Every year I write predictions for the year ahead. And at the end of that year, I grade myself on how I did. I love writing this post, and thankfully you all love reading it as well. These “How I Did” posts are usually the most popular of the year, beating even the original predictions in readership and engagement.
What’s that about, anyway? Is it the spectacle of watching a guy admit he got things wrong? Cheering when I get it right? Perhaps it’s just a chance to pull back and review the year that was, all the while marveling at how much happened in twelve short months. And 2018 does not disappoint.
Those of us fortunate enough to have lived through the birth of the web have a habit of stewing in our own nostalgia. We’ll recall some cool site from ten or more years back, then think to ourselves (or sometimes out loud on Twitter): “Well damn, things were way better back then.”
Then we shut up. After all, we’re likely out of touch, given most of us have never hung out on Twitch. But I’m seeing more and more of this kind of oldster wistfulness, what with Facebook’s current unraveling and the overall implosion of the tech-as-savior narrative in our society.
Social conversations about difficult and complex topics have arcs – they tend to start scattered, with many threads and potential paths, then resolve over time toward consensus. This consensus differs based on groups within society – Fox News aficionados will cluster one way, NPR devotees another. Regardless of the group, such consensus then becomes presumption – and once a group of people presume, they fail to explore potentially difficult or presumably impossible alternative solutions.
This is often a good thing – an efficient way to get to an answer. But it can also mean we fail to imagine a better solution, because our own biases are obstructing a more elegant path forward.
So first the news. To celebrate the company’s eight birthday, Cloudflare is announcing the launch of a domain registrar. And because the company operates at massive scale, and can afford to do things most companies simply can’t (or won’t – looking at you, Google, Amazon, Facebook) – the company is offering domains *at cost.* In other words, Cloudflare isn’t making one red cent when you register a domain with them. What they pay to register a domain (and yes, that number is fixed, and the same for all domain registrars), is what you pay to register a domain.
If you pull far enough back from the day to day debate over technology’s impact on society – far enough that Facebook’s destabilization of democracy, Amazon’s conquering of capitalism, and Google’s domination of our data flows start to blend into one broader, more cohesive picture – what does that picture communicate about the state of humanity today?
Technology forces us to recalculate what it means to be human – what is essentially us, and whether technology represents us, or some emerging otherness which alienates or even terrifies us. We have clothed ourselves in newly discovered data, we have yoked ourselves to new algorithmic harnesses, and we are waking to the human costs of this new practice. Who are we becoming?
Next week Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, will testify in front of Congress. They must take this opportunity to directly and vigorously defend the role that real journalism plays not only on their platforms, but also in our society at large. They must declare that truth exists, that facts matter, and that while reasonable people can and certainly should disagree about how to respond to those facts, civil society depends on rational discourse driven by an informed electorate.
Google search results for “Trump News” shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake News Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal? 96% of….
….results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous. Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!
A pivotal year for business and its role in society.
So many predictions from so many smart people these days. When I started doing these posts fifteen years ago, prognostication wasn’t much in the air. But a host of way-smarter-than-me folks are doing it now, and I have to admit I read them all before I sat down to do my own. So in advance, thanks to Fred, to Azeem, to Scott, and Alexis, among many others.
So let’s get into it. Regular readers know that while I think about these predictions in the back of my mind for months, I usually just sit down and write them at one sitting. That’s what happened a year ago, when I predicted that 2017 would see the tech industry lose its charmed status. It certainly did, and nearly everyone is predicting more of the same for 2018. So I won’t focus on the entire industry this year, as much as on specific companies and trends. Here we go….
YouTube, Russia, Trump, Facebook…this one has it all.
Well, I was planning on writing a full throated column today, but the unfriendly skies, coupled with a failing laptop, denied us of that outcome. So here are the links I’m reading. It’s an abbreviated version of Money Quote, but it’ll have to do this time. More soon. I’m on the road most of the week, so keep your fingers crossed the Apple Store in Austin or Boulder can help…
Yes, it is. And while this story is about out of control capitalism mixed with uncontrollable algos on YouTube with kids’ programming, it’s essentially the same thing that’s happening with Russian bots.
Trump disrupts the Valley, AI is a myth, Google goes hard for hardware
I wasn’t going to do a Money Quote today, because, well, for whatever reason, when I do these daily posts rounding up the news, nearly no one reads them. But when I write a column, lots of folks do. The market has spoken, so to speak. But the process of writing these does help me make sense of the major stories of the day (at least the ones that relate to my work), so I am keeping at it. Maybe more folks will eventually find this worthy. I’m not counting on it though.
Pew has another study on the intersection of tech and culture, and the most interesting tidbit is the public’s distrust of automated automobiles. Money quote: “A sizable share of the public expresses reservations about personally using each of the technological concepts examined in the survey. Nearly six-in-ten Americans say they would not want to ride in a driverless vehicle or use a robot caregiver for themselves or a family member, while roughly three-quarters would not want to apply for a job that used a computer program to evaluate and select applicants.”
Is the United States coming to terms with social media? It’s complicated.
It was an extraordinary weekend for news, but then again, they all seem to be these days. Beyond the unimaginable shooting in Las Vegas, the facts around which are still unfolding, the past two days have brought an avalanche of news around the role of social media in our culture.
Let’s start with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s brief but powerful post this past Friday, on Judaism’s holiest night (the end of Yom Kippur). “For those I hurt this year, I ask forgiveness and I will try to be better…For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask for forgiveness and I will work to do better.”
This was yet another example of Zuckerberg being Zuckerberg — failing fast(ish), acknowledging his mistakes, moving forward (Facebook delivers 3,000 ads to Congress today, by the way). But the test in front of him and his outsized company is unique: Americans seem to have finally woken up to the power his company and others like it marshal, and to the fact that not even the Lords of Tech truly comprehend how to contain it.