The Internet is now almost 20 years old (depending of how you split the hairs) and its effect on life, industry and society has been massive. I’ve been thinking about what’s next, and how the Digital Life will continue to affect us, and what the consequences will be on everyday life. Here are some of my reflections.
I’ve divided these into predictions for this year, the next five years, and the coming decade. I had planned to go with ten trends, but this is the era of generosity (see #20). If you read ’til the end, I’d really like to have your opinions on these. Thanks.
1 /1 year – Handmade papercraft construction designs will die of overexposure
You’ve seen these just about everywhere, they are very cool. But it is inevitable that creativity-challenged advertising agencies will destroy this idea, the same way they destroyed the “viral video”. By using them to sell cheap and tacky products that no one wants or needs, and plastering everything you can see with their sub-quality version. It will act as a vaccine and nobody will be able to even look at these without throwing up. By the end of 2010, this cool trend will be dead.
2 /1 year – The Apple Tablet will change the world
Just like nobody was able to predict the shape, functions and market-shifting powers of the iPhone, the Thing That Has Yet To Be Revealed will fill a gigantic hole that exists exactly in everyone’s blind spot. And it will be huger that huge. Today, every. single. phone. manufacturer is doing an exact clone of the iPhone, while not even coming close to its level of quality and richness of experience. In 2010 Apple will repeat this apparently superhuman feat once again. I will give you my own predictions about this in an upcoming post.
3 /1 year – Comics will explode on the upcoming and yet unannounced Apple Tablet
Of course this fabled Magic Tablet still only exists in the imagination of… everyone, actually. But, like Microsoft, all they can imagine it doing is the old stuff in a new box. E-Books, email and web browsing. Now imagine a comic book page, in full color, zoomable and digitally distributed. Remember that a scanned comic book is just a bunch of jpegs, and zips right down that Torrent hose you got plugged into that computer of yours. Books without pictures do not stand a chance.
4 /1 year – Personal media
Facebook, Twitter and blogs will reach even further into the mediasphere, eating up more and more valuable space that was previously dominated by Big Media. Breaking News are, uh, broken more and more by, um, regular ol’ people. The main part of a journalist’s job in 2010 will be separated into two parts. 1: complain about how irresponsible the masses are, with their twittering and somesuch, and 2: joining the new world and participating themselves. Of course, you know which ones I think will still have a job by the end of the decade.
5 /1 year /5 years /10 years – Copyright Schmopyright
Copyright and digital distribution issues are still in the air, but it’s a safe bet that some semblance of solution will have taken hold by the end of the decade. One thing is clear is that the existing model is broken and the new one has not been installed yet. Personally, I’m leaning towards a monthly all-you-can-eat digital content subscription that would include music, movies, books, games, and anything else we haven’t thought of yet. Among other things, it would get rid of piracy. More on this later.
6 /5 years – The Cloud becomes The Fog
Clouds are up in the sky. Way up. Walking in a city today it’s still rare to find a Wi-Fi connection that lets you tweet, update your facebook and read your email everywhere. But in a relatively near future, the cloud comes down to street level. It becomes The Fog. Wi-Fi (or whatever replaces it) will, eventually, inevitably, become as accessible – if not more – as radio waves. Being disconnected will be the exception.
7 /5 years – Ubiquitous access
Subway rides will be the perfect example of this. You will read your news, check out the highlights of last night’s game – or party – and generally go about your digital life while sitting comfortably until you get to your station. Reading a dead-tree news paper will become a little embarrassing. Like, for idiots and tree-killers.
8 /5 years – Invisible, infinite storage
A good example is the personal media player. Storage will eventually disappear, replaced by a managed key that gives you access either to what you have purchased, or to you digital media subscription. It will be an antenna, not a box.
9 /5 years – Screen resolution becomes meaningless
As much in small handheld, arms-length or wall-hung devices, screen resolution is going through a turmoil. 480p, 720, 1080, 4k, whatever! Because of the exploding multitude of formats available today, combined with the incoming and never-ending formats coming in tomorrow, most people will just give up and read/watch what they want in whatever format is accessible at the moment they want to access it. You can’t expect people to buy a $2000 plasma screen this year and to get a new one next year. Expect resolution-independent design to become the next interface trend.
10 /5 years – One More Thing from Apple
More and more fictitious yet amazing Apple products will be willed into existence by the Collective Hive Mind. Apple will retain its central position as the R&D department for the entire tech industry.
11 /5 years – Movies get longer still
We’ve been seeing this in the last couple of years from the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Peter Jackson, the Wachowski brothers and James Cameron. Digital technology and ego inflation are pushing this trend very firmly. There will come a time when a movie rental and a TV-Series rental will be indistinguishable in length.
12 /5 years – Computers become smarter
Repetitive tasks will finally be taken over by the smart computer. Whenever it senses you doing the same thing more than three times in a row, it will ask you if you want it to take over for you. A simple enough concept, but nobody seems to be putting their brain cycles on this one.
13 /5 years – Magazines and Blogs will merge
As the traditional magazine’s structure, content, distribution and readership are increasingly overtaken by blogs, they will merge into a new “thing” that will be a morph of the two, and which has yet to be named. The fact that you will read both of them on your Tablet in the bathroom will further muddy the distinction.
14 /5 years – The emergence of Personal Media
Maybe this will be the name of that new thing. There was a time when a major weekly publication needed an office full of people to merely exist. Today a fat guy with a laptop can and does compete – successfully – with that old structure. Digital technology has allowed solitary geeks to make bedroom music and movies, and now it will allow them to publish full-blown “magazines”. Glossy-quality publications about personal obsessions, be it Barbie collections, obscure bands or world affairs. The little fanzine that could, will.
15 /5 years – Better battery life
In the same way a fish cannot conceive of the existence of birds living on trees, I see nothing in this direction. The future seems closed. I just keep hoping that within 5 years a new, unexpected technology will… happen, that will do for portable energy storage what has been happening to portable computing’s processing power. Allowing us to envision 10-day power and infinitely rechargeable batteries.
16 /10 years – Ubiquitous manufacturing
This is barely starting now, it’s still in the realm of garage-geeks and science fiction, but personal fabrication machines, 3D printers, replicators, whatever you might want to call them, are coming, and they are coming to a counter near you. They will become a fact of life. That handle that broke off your laptop, the pen cap you lost, the switch on that lamp that isn’t working like it used to? You will be able to download a file, or scan it, and then print an exact and functional replica. This will reduce the quantity of broken coffee machines you will find on the side of the street come garbage day.
17 /10 years – The death of Journalism
Journalism as we know it – something that has only existed since de mid-19th century – will die its inescapable death, and not without an ugly fight. But it is going away, as surely as vinyl LPs and gas-powered lighting. In its place, a form of “human media” will emerge. A global village conversation, which disappeared when the emerging broadcast model was incapable of scaling it to the masses it was distributed to. Journalism will have been a chapter, a temporary blindness. I mean, do you really believe in the fiction that they call the “objective voice”?
18 /10 years – The new Privacy
Today you expect to be able to access all information. Yet you also expect to be able to block certain facts from that access. Really, who do you think will win that fight? Google and Wikipedia (and the things that will replace these) will know everything about you and about everyone and everything else. This is not something that we will escape. Human curiosity knows no limits, and you and your life are subject to it. It will take a long time, but people will eventually get used to this and get on with their connected lives. And wonder how the hell did they even function before.
19 /10 years – American popular culture opens up to the World
Maybe it’s because the Web will have beaten them to the punch, but within the next ten years, Hollywood will finally accept the fact that the rest of the world’s culture has value, and will start releasing dubbed movies, instead of crappy remakes with Ted Danson. Also, the studios will realize that it’s way cheaper this way.
20 /10 years – Generosity
Giving things away, doing more than what is expected, access to cheap power, communications and resources, these will usher in a new era of plenty. The poor will be rich. Websites and piracy are conditioning us to this frame of mind, and it will want to expand to everything else in your life. The decade of Twenty Ten will be the decade of generosity.