Predictions 2020: Only Connect and 4 other thoughts

December 15, 2020

1. Return to “normal”?

Any return to normality will take a while and will not result in restoration of the previous state for all. Many (of those with the space and bandwidth) will find that WFH is useful and productive to retain for a couple of days a week. Zoom has shown all that they can do much together without being in the same physical room. All that travel time carries an immense overhead, but there are times when better agreements are formed more quickly with more immediate and richer communication.

The benefits will not be evenly distributed, nor will the costs. Struggling retailers will continue to go out of business, leaving holes on the high-street and bills unpaid. Those who have equipped themselves with the competences to thrive in the new world will continue to reap the benefit. Will the disenfranchised become violent?

2. The Fraudulent Arms-Race

The last decade saw increasing use of technological tools to rob, deceive and hold to ransom. Some such as Boris, Putin and Trump exploited the potential for short-term gain. Those to suffer the most are without functioning defence – the NHS was slaughtered by Wannacry in 2018 because of un-patched machines. Regulators always play catch-up to social media and genuine public opinion. They and the courts will be unforgiving. Class actions will rise in importance and effect. The leading players will increasingly rely on AI to detect attack and deceit; The bad players will engage increasingly sophisticated tools to outwit the defence. Regulators will start to hold social media platforms accountable for what is posted.

3. 5G hype-cycle and AGVs

Early adopters buy expensive new phones and find that little has changed due to lack of signal coverage. 5G was not designed for them and the truth will eventually sink in. Meanwhile, IoT and other similarly dull but ultimately revolutionary technologies will start to make a serious use of it. It may be found that autonomous vehicles are not workable without a consistently reliable high-bandwidth signal.

4. Democratisation of brilliance

The Open Source movement has quietly worked wonders in the world of Tech. IP lawyers will rightly continue to rail about the problems of license management. Meanwhile, most leading practice in tool, operating system and applications development has been won by the movement. Anyone wanting to develop an AI, big data or most other developments will start with Open Source tools. Later, maturing toolsets will be developed to package and connect sets of tools, as has happened in RPA. The barrier now is not available technology (that is everywhere); it is the people with the organisational, mathematical and coding skills to make it work. The war for that talent will rage fiercely.

5. Only Connect

In 1978, James Burke delivered a superb TV series tracking the development of technology, Connections. The associated book is still worth a read. The outstanding (and modest) Clayton Christensen brilliantly researched innovation and the reinvention of industries (The Innovator’s Dilemma, 1997). Both developed the theme that innovation occurs in unpredictable ways when elements of a solution come together to provide a break-through. This will continue apace. What it will deliver? Heaven knows, but it could be fun!

Christensen observed that it is not always the first to develop who capture a market. The reason is that their invention does not quite work in the hands of users. Think BlockChain. This leads to the slow development of many innovations. But, when someone does put the last piece in place the benefit can be astonishing.

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William Hooper acts as an expert witness in IT and Outsourcing disputes and a consultant in service delivery. He is a member of the Society of Computers and Law and a director of Oareborough Consulting. He may be reached on +44 7909 958274 or