Change is the only constant
First and foremost, let me get the lazy predictions out of the way:
2019 will begin in early January. Natural disasters will occur: forest fires, global warming, coral reefs dying, hurricanes, flooding, and garbage islands will continue to make headlines. We will all say “yeah we should get on that”. Then keep doing nothing. At least one cancerous trend will take the world by storm. There will be some kind of ridiculous political shenanigans which makes the world collectively even more frustrated, and it will be forgotten in six months. Few school shootings. Handful of dead celebrities, some unexpectedly. People will hope 2020 will be better. Apple will release a new iPhone, because money. Samsung will release a new Galaxy, because money. Some new kid will become the hot new thing. A movie will come out: some will call it the best in the series, others will call it the beginning of the end for a fledgling film series. A musician will start a clothing line. A celebrity out of the spotlight will be featured for saying something funny on social media. Rival nations will trade threatening quips in the news. Stock markets will go up and down. Celestial events will occur and be recorded.
And during all this you can be sure that somewhere, somehow, a duck WILL be watching you.
Good enough? Let’s look at challenging ideas for the year ahead, then:
Facebook’s had a terrible 2018: Zuckerberg vowed to fix Facebook, and absolutely failed to do so, despite the AVALANCHE of bad news he has had to face. It nevertheless appears that, by all usual metrics, Facebook is still a great company to invest in as both its profits and revenues continue to grow (yeah, monopolies tend to do that). I predict one of three things will happen to keep this growth going :
- a) Facebook creates Facebook Bank — because the Zuck needs more sweet, sweet data from you
- b) Facebook launches a cryptocurrency — because Tencent does it and Facebook wishes it was Tencent
- c) Sherryl Sandberg leaves the company — and claims it’s for “personal reasons”
Airbnb might be the most creative company out there at the moment. Not only has it created moats large enough to protect itself from any regional competitor, it is also rapidly expending into the “experience” and “premium” universe, with incredible growth.
By the end of 2019, Airbnb is worth more than Uber.
3) Elon Musk
2018 was a rough year for Elon Musk, and one of his own making: he made derogatory comments about the free press, tried to make a rescue mission about himself, belittled a legitimate hero, got sued as a result, smoked pot on camera, and was charged by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for a tweet claiming that funding had been secured for taking Tesla private. He then proceeded to mock the SEC. DAMN, SON! No chill.
So… why stop there?
In 2019, Elon Musk starts a marijuana company — HighX, Space-D Out, The Smoking Company…
This wouldn’t nearly be as stupid as it sounds given the industry’s growth.
Pinterest, Lyft and Uber go public as IPOs become sexy again.
There are however chances that this will not happen, for two reasons:
- Firstly, a recession is possible, though unlikely: student debt, Chinese debt, corporate debt, high interest rates… those are 2020 problems.
- Secondly, companies who often claim that they’ll go public are generally just making it known that they’re mature enough to be acquired. Out of the three, Pinterest is the likeliest to be bought.
Amazon is on a roll, and will continue to be, especially in the physical retail world. In fact, the company is planning on opening 500 Amazon Go stores in 2019, and I believe no one is ready for the retail panic that will likely follow: we’re talking about a company which knows exactly what is bought, where, when, by whom, and for how much. As such , they can optimise their marketing and supply chain efforts like no other retailer ever has.
This however means that the calls for anti-monopoly sanctions will only get louder as time goes. I see only one financially mature way of throwing the hawks off the scent:
Amazon spins off AWS, which becomes one of the world’s most valuable companies in the process.
Security breaches continued to occur at an alarming rate in 2018. Hotel group Marriott admitted it had suffered a data breach affecting the records of up to 500 million customers, but was not alone, as Quora, Facebook, British Airways and Ticketmaster also suffered from similar security issues. Furthermore, ransomware attacks surged in 2018, with healthcare and local governments being top targets. I believe this is just the start.
In 2019, a major brand loses 25% or more of its valuation due to a cyber-attack.
7) Spotify vs Netflix
Spotify moves to video and tries to eat Netflix.
Netflix was born on TV and can’t compete with a mobile native going at it guns blazing. Yet Netflix has an advantage: unique content that people will pay for. In short, Netflix needs to become Spotify before Spotify becomes Netflix. A fun fight ahead, should it materialise.
8) Artificial Intelligence
Machine Learning and Deep Learning are bringing about the the third era of computing faster than we can learn to cope with it, generating copious amounts of new ethical challenges. Nevertheless, ethics experts, lawyers and governments are slowly catching up. All they’re waiting for to bring down the hammer is one major slip-up, which is likely to come from either geo-localisation or facial recognition (both of which can be harmful AF in the wrong hands).
A major facial recognition lawsuit leads to the creation of some of the world’s first A.I regulation framework.
9) Social Media
I predict this every year so it’s bound to happen at some point.
Snap and Twitter (finally) die off and are bought for a fraction of their highest valuation.
Both companies are besieged by bots, and have been particularly harmful to the very fabric of society. Good riddance.
The transition from smartphones to voice-activated interfaces will forever change how we experience the physical world, as objects around us become interaction points for the internet.
In 2019, most Western customers buy their first IoT device.
God knows how I’ll check on the veracity of this one.
Here’s a fun-fun stat : despite what Entrepreneur Magazine will have you believe, we’re creating fewer and fewer new businesses. This trend is particularly pronounced in high-tech sectors, where Amazon, Facebook and Google have effectively killed innovation by buying or out-competing any emerging player with little regard for profitability. This trend is unlikely to come to a stop unless anti-monopoly laws are redefined.
The number of new tech companies created continues to remain much lower than it was pre-recession.
12) Autonomous vehicle
Fully autonomous vehicles for people are not coming anytime soon, because transporting people is hard, and unsafe, and expensive. Transporting groceries, however, is easy, safe, and cheap(ish). Companies such as Kroger and Dominoes have already begun doing so, but this is just the tip of the iceberg:
In 2019, most major retailers launch an autonomous vehicle program for last-mile delivery.
13) Virtual Reality
Thought virtual reality never really lived up to our Sci-Fi expectations, it doesn’t mean that the technology should forever be cast into the shadows of its more successful cousin, A.R. In fact, I believe that the retail industry is finally tech-savy enough to operate V.R without making it look too… “gimmicky”. Additionally, shoppers, too, are now accustomed to the idea of V.R. This can only mean one thing for the year ahead:
The first Virtual Reality shopping store opens (probably by Walmart).
14) Tech as authoritarian help
We’ve all heard about the latest Chinese social credit system, and gasped at how the totalitarian nation broadly uses facial recognition with little regards for ethics. What we’re under-estimating, however, is how much our own governments wish they could do just that. And so :
A major western government implements a facial recognition program under an anti-terrorism premise.
Companies have known for years about the importance of feeding data to ever-more developed A.Is to optimise them: the more data collected about an individual, the more intimately companies believe they can understand and market to them. Governments realising this is, however, new, and will lead to a new kind of geopolitical warfare :
We see “data” become an important word politically, both at home and abroad.
A new cloud services pure-player emerges.
All the current providers are hybrids, one way or another: Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM, Oracle… none of them are pure-players, and I believe it shows (*cough* conglomerate discount *cough*).
Thanks to the General Data Protection Regulation, Europe is miles ahead of its peers in term of data protection. However, as data becomes evermore important (see above), governments might begin to see the benefits of such regulations. Location data is likely to be ground zero, but facial recognition is also likely to become an emotional topic.
GDPR-like laws start to appear throughout the world.
18) New Tech Jobs
As all of the above unfurls, jobs will inevitably change, with potentially hilarious consequences.
At least one major companies advertise any of the following roles : Digital Store Guide, Trust Officer, Data Detective, Microgrid analyst…
19) Tech for good
Tech continues to help reduce infant mortality, deaths from infectious disease and wealth inequalities between the poorest and wealthiest nations.
And the world keeps turning.