It’s that time again. 2021 is ending and 2022 is almost upon us.
It’s a great time for reflection. I’m not a big fan of dwelling on the past, so my reflections here will focus on the future.
For every year since as long as I can remember (which is pretty long), I go into the next year even more optimistic than when I entered it. Yes, 2021 has been tough in many ways, but disruption brings opportunity and therefore hope. I am a big believer in the power and resilience of humans and society. Here are my thoughts:
COVID is here to stay. I suspect that everyone is now coming to a place where they realize that we aren’t going to have a new, post-COVID normal that mirrors our old normal. COVID is now an endemic part of our lives, and continues to shape and change how we work, raise our families and live our lives.
Now that we know what this means, we can better move forward into learning how to live with it in the safest and most productive ways possible. 2022 will be the year that we figure this out.
“Appification” of consumer economy mainstreams even more. There is a lot of talk about the coming of Web 3.0 (crypto), but its first (world-wide web) and second (networks and apps) generations are still quite young and are quietly becoming better, faster, simpler -- and, most importantly, more ubiquitous and integrated into every consumer’s life.
It’s no longer just activities like news reading, phone calls and messaging that are now app-based for virtually everyone, but bigger parts of people’s lives like working, going to school, grocery shopping, working out, parenting and driving.
Society confronts a future where our “life operating systems” are increasingly controlled by ad-supported tech companies. Six of the 10 most valuable companies in the world derive a significant portion of their profits today directly or indirectly through data-driven digital advertising, and their share of total ad spend is growing much faster than their smaller competitors.
This is not new. Companies that dominated the world of advertising, media, news and information were always valuable, and many built monopolistic positions in the process. However, those companies were rarely able to also build dominant positions in consumers’ access to life essentials like food, shelter, communications, health care and government services.
But this is the future emerging now. Governments, regulators, politicians and non-governmental organizations all see it now, quite clearly. We are all gaining massively from the technical innovations of these companies, and the speed and efficiency of their services.
In 2022, I expect to see governments step in much more aggressively than they have in the past, and begin to weigh regulatory balances. This isn’t just about who controls access to our news, information and entertainment (which are already enormously important), it is now also about who controls access to our basic human needs.
The government interventions won’t all be pretty or well-executed, but I’m confident we’ll end next year with more knowledge and transparency of our dependencies on these companies, and some not-so-insignificant steps taken to shape some better future controls.
What do you see for 2022?