It’s the most wonderful time of the year: when columnists pull out their crystal balls and predict what will happen in the next 12 months. I’ve known several who’ve kept a running tally of how accurately they predicted the future and, in general, their year-end reviews show that their predilection for predictions fall short of even chance.
But why break with traditions? Here are my four possible ways technology will be interrupted that you can expect to see by close of play 2022.
First, office workers won’t have a choice but to go back full-time. The great hybrid rebound that appears to have evolved since lockdowns lessened will be discarded by year-end. Already, we know that the top brass want their employees back in the office to be able to look them in the eye, but this won’t be the catalyst; tax jurisdictions, health and safety concerns and intellectual property will force CEOs to mandate bums on seats, because otherwise, insurance will be too high. So say sayonara to your comfy and casual attire.
Second, we’ll soon start to see the spoils of a new crop of entrepreneurs who will launch their internet products. The last two years have accelerated our digital migration and now everyone knows that this internet malarky could bend to our wills, if we just had the right tools.
And now that more people have become empowered by their deeper knowledge of this crazy online world, they’ve got all creative and started to find their own solutions to fulfil their specific needs. Some of these solutions will work, but a lot of them won’t – it’s time to test them all out to see who the next Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg will be.
Third, our battle against the hypnotic screen will continue. Digital detoxing will become a bigger moneyspinner than before. Conscientious people will show up to promote and sell services and tools we can use to do the things we want to do, but without staring into a black mirror while we do it. Brace yourself for a flood of products coming to market next year that make everyday tasks more difficult, but screenless.
Fourth, governments around the world will get closer to regulating the internet. Right now, the online world is an unregulated miasma of QAnon conspiracy theories and questionable black markets. And you know what? Some like it this way.
The intangible Wild West will be hauled up in front of even more parliamentary hearings by people who don’t understand that the problem isn’t the technology but the laws that are already in place – if the regulation only applies to the offline world, this is your fault.
We lost control of the line between the virtual and the physical a long, long time ago. The only people who will ultimately notice are ageing digital utopians, libertarians and academics. The rest will happily tap their privacy away into one social network or another just like we’ve always done.
This year, we’ll accept the new digital normal. Our human/tech boundaries will evolve – at times painfully – throughout 2022, as we realise there’s no going back.
- This article first appeared in issue 372 of BBC Science Focus Magazine – find out how to subscribe here
Read more from Aleks Krotoski: