Stuck in the middle
The terrifying world of Black Mirror somehow seems simultaneously far away yet worryingly close to reality. But is that the world we should prepare for?
Internet oracle Mary Meeker recently released her Internet Trends Report for Code Conference in California. Meeker has been successfully forecasting trends online since the Dotcom boom in the 90s. And, unlike the floppy disk, her reports have some seriously strong shelf life. Naturally, we’re totally obsessed with her.
These are her key insights about what’s going to shake up the digital landscape this year.
China has beaten many US internet companies in the world’s top 20 leading organisations. Chinese businesses placed first in e-commerce sales and smartphone manufacture, alongside rapid advancements in AI.
Five years ago, it had only two and the US had nine.
The Chinese government is pressing for more digital breakthroughs. Tellingly, Chinese citizens are more inclined to share their data in exchange for convenience.
Online shopaholics unite
Fun fact: More people in the world own smartphones than own a toothbrush.
Other than the fact that it’s gross, it also means that people are online, mobile, and oversaturated. Smartphone unit shipments experienced no growth in 2017 and internet user growth slumped from 12 to 7 percent.
Users are more connected than ever. Easier internet access coupled with cheaper devices means we’re spending more time online (and we love to shop!).
Competition, at our convenience
Competition is stiff and companies are vying for consumer engagement. The results? Totally awesome products and services.
Voice technology like Amazon’s Echo is taking off with an estimated 30 million already in use.
Digital payment has gotten much easier over the years thanks to innovations in mobile and messenger apps. In fact, 60% of financial transactions were digital in 2017.
Data-driven personalization is also improving the online experience with filtered recommendations and price comparisons.
Consumers are also moving away from ownership, with subscription models growing in popularity. Almost half of Spotify’s monthly active users are subscribers, whereas 10 years ago, it was 0 percent.
The Destiny’s Child of the ‘privacy paradox’
Okay, so they’re not together anymore… or are they? Here are the three key players tangled in the interwebs’ privacy paradox:
- Internet companies want to improve online experiences, using data to enhance cheap services and customer satisfaction.
- Regulators want to ensure proper data usage, but aren’t quite on the same page.
- Internet users are totally cool with giving up their data privacy if it makes their lives easier. Life-enhancing apps (especially location-based services) such as Waze, SnapMap, Uberpool or NextDoor are raking in user data.
Tech companies making it rain
Hey, big spenders! Tech companies are now the largest and fastest growing R&D spenders in the United States.
The huge increase in internet use means more demand for flexible working. As a result, on-demand jobs (like Uber, and Etsy) and the freelance workforce are on the rise.
Is Black Mirror the future?
True disruption is a popularity contest. While innovation is important, adoption is what really gets new tech off the ground.
This may slow down in the West in the wake of GDPR, with users becoming increasingly wary about data privacy. In China, however, most users are down to share their data.
These opposing views on data privacy have huge potential to change things, depending on which way the scales tip.
So is the rest of the world going to eventually reject new technology or become increasingly dependent on it? Well, it’s not so clear-cut.
Much like the screens that create the titular Black Mirror, the future is in our hands.