According to my phone I spend an inordinate amount of time perusing tech articles, listening to podcasts on tech and following tech influencers on Twitter and Instagram.
Along my journey through these mediums, I have developed some theories about how the future of technology, and subsequently society, is going to develop. So I thought I would write them down so I can either point back to this in the future all smugly or surreptitiously delete it if everything turns out to be wrong.
This one is a gimme with the amount of hype around Web3 and the metaverse.
Giant tech companies like Meta are so powerful that they can essentially will societal change into existence, so with the amount of money they are pouring into VR and AR technology, along with a whole rebrand, it won’t be a surprise when things like virtual meetings, gaming and education will take place more and more in 3D spaces, rather than in the typical 2D spaces of Web2.
However don’t YOLO all your money into an Oculus headset just yet because...
Getting more speculative here, but I think augmented reality (AR) has wider application than virtual reality (VR).
For the uninformed, AR is where digital effects are overlaid onto the real world, whereas VR is where digital effects create a whole new world. AR was used to a ridiculously successful degree with Pokemon Go, which placed Pokemon in physical locations for users to find.
There are two reasons I think that AR will be wider reaching and more popular than VR. The first is that the barrier to entry with AR is much much lower. AR effects are easier, cheaper and quicker to produce from a supplier side, and can be accessed easily through mobile and don’t require any extra tech from a consumer side, which can’t be said for VR. AR is also more insulated from supply chain problems due to the ease of production and less reliance on hardware than VR, and as climate issues escalate, we are bound to see supply chain issues become more and more common.
The second reason I think AR will be more popular than VR is that whilst most people speak about the metaverse and Web3 being built in VR, there’s no reason that it can’t also be built in AR as well. AR will be able to support persistent and interoperable world changes, which is a core tenet of metaverse philosophy and can also be brought to life by decentralised applications which is a core philosophy of Web3.
Ultimately I believe that the combination of feasibility and availability will mean that more and more applications will use AR, so the majority of our Web3 content consumption will be done through augmented reality, with pockets of VR for specific use cases like gaming and video conferencing, where sharing virtual space is necessary. However, this doesn’t mean that we will be constantly wearing fancy AR glasses 24 hours a day as…
Reading a lot of opinion pieces about the metaverse and Web3, it’s easy to imagine everyone walking around with Oculus headsets duct-taped to their heads, experiencing everything in virtual reality from work to exercise to socialising and gaming. But I don’t think this is going to be how it plays out.
Firstly, when we look at the shift from Web1 to Web2, it wasn’t an all encompassing shift as we imagine it will be with the jump from Web2 to Web3. When interactivity and user generated content was proliferated throughout the internet, that didn’t mean that things like static blogs, ecommerce websites and informational web pages all completely disappeared. In fact, you are on a website right now that would be classified as a Web1 website (although my next project may change that 👀)!
Businesses and people alike tend to pick the right tool for the job, and a lot of the time a shared virtual reality i.e. the metaverse will be a more engaging way for people to explore the world, but it won’t be 100% of the time. Websites will still exist and this even backs up my AR point more, as it will be easier for brands to use AR to link their legacy Web2 applications and cutting edge Web3 applications in a more seamless way, than trying to sandwich them in a VR setting somehow. Imagine a clothing brand that allows users to use AR to try on a item, share this with their friends for their opinion, and then links effortlessly to the brand's website for purchase.
I think blockchain technology is revolutionary, but I believe the use of NFTs for art and tokens for finance are poor applications of the technology. NFTs for art is bad for the brand image of blockchain technology as a whole, as art is naturally divisive, and when you have Paris Hilton and Jimmy Fallon promoting pictures of monkeys that are worth more than most peoples houses, you have a serious image problem (no pun intended).
For cryptocurrencies, I actually really admire the initial offerings of crypto, and think that it had a lot of potential to be a store of wealth for the traditionally downtrodden, but now it is pretty heavily the domain of fraudsters, the Winkelvii and the elite who want a non taxable way to store and move money, with 40% of the bitcoin market owned by 1000 people, and the volatility of it makes it more of an investors plaything rather than a vehicle to actually pay for goods and services.
I still believe heavily in distributed ledger technology and the democratisation that comes with it, but I believe that we are in a similar era to the dot com boom, and the real winners are yet to reveal themselves.
Moving away from Web3 for a second here, but a disturbing trend has started to become apparent in the world recently, and that’s more and more countries trying to eliminate the openness of the internet, offering their citizens a more restricted and censored set of services.
The ability to connect to anyone, anywhere is one of the core principles of the internet, but this hasn’t stopped authoritarian regimes from trying to limit this access and in cases like North Korea, shut this off completely.
As we enter a weird pseudo second Cold War with eastern powers, I believe that through sanctioning, censorship and a fear of cyberattacks, the internet will begin to fragment, with a Western and Eastern internet, furthering divides and limiting progress of open source initiatives.
Taking the UK as a prime example, socialised healthcare is becoming more and more unmanageable as we keep electing right wing leaders who don’t support initiatives that will boost public healthcare. And patients are feeling this collapse, with the lowest ever recorded satisfaction levels for NHS services including
Coupled with this is the movement of several tech giants investing in healthcare, such as Amazon buying One Medical for $3.9 billion, Apple’s repeated and targeted investments in its Apple Watch and Google’s controversial purchase of Fitbit.
As government run healthcare begins to crumble due to neglect , I believe big tech companies will make a play into the medical insurance industry to fill the void. In the same way you use a handful of providers for email and phone services, the same will be for medical services, completing a full privatisation of healthcare in the Western world.
It is up to governments to decide through regulation how this handover takes place, but given their inability to even decide on a suitable leader at this point, I doubt that will be handled very effectively.
The cost of going to university coupled with the rise of the creator economy and a continued and systemic decrease in the quality of education offered has made university a less and less appealing proposition for youth.
This is also combined with the student debt crisis, where a whopping £182 billion is owed in the UK alone, with the government estimating that the maximum they will ever get back from a cohort is 55% of the money loaned. In no other industry would a 45% default rate be accepted, and it would be permissible if the standard of teaching was incredibly high, but due to strikes, over admission and an overall lack of agility, it isn’t.
Therefore I think that smaller private companies will collate knowledge into platforms with slick UIs that can be accessed from anywhere, as well as come with cool alumni packages that will be much more appealing to the youth of tomorrow. New Loxley University is actually one of these companies that just launched in the education space, you should check them out!
Of course, universities will exist in some shape or form, but I imagine we will see some of them go under as the government will be unable to foot the bill.
As I mentioned previously, I don’t believe that governments are equipped to enforce laws or regulation that promotes the decentralisation of tech services. I also don’t think that decentralisation benefits companies as much as it does users, especially big, established companies whose revenue model is dependent on monetising the data of their users.
Therefore it is crucial that users are educated, informed and proactive in choosing services that are fully decentralised and avoiding those that stockpile data. This will be tough to begin with but by invoking the powers of the free market, users will be able to force big established tech companies to offer actually decentralised services.
Views are completely my own in this post, but if you disagree on any of the points or have any other bold predictions, I'd love to connect and hear about it!