year ago, I picked seven technologies that would play significant roles in 2018. Some of my predictions were correct, and some of them reappear on this list — 5G hasn’t quite happened yet, but we’re getting closer.
As George Saville, the 17th-century English statesman and essayist, once wrote, “The best qualification of a prophet is to have a good memory.” It’s a fancy way of saying the past is prologue, and no vision for the near future is possible without analyzing past trends. That’s what I’ve done to concoct these informed guesses about the state of tech in 2019.
Of course, there are bound to be surprises and off-base prognostications. Don’t sue me if things go a bit differently than expected.1. Cryptocurrency
Bitcoin opened 2018 at almost $17,000 in value and exited at under $4,000. This does not mean the end of it or other emerging cryptocurrencies.
The year 2018 taught us that the broad concept behind cryptocurrency — the blockchain — could be useful elsewhere. Expect token experiments in banking, business, and media to expand in 2019. Many will fail as token entrepreneurs struggle to connect offerings to real-world value. But immutable ledgers are attractive to an increasingly security-conscious world, and they will become the foundation of innumerable new ways of buying, selling, and accounting.2. “Screen Time” Services
We loved social media, we overused it, and now we’re finding that it probably isn’t that good for us. In addition, whatever trust we once had in the world’s most popular social platform, Facebook all but vanished in 2018. Thus, 2019 should bring a reconsideration of our obsession with sharing and those dopamine-producing likes and hearts.
Instead of measuring followers, we’ll start comparing screen times. Expect more apps, hardware, and IRL services to reward us for the time we don’t spend online. Apple’s iOS Screen Time, Android’s Dashboard, and third-party apps like Hold are just the tip of the iceberg.3. Cyberwarfare
World War III is upon us, but instead of boots on the ground, it’s all about binaries in the ether.
After Russia essentially — albeit secretly — declared war on the United States by undermining the 2016 presidential election, it and other insurgents have turned their attention to manipulating hearts, minds, elections, and even Brexit. The quietest worldwide conflagration will continue this year.
Educating the populace on how they’re being manipulated every single day through technology and social media will become a critical priority in 2019. P.W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking’s LikeWar should become required reading in high schools and colleges.4. Regulation
The year 2018 was a low point for privacy, with revelations that the most popular social media platform on the planet all but handed the keys to our personal profiles to a range of partners. Americans, following the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe, will demand change.
In 2019, we’ll see movement on the collection of bills from the U.S. House and Senate that are aimed at officially regulating the tech industry. They could eventually be combined into one overarching Personal Data Privacy Act of 2019.
This kind of policy will have broad, bipartisan support and perhaps grudging support in the tech sector. Assuming the legislation doesn’t overreach, the big question will be if the regulation-averse Trump White House will sign. If and when that happens, expect GDPR-level changes in how companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon do business. You’ll like some of it — it will be harder for companies to use your data without explicit consent, for example — but regulations may also slow innovation.5. Electric Self-Driving Cars
Most states now have some sort of self-driving automotive legislation on the books, and many new cars have enough built-in intelligence to do typical driving tasks. Still, the spread of autonomous driving was sporadic at best in 2018. This year could be a huge turning point.
States that have yet to get on board with the technology are being spurred by new federal guidelines enacted in September. In addition, Tesla’s Model 3, the bestselling sedan in the United States (by revenue, not total units sold), already has some of the most powerful autonomous driving technology on the road.
Expect new, all-electric Model 3 competitors and tests with self-driving-only lanes on some highways.6. Apple’s Mobile Lead Shrinks
Every time I run Geekbench on the latest flagship phones from Apple, Samsung, Motorola, LG, and others, the iPhone comes out on top. Apple’s custom silicon isn’t just marginally more powerful than the Qualcomm CPUs most Android handsets are running — it’s leaps and bounds better.
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