome, thanks for that summary and those links!
posted by filthy light thief at 11:46 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


The relationship of Airbnb and Uber to technology isn't that they're technological advances - like it's been pointed out upthread, they're more like financial engineering, new ways of externalizing costs, and doing things that others have done before them, like VRBO.

The trend or what to notice about them is what they've done is only possible because of widespread, cheap, practically* ubiquitous access to always-on wireless networks to a degree never available before.

You add a bunch of capital-wants-to-create-capital to that technological base and yes, you get some interesting things. So the lesson I would draw from Airbnb and Uber isn't "this is a tech thing" but, in a tired way, "what if cellphones but too much" applied to how humans react to the socio/political/economic/climate environment (and how that technology changes it).

In that way, they're also symptoms of some governments really not knowing what they want to do with that technology or what's enabled by cheap, ubiquitous networked computers. China knows what it wants to do; it has a set of social goals, no matter what you may think about them. It's not clear that America does, other than a somewhat ill-defined and misunderstood government relationship to "free speech", and a general principle of "make money". Europe feels like a sort of milquetoast middleground because despite efforts like GDPR, where technocrats can see the benefit of regulation, their politics are also constrained by the need to appease corporate interests, which is how you get horrific digital copyright regulation.
posted by danhon at 11:50 AM on January 10 [20 favorites]


How are Air BnB and Uber technological advances? They are examples of regulatory failure and/or laissez faire regulations, which has nothing to do with technology per se.

A little from column A, a little from column B. Using a smartphone to summon and pay for a vehicle is a huge technological advance that's definitely improved my life. At the same time, Uber is the market leader in large part because of their non-technical lousy business practices. Same goes for Walmart: Their use of supply chain technology creates real economic efficiencies that results in lower prices for their generally low income customers. But the also use their market power in ways that harms communities and suppliers.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:53 AM on January 10 [11 favorites]


I remember 2010. It was... not that different? My phone was slightly slower.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:53 AM on January 10 [10 favorites]


he relationship of Airbnb and Uber to technology isn't that they're technological advances - like it's been pointed out upthread, they're more like financial engineering, new ways of externalizing costs, and doing things that others have done before them, like VRBO.

I also think that the 'generalizing' idea that hotels should be over here and not near cool stuff, and cabs are only for megacities, are the social changes ushered in by them. I see a lot of pushback against the regimented world we've created, and since the powers only operate in tiny incremental changes that must be endlessly debated and perfected, and I would surmise that more changes along side Uber and AirBnB will come in the 2020s.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:58 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Maybe electronic trading in the future will go even faster if FTL signaling becomes possible.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:00 PM on January 10


Hopefully I'll get my cyborg body before I develop a chronic illness or my brain is eaten by perimenopause in the next decade. That's all I care about.
posted by Young Kullervo at 12:00 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


I also think that the 'generalizing' idea that hotels should be over here and not near cool stuff, and cabs are only for megacities, are the social changes ushered in by them.

There's also the idea that everything should be a market and that there's a lot of goods and services that are "not efficient", and that resource utilization should be "better" in some way. And that the way to create a more efficient market is by using (not leveraging, Jesus Christ no) the availability of a market to price everything. So again, it's less technological innovation, I think, and technology-as-a-platform for economic ideologies that are most easily put into being by entrenched power structures.
posted by danhon at 12:02 PM on January 10 [5 favorites]


I remember 2010. It was... not that different? My phone was slightly slower.

NOAA average monthly CO2 data from the Mauna Loa Observatory:

December 2010: 388.71 ppm
December 2019: 411.76 ppm
posted by ryanshepard at 12:02 PM on January 10 [51 favorites]


I'm still driving the same car I was in 2010 and am living in the same house. We did buy a new TV but the old one moved to the bedroom and still works fine. My phone is faster but not much different than the Droid I had then. My laptop is slightly better but not significantly.
posted by octothorpe at 12:03 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


2010: my phone could not tell me where my bus or bike are. Most of the work I did had to be done at a particular desk.
posted by ocschwar at 12:16 PM on January 10 [5 favorites]


The biggest impact tech advances of the '10s for me were the improvements in the treatment and maintenance of various types of cancer. Life changing for my family.

How's that carbon neutralizing technology coming?
Over the last decade, solar cell spot prices went from $2/watt to $0.20/watt. The largest wind turbines in 2010 were just over 100 metres tall and had 35% capacity factors. In 2020 they're double that height and nudging up against 60%.

Maybe electronic trading in the future will go even faster if FTL signaling becomes possible.
Transoceanic fibre averages less than 0.5C. The LEO satellite constellations beginning to be launched this year may be able to beat that.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 12:18 PM on January 10 [20 favorites]


Can you elaborate?

There are two problematic aspects, IMO...(1) As my friend described, the lab is "a lot more sizzle than steak." It has the imprimatur of MIT, but the production has been critically underwhelming. Especially given what they charge and especially given how they present/what they claim they can accomplish and their business model. I guess I'd say someone basing their ideas about the future from here is selling something. (2) There's the whole thing about Joichi Ito. (This includes a lot of good links re #1)

Back to TFA, the real issue I have is that media about the future focuses too much on material/technology outcomes and not on social/political ones. I feel like, sure, digital technologies in most of its current forms does appear like magic to most people. And that's a failure of education (or a success or capitalism?). BUT even more alarmingly, I feel like people are more and more disconnected to their governance. This disintermediation is almost always to the long-term benefit of those with more power. Either this asymmetry has to stop...and that will be a terrifying period...or it won't stop and the winnowing of political agency will be a different kind of terror.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 12:24 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


2010: my phone could not tell me where my bus or bike are. Most of the work I did had to be done at a particular desk.

2020: My phone tells me where the bus is supposed to be but half of the time is not there and damn you to hell SEPTA.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:28 PM on January 10 [15 favorites]


2010: my phone could not tell me where my bus or bike are. Most of the work I did had to be done at a particular desk.

When I lived in San Francisco in the early 2000's there was a text message system where you would send a text and it would tell you when the next bus was arriving. There used to be a lot of smart SMS services. Google had one too as an interface.

People were working from home or remotely on laptops wirelessly in the 90's. I know because I did so on my thin Sony VAIO using Ricochet. I may be an outlier. But all the technology was there.
posted by vacapinta at 12:28 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


rhamphorhynchus: Over the last decade, solar cell spot prices went from $2/watt to $0.20/watt. The largest wind turbines in 2010 were just over 100 metres tall and had 35% capacity factors. In 2020 they're double that height and nudging up against 60%.

With those advances behind us, Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) has a goal of being emissions-free by 2040, which is five years ahead of the state’s goal of 100 percent emission-free electricity by 2045 (Daily Energy Insider). Those are future goals, but ones that are more likely thanks to past technology improvements, in addition to the current reality and pressures of climate change.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:30 PM on January 10 [6 favorites]


2020: My phone tells me where the bus is supposed to be but half of the time is not there and damn you to hell SEPTA.

If it makes you feel better PAT's buses never seem to be where the Transit app tells me they're supposed to be.
posted by octothorpe at 12:47 PM on January 10


I'm reminded of this wonderful article and its insightful analogy of the internet and the airline industry. The piece is now over five years old but still holds water: maybe the internet is basically a mature technology?
posted by St. Oops at 12:48 PM on January 10 [10 favorites]


St. Oops: "I'm reminded of this wonderful article and its insightful analogy of the internet and the airline industry. The article is now over five years old but still holds water: maybe the internet is basically a mature technology?"

From that article, delicious shade: We have a space station in 2014, but it's too embarrassing to talk about. Sometimes we send Canadians up there.
posted by chavenet at 12:53 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I feel like the differences between 2020 and 2010, in terms of everyday activities and culture which were driven by technological advancement, was puny compared to the difference between 2000 and 2010, or 1990 and 2000.

In 2010 I drove a car with an ICE engine and a CD player. In 2020 I drive a hybrid and I stream music. But I could have done that in 2010 if I was an earlier adopter.

I've never taken an Uber or used AirBnB. I've owned a couple of tablets and wasn't really impressed (replacing them with an older generation monochrome Kindle that I bought used). I don't think I've even seen a self-driving car yet. None of these are even remotely as world-changing as the widespread adoption of broadband internet, or smartphones, social media etc.
posted by Foosnark at 1:31 PM on January 10 [5 favorites]


St. Oops: I'm reminded of this wonderful article and its insightful analogy of the internet and the airline industry. The piece is now over five years old but still holds water: maybe the internet is basically a mature technology?

Great article, thanks. I'm reminded of The Visible Hand, which pointed out that the companies who figured out how to take best advantage of the massive increase in transport capacity offered by the railroads and then the automobile kept their dominance (and many of their processes) for a good eight to ten decades. Sears and Woolworth, Singer and Kellogg and the National Biscuit Company, the antitrust descendants of American Tobacco and Standard Oil. Already by the 1880s, a single machine the size of a bunk bed was turning out 120,000 cigarettes in 10 hours; once you get to that point, it's just a matter of tweaks for a bit more speed, a bit more reliability, a building full of those machines for volume. It's mature.

I'm also reminded (since I was reading about it recently) of Gould and Lewontin's idea of punctuated equilibrium in biological evolution. Once everything comes together for a key advance, it spurs a burst of innovation around it. The innovation phase tends to be relatively short compared to the lifetime of the species; after the rapid advance to a new optimum, it hits a plateau and doesn't change much after that.

I have no idea if the Internet (and late-20th-century technology in general) has reached that point, but it's a plausible prediction for sure.
posted by clawsoon at 1:33 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


The innovation phase probably leads the implementation phase by some time.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:10 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


One thing noteworthy to me, but not on the order of a tsunami, is the cost of LED elements continuing to go down, and applications of them in bulbs and other places is going up. That made smartbulbs possible, as well as energy savings by replacing other kinds of lighting.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:13 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


no self-driving cars on the roads

Still none.
posted by JackFlash at 2:15 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Not exactly none.
posted by fragmede at 2:19 PM on January 10


Not exactly none.

None. They don't have a driver behind the wheel but they have a safety driver in the back seat.
posted by JackFlash at 2:25 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


The iPad was released in 2010.

There aren't any self driving cars now, and there won't be self driving cars in 2050 either.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:39 PM on January 10 [5 favorites]


I remember 2010. It was... not that different?

No, Siri has revolutionised the way I ... ... ... set alarms?
posted by grahamparks at 2:47 PM on January 10 [8 favorites]


In 2010, we were moving away from desktop computers towards laptops. This transition took about 2 years, and now I don't know anyone who works on a desktop that isn't doing hard core processing. I think this is a fundamental change in technology.

To accommodate laptops, WiFi has had to advance. In 2010, encryption still sucked just about everywhere, and WiFi networks were unreliable. WiFi controllers weren't everywhere, and mesh networks were still in their infancy. WiFi speeds were still much slower than Ethernet, so having laptops on a wired network was still a pain.

What HAS changed significantly is the IoT. Everything connecting to WiFi was the big game changer, IMO. Smart TVs, advancements with the Apple TV/Roku/FireStick, etc., increased numbers of apps, all of them owe their success to improvements in WiFi and cellular data service.

I think that, in the next 10 years, we'll see network improvements across the country that make things like live streaming more reliable, and when that happens, a lot more people are going to be cutting cable TV out of their monthly bills. This is going to significantly impact how people get their information - which makes the free-for-all of propaganda distribution on places like Facebook that much more dangerous. News and information are not going to be reliable, and I think we're seeing that play out IRT already.

If you look back to 2010, smartphones were still relatively new. You can't go anywhere today, at least in metropolitan areas, and not see a bunch of people staring at the device in their hand. We still had flip phones and buttons on our mobile devices. Now we watch short videos of the mailman delivering packages at our door and control the lights with our phones. That sort of thing isn't going to slow down any...

As for self-driving cars, meh. Not gonna happen. We'll have some assistance, but as far back as 2008 we were promised self driving cars everywhere in 10 years. That's just a can that gets kicked down the road...driving is hard. Parking lots are hard. The Ubers/AirBnBs/Self-checkouts of the world continue to screw workers out of benefits and into gig jobs...not sure that has much to do with technology as much as it does to union busting, authoritarianism and austerity. Things could be so much better, but we continue down this path which seems regressive, not progressive. Tech giants haven't helped the labor class at all.

Just some thoughts.
posted by Chuffy at 2:50 PM on January 10 [8 favorites]


there won't be self driving cars in 2050 either.

Sure there will be -- they'll just be called "horses" and the few remaining gentlemen of leisure will ride them, while everyone else will walk.
posted by aramaic at 2:53 PM on January 10 [9 favorites]


There aren't any self driving cars now, and there won't be self driving cars in 2050 either.

I think there will be a lot of self-driving cars by 2050, perhaps a majority of vehicles. Maybe nearly all vehicles. People who believe self-driving automobiles will never happen tend to set the bar for acceptance at near-perfection. Trolley problems abound in these discussions (nevermind the fact that its premises assume a vehicle would have to allow itself to get into such a sticky situation in the first place).

I contend the wedge is, and shall remain actuarial. When vehicles are, to a statistically high confidence, safer -- in aggregate! -- than drivers, the entire liability and regulatory landscape will be turned on its head. Self-driving cars don't and will never have to be perfect, just less dangerous overall. The idea that there's something innate to people that makes us impossible to replace in 30 years of further technical development sounds a lot like people who said computers would never beat people at chess or go, or get better than radiologists at reading X-rays.

I think the "5-year" folks are over optimistic. And I think the "not by 2050" folks vastly underestimate what we can do in 30 years.
posted by tclark at 2:57 PM on January 10 [9 favorites]


Beating people at chess or Go is a lot different than the life or death instant decisions that sometimes characterise driving.

And I'm still unclear what problem self driving cars are a solution to.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 3:01 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


And I'm still unclear what problem self driving cars are a solution to.

People are shit drivers, and shit at life and death instant decisions. Let me reiterate: the cars don't have to be perfect, just better than the shit that we put up with. And we've been swimming in how awful people are at this for so long that some of us, yourself clearly included, can't even believe it's possible to get us idiots out of the driving loop.
posted by tclark at 3:07 PM on January 10 [10 favorites]


Two things that make me feel skeptical that the rate of change in the 2020s will dwarf the 2010s:

1. A lot of the "easy stuff", low-hanging fruit, has been created. The gig/sharing economy feels stagnant, with Uber and Lyft hemorrhaging money from the rides they're subsidizing, AirBnB not having an easy road to going public, and a ton of interchangeable delivery companies, all commoditized. That's just one sub-industry, sure, but they're running into physical laws and being constrained by actual laws from society catching up to their externalities.

2. The dumb money will eventually run out. The recent woes with the SoftBank Vision Fund, which for the past few years have been inflating the tech startup funding bubble further, is causing a pullback which will have ripples across Silicon Valley and the tech industry as a whole. And this will be even worse once the inevitable recession hits.
posted by Apocryphon at 3:08 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


The real change between 2010 and 2020 is that everything has been monetised and the idea that you can do something for the sheer love of it without turning it into a side hussle has become heresy.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:19 PM on January 10 [14 favorites]


Times TEN?

We are fucked
posted by mwhybark at 4:22 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


the idea that you can do something for the sheer love of it without turning it into a side hussle has become heresy

I only put this together emotionally this past year. I created an instagram account specifically for my art stuff early last year, and I follow a lot of people who make similar stuff and other art stuff I just find interesting. There is one artist who is doing stuff very adjacent to me, and I DM'd her asking what brands of color paper she was using in her projects. Her response was "if you subscribe to my patreon I talk about it in my subscriber only emails."

It's fucking bonkers how we're forced to live now. In the 2000s we would have had a two sentence conversation about it like normal humans having a normal human conversation on an internet forum. When I was first getting into politics in the late 90s there was a lot of critique out there regarding how capitalism mediates all social interactions (probably going all the way back to Marx as a guess), but today it's in your face at all times, and performing the hustle is required at all times.
posted by MillMan at 4:32 PM on January 10 [33 favorites]


I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I don't know what's going to happen.

I know that this is an unpopular opinion to hold.
posted by clawsoon at 4:36 PM on January 10 [13 favorites]


I miss the old future. Well, except the jumpsuits. I guess in the future everybody was supposed to have a perfect jumpsuit-body.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:39 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


There aren't any self driving cars now, and there won't be self driving cars in 2050 either.

Don't tell that to the hundreds of people (I think the early access program is 1,500 people) getting fully autonomous (that's without a safety driver) rides in Phoenix 24/7 right now with Waymo. That's the Waymo who put down 10,000,000 miles of full autonomous driving on public streets in 2019 alone.
posted by sideshow at 4:53 PM on January 10


Yeah... per fragmede's link, they count at least a minority of their trips as "fully driverless" or "riders only". There's no mention of a back-seat safety driver but unless there's a person with actual driver's controls it seems like we're in the eternal goalpost-moving game that happens around self-driving cars to re-define them out of existence. Which is one thing that undoubtedly will still be going on with countless innovations in 2050.
posted by XMLicious at 5:04 PM on January 10


clawsoon: "I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I don't know what's going to happen.

I know that this is an unpopular opinion to hold.
"

You certainly have no career in political punditry.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:37 PM on January 10 [5 favorites]


What if The Singularity, but instead of generalised AI it's just even more capitalism than we already had.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:40 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


From the Vanity Fair article: Banking, cameras, Rolodexes, maps, music, books, calendars, email, landlines, GPS navigation devices, notebooks, scanners, photo albums, camcorders, alarm clocks, and flashlights were all replaced by a rectangle you stare at for, on average, three hours a day—three times that if you’re a teen.

I do think the changes of the 2010s can *feel* less dramatic because they removed physical artifacts instead of adding them. The only thing in my apartment that my 2010 self couldn't identify is an Amazon Echo.

But I imagine my, maybe not 2010 but let's say 2007 self doing a walkthrough of my space while I was out with my phone and laptop and trying to figure out who I had become. Where are the maps and travel books? No photos of friends? Hardly any newspapers or magazines? No printer? No cookbooks? Essentially no movies, records or music CDs? Minimal writing materials. No paystubs or cancelled checks. But stacks of physical books. Normal furniture and cookware. Some wall art. Would I think future me is some kind of recluse?
posted by smelendez at 6:26 PM on January 10 [7 favorites]


Yah, there was a fascinating article sometime laser year about the environmental impact of moving everything into your phone. One quite small, low energy device which subsumed a whole pile of paper products and other, formerly much larger, electronics.

There's a lot of stuff going on in machine learning that hasn't filtered out to the world yet. Huge improvements happening in speech recognition, translation, and sentence understanding. The AI Dungeon from last month feels like a glimpse into the future. I'm personally working on ML for bird song identification, to enable better eco science. The tools are still hard to use in many ways, and the hype cycle is certainly a thing, but they're gaining ground at a still crazy rate.
posted by kaibutsu at 6:45 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


Also, do you have any idea how far video codecs have come in the last ten years? It's crazy. I watched a movie I pirated ten years ago last week and was kind of amazed. I had seen some comparisons before, but that really brought it home how far we've come...
posted by kaibutsu at 6:47 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


If in 2030 one of us said "OMG remember FACEBOOK??" and we all laughed because no one had logged into Facebook for years, I'd be really, really happy.
posted by gc at 6:47 PM on January 10 [16 favorites]


I keep thinking about an Intel demo I sat in at CES a few years ago where we got to use VR goggles to watch the live feed of a drone inspecting solar panels in the Nevada desert, in real time. It hit me then that all those jobs people have where what they’re being paid for is to be present to observe and respond to conditions — security guards, field inspectors, etc. — will become uncoupled from geography and automated as much as possible. We’ve already done it with customer service; other types of jobs where attention used to be the cost sink for companies are in the crosshairs.

To me, the biggest technological impact from the last ten years has been the rise of uncoupling human effort and human assets (movies, etc.) from physical space and time constraints. I think we’ll see that continue to accelerate from 2020-2030. It’ll be wild to see in-presence spaces and employees become synonymous with premium/luxury environments.
posted by sobell at 7:19 PM on January 10 [5 favorites]


> Air BnB and Uber technological advances?

The biggest advance of Uber has been to use massive amounts of VC money to massively subsidize every trip they provide so as to give them the leverage to drive all competitors out of the market.*

It remains to be seen how the model will fare when customers actually have to pay the full cost of rides.

* Oh, yeah. That and figuring out how to game the independent contractor system to get bazillions of both workers and private vehicles to work for them at well under market rates.
posted by flug at 7:42 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


In 2010, we were moving away from desktop computers towards laptops. This transition took about 2 years, and now I don't know anyone who works on a desktop that isn't doing hard core processing. I think this is a fundamental change in technology.

Granted, you don't know me, but:

- my primary computer was a laptop back in 1996 or so, for just a few months. I went back to desktops ever since. When I use a laptop my posture tends to be really bad and it quickly takes its toll.

- at home we have 3 desktops in active use, and a laptop that gets used once or twice a year for travel (and the last couple of times I've seriously considered leaving it behind and just using my phone).

- at work, every employee (developers, engineers, QA, management) has a desktop. There are a handful of laptops that get used for training/travel. My previous jobs (in game development) were the same.

- my parents both have desktops. My mom had a laptop for a while, and decided she preferred a desktop. Probably for the same reasons I do.

- my brother and his wife (the only people I know who use Macs), have Macbooks, and my in-laws have Windows laptops. So there's that.
posted by Foosnark at 7:59 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


So...there are still people who don’t think there’ll be a massive crash within the next year(s)?

Times of massive recession and even the restructuring stage after recession are usually not that great for technical innovation. Wages are low - no incentive to mechanize - and if you have money lying around it’s a good idea to just buy up fixed capital from companies going bankrupt instead of investing in innovation. Additional minor detail, the starving masses won’t have the funds to buy your new flying ipad or whatever.

(on the bright side: World Wars can be a motor for innovation I guess. LOLsob)
posted by The Toad at 8:38 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


So...there are still people who don’t think there’ll be a massive crash within the next year(s)?


I don't. There still is no catalyst. Of course, war seems to be on the horizon, but short of that, 2020 and 2021 are going to be more of the same economically, not a giant crash. Also 2018 was a pretty bad year for the stock market, and it was ultimately just sand moving around on the beach.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:05 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


2010s have seen an advance in low cost bike sharing, and ridership double or tripling across my city, which is nice to see and ride with. More bikes! Bikes as a city service! Progress!

Lots more bike lanes and safer commutes.

I used to visit people s houses for free, though, and now it s expected I pay. And rent has quadrupled. Airbnb sucks.

The internet seems to have peaked at about 2010, maybe 2013. Been a shitshow for a while now. There was so much promise.

I used to have buttons on my phone, and I could type properly. I miss that advanced tech.
posted by eustatic at 10:00 PM on January 10


Interlanguage usability is pretty amazing these days. The text to speech and the translation improvements, including translating text captured by my camera has been pretty revolutionary for me.

Boilermonster and I traveled to Europe recently, to areas in which English just wasn't spoken, and we were able to get by 100% more easily than when I was there 15 years ago. The map software was accurate everywhere we went. The translation software meant I could speak my question in English and get something vaguely intellible across in the other language. I could read descriptions of things via my camera. And, very importantly, the apps inspired by Uber meant I could manage complex transportation problems without breaking a sweat or getting horribly taken advantage of.

Also, WhatsApp and other similar programs mean communication can be quick, complex, and free across borders.

The difference between travelling before my smartphone and after is nothing short of miraculous.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:09 PM on January 10 [8 favorites]


> Air BnB and Uber technological advances?

If you say they're not, and the actual advance is the modern smartphone, it's even more profound. And that's a valid argument. Taxi services, vacation rental brokers, matchmaking services, etc. have always changed with technology, from radio dispatched cabs to VHS dating services.

The Uber you took home from the bar, and the Uber traffic that made you late for work? The Airbnb you stayed in on vacation, and the one that displaced the tenant down the block? The Instagram-friendly color scheme and number of two-tops for first dates at your local bar? The fact that your work follows you home and your significant other texts you at work? The lack of a clock on your bed and the fact that you haven't had a working doorbell in as long as you can remember?

That's all due to one invention that fits (almost) in the palm of your hand.
posted by smelendez at 10:56 PM on January 10 [6 favorites]


The map software was accurate everywhere we went.

No wonder my dad was always pissed off while driving places in my youth. He had to juggle a road atlas (replaced by 10 pages printed from MapQuest) and it must have been hard! I started driving in 1994, and today I have no idea how I ever managed to find anywhere. Like how did we live without our cars (or phones or whatever) telling us literally exactly where to turn?
posted by Literaryhero at 2:57 AM on January 11


Chrysostom: You certainly have no career in political punditry.

My ESPN audition was also a bust.
posted by clawsoon at 5:16 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Banking... replaced by a rectangle you stare at for, on average, three hours a day

I mean, yes and no. So much of banking can be done via phone nowadays, but you still can't get cash via phone. And sure, we're moving closer and closer to a cashless society, but we're not there yet, as lots of people have reasons that make it hard for them to go completely cashless, like "I'm a server and cash tips make it easier to hide my true earnings from the government" or "My phone is so old that I can't use apps like VenMo" or "I want to have some cash on hand to give homeless folks" or "I'm paranoid man, I'd rather pay for my illegal weed without leaving a digital trail" or whatever. Reasons.

And I'm one of these people who still wants to fuck with cash, so I still go into banks. But I'm also the kind of person who will go years without having a valid ID (like, I carried around a drivers license which had been expired for yeaaars), and at one point, I was told by a bank teller that I couldn't complete a bank transaction because I didn't have a valid ID. "But you can use our new Bad-Ass ATM That Can Do Everything a Human Teller Can Do Without You Having To Fill Out Forms, Without You Having To Remember Your Account Number, and Without You Needing To Show Any ID" the teller told me, and then got someone to show me how to use the new Bad-Ass ATMs.

And so now when I go into my bank to get cash, I always use one of these Bad-Ass ATMs. At the branches I go to, there's like 2 of these right next to where the tellers are. There's no line to use them the majority of the time I go into my bank. And people still line up to do a transaction with a human teller, even though (from my experience) they'd get their banking done sooner if they switched over to using the Bad-Ass ATMs. It's interesting how different groups respond to technological advancements and how some people actively resist using technological advancements, and I think that kind of resistance affects how quickly we'll be embracing emerging technologies like self-driving cars.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:08 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Like how did we live without our cars (or phones or whatever) telling us literally exactly where to turn?

We asked other humans. It was the worst.

Sometimes we got really lost though. That was kinda awesome sometimes, though partly terrifying.
posted by avalonian at 6:28 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


When I think of the differences between 2010 and 2020, what's striking isn't any one change in technology itself, it's been the radical change in our social relation to technology.

While the cell phones of 2010 were fairly mature - the iPhone 4 was around in 2010, and short of improvements in image resolution and speed, it's still recognizably a modern phone that can ultimately do everything newer phones can do - it was the adoption of cell phones that changed things so radically. People who were rarely exposed to technology suddenly were online all of the time.

With that came a massive shift in the way people used the Internet to communicate. Forums rife with verbose, idealistic geeks (remember those?) gave way to Instagram and Twitter, where people communicated through snapshots or snippets. The barrier to entry of the earlier Internet - where success generally had to do with being a good writer and clear communicator - was lifted, and the entire tenor of our discussions changed. Where the early Internet could have been described as a network of people helping other people, I don't think it's an extreme statement to say that the Internet now seems obsessed primarily with vanity and bluster.

Physically seeing the changes in technology culture on the streets of San Francisco at the turn of the decade was shocking. The App Store had opened in July of 2008, and with the release of the iPhone 3G and an uptick in owners, there was a new gold rush at play as everyone wanted to make the phone's killer app. Where San Francisco's tech scene was just a few years prior filled with weirdos and hippies and neckbeards and techno-idealists, 2010 and 2011 brought an explosion of brogrammers, those well-coiffed aggro bros who were pretty much just there to make mad bank. Venture capitalists always played a role in technology development for good or ill, but the clever hacks and open source idealism of the prior few decades were suddenly out, "disruption" was suddenly in, and the tenor of the community shifted abruptly from considering what technology could do to benefit humanity to wondering how to get as much cash out of everyone involved before things collapsed.

The adoption of phones also gave way to fears about surveillance that were largely unimaginable in the aughts. Suddenly, we were all live on camera, with a broadcast to the world just seconds away with or without our consent. Except in moments by ourself or with people we could truly trust, we've been forced to continually ponder the global implications of our every word or movement, a remarkable psychic load.

I feel like the Internet of 2010 was still largely a source of pleasure, knowledge and liberation for many, while in 2020, the shifts in technology have turned it into an imposition, a far scarier, more brutal place. I often worry about what it will be in 2030.
posted by eschatfische at 7:12 AM on January 11 [6 favorites]


Let me take this opportunity to remember the story called "The Monkey and the Cocoanut".

TLDR:
When you just can't make yourself let go, you are the product.
posted by Twang at 11:24 AM on January 11


smelendez: "The lack of a clock on your bed and the fact that you haven't had a working doorbell in as long as you can remember?"

This may be a good opportunity to remember that the future is unevenly distributed. I do have a clock by my bed, and I've never not had a doorbell.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:46 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


Technology changed very little between 2010 and 2020 when compared to its social consequences. It's still pretty much the same smartphone, but in the last decade it reached critical mass in society, unleashing Umberto Eco's legion of idiots. The Epistemic Crisis happened. Fascism by algorithm happened. Thugs and idiots ascended to power. Uber and delivery apps created a new lumpenproletariat. MIT's naïve 1990s style techno-fetishism doesn't seem that relevant anymore.

Also, how can you try to predict 2030 without looking at China?
posted by Tom-B at 5:04 PM on January 11 [5 favorites]




clawsoon: "I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I don't know what's going to happen."

Your ideas are intriguing to me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by chavenet at 3:29 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


chavenet: Your ideas are intriguing to me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Please join my Patreon. For as little as $37.45 per month, I will tell you all the future things which I cannot predict.
posted by clawsoon at 7:16 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


The spread of smartphones throughout all economic strata is not to be underestimated. Ubiquity of technology makes specific applications more acceptable.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:29 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Wondering if any of the miracle battery technologies mentioned in the past decade will see commercialization in the next decade.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:31 AM on January 13


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