Many of my predictions for 2021, 2020, 2019 and 2018 have fallen flat, but there are two reasons why you should keep reading this article. The knowledge gained through planning for the future is crucial to the selection of appropriate actions as events unfold. In 2022, we will continue to see Branson, Bezos and Musk avoid seeing a psychologist by sending phallic objects into space. And for all their misgivings, these billionaires are leading the way for a new technological revolution that will trickle down to customers over the next decade.
What. A. Year. The United States Capitol was stormed in January, and storms tore through the States in December. Elon Tweeted… and Trump didn’t. A Surfside condominium went down, but at least meme stocks went up. You worked from home, and then lived from work. Bernie got dressed for winter; Cruz… not so much. Texas froze, then water caught fire. We discovered that a lawyer is not a cat, but that a Doge is a coin. The Evergiven got stuck in the Suez canal, while we got needles stuck in our arms. Simone Biles pulled out of Tokyo, just as the US did the same in Afghanistan. There was an upheaval in Haiti, and Nicki’s cousin’s friend’s balls made me heave. Someone at Facebook blew a whistle, and Zuckerberg blew the Metaverse out of proportion. Millions tried to find a better place on Earth while billionaires tried to leave it. Chauvin was jailed, but Britney was set free. Climate changed — and COVID mutated.
History has always rhymed; in 2021, it did so faster than ever.
But we’ve made it. And though many (but not all) of my predictions for 2021, 2020, 2019, and 2018 have fallen flat, there are two reasons why you should keep reading this article. Firstly… it’s fun! Secondly, because the knowledge gained through planning for the future is crucial to the selection of appropriate actions as events unfold. Above all, articles such as this one can act as catalysts to steer the conversation in the right direction. We don’t know the answers, but we can at least ask useful questions.
1. Space Race 2.0 Leads to Unprecedented Innovation
The “original” space race led to a wide array of inventions and innovations becoming available to the wider public. Wireless headsets, the computer mouse, LED lighting, portable cordless vacuums, freeze-dried foods, air purifiers, memory foam, scratch-resistant eyeglass lenses, solar cells… they all started as a way to shame the Soviets, the Americans, or both.
In 2022, this toxic tradition will live on. We will continue to see Branson, Bezos, and Musk avoid seeing a psychologist by sending increasingly large phallic objects into space. And for all their misgivings (oh god, so many misgivings), these billionaires are absolutely leading the way for a new technological revolution that will trickle down to customers over the next decade.
2. NFT “Art” Continues to Disappoint
NFTs are stupid. Intensely so.
Scoreboard: they create a sense of scarcity where there is none. Copyright laws do not support their existence. They aim to put a price on pieces of our common culture to benefit the rich. They digitalize real life when we already spend far too much online. Long-term ownership is impossible because the technology to back it up should have never left the Proof-of-Concept stage. Creating and selling NFTs costs money… and is also costing us our environment. And finally, NFTs’ underlying technology isn’t even as decentralized as advertised.
My theory? NFT Art is just a fad and will continue to be a disappointment in 2022. This is not to say that parts of the underlying technology (namely, blockchain) are not interesting. They are and will lead to grand innovations. But millions of young men in their mom’s basement are currently barking up the wrong tree.
3. Cryptocurrencies Grow Up
Cryptocurrencies, on the other hand, are very much fungible, and… kind of useful? And the industry within which they evolve is quickly growing up — thanks, in part, to wider blockchain attention and adoption.
We’re seeing stablecoins becoming alternative stores of value that even the European Parliament is willing to write about. We’re also hearing rumblings about access to early stages investments, secure money transfers, royalties tracking, making it difficult to launder money… many things that have been discussed for nearly a decade but never truly materialized. In 2022, this trend will gain in strength IF regulations are able to kill off crypto’s Ponzi-scheme tendencies.
Indeed, we shall not be blind to the darkness surrounding the cryptocurrency environment — scams still abound, and 2021’s “get rich quick” mentality has set the industry back years.
4. Spotify Creates AI-Generated Music
Spotify has succeeded where many of its predecessors had failed: it managed to reduce the world’s entire audio experience to one app. In doing so, it has acquired a mountain of data: what demographics listen to what songs, what gets searched, paused, favorited, skipped, shuffled, in what context… All in all, more than 100 billion data points are created every day on the platform. No artist, recording company, or news aggregator can compete with this amount of raw information.
This data will be needed to create something that has evaded us for decades: decent artificially generated music, created not through human ingenuity but through algorithms. This has already been theorized and tested, with various levels of success. With Apple Music fresh on its heels, Spotify will have to innovate. Hard. Much like Netflix is winning the streaming wars through the creation of its own content, so will Spotify create its own artists, songs, and bands. Real ones, at first, but I believe it’d be too good to pass on the opportunity to have algorithmically created music, specifically tailored to match every listener’s taste.
5. Nike or Apple Buy Peloton
COVID brought Peloton fame and fortune. Dead children and predators brought it to its knees. The stock is in free fall (-75% this year), and no dead cat bounce will save it. It will be purchased by a better-managed company in 2022.
There are two obvious candidates to acquire it:
- Nike is already the go-to brand for people who like sport, money, and like to show it — which is Peloton’s entire brand identity as I understand it. The company is also highly invested into experiences and community, but having a hard time organically creating anything resembling Peloton’s fanaticism. Such an acquisition could also help Nike find and attract new, well-off clients.
- Apple, on the other hand, knows premium and hardware better than anyone else in the world. The company is also increasingly getting into the business of health; this acquisition would help sell more Apple watches and further solidify the entire ecosystem within which Apple customers will soon be evolving (The Appleverse?). The brand is also highly trusted, which would help restore Peloton’s faltering image.
6. Big Money Goes into AR / VR Hardware
VCs and Facebook want us to believe that the Metaverse will create untold wealth. They’re investing so much money into it, they might just will it into existence just to spite the nay-sayers.
Whatever the Metaverse ends up looking like, it will not (only) be built on code. It will (also) be built on AR / VR sensors, cameras, and headsets. Sensors that make you feel touched if someone squeezes your… arm online. Cameras that see if you’re in a horrid mood so that the AI doesn’t bother you too much. Headsets that feel the sun around you and project a summer day in the digital world for added realism. And that’s not even getting into the boring stuff, such as inertial measurement units, visual light cameras, depth cameras to help with tracking, mapping, and localization… This will all amount to some serious cash being made.
In 2022, the big Metaverse winners will be the hardware makers.
7. Cameras are Installed in AirPods
We buy iPhones and AirPods because we believe it’ll help us get laid. I will take no further questions on the matter. Facebook’s Oculus, on the other hand, has the exact opposite effect; it’s clunky, goofy, heavy… there is no way people willingly show it off in public. If they did, we’d know about it.
But the “Metaverse” is nevertheless being built, and we will need adequate tools to access it. I believe Apple will be the ones to provide them, by creating the first real alternative to the Oculus. It will do so by implanting cameras in Airpods and promising to pair them with Apple Glasses — which do not exist… yet.
Apple is trusted and knows hardware better than anyone — much better than Facebook, whose core business is selling adverts to your conspiracy-minded aunt. 2022 is the year Apple realizes this and continues its ongoing war with Facebook on a different battlefield.
8. The Keyboard Begins to Die
The keyboard is a relic of a time long gone. At some point in the past, we decided that OG computers and typewriters should have a baby, PCs were born, and we never truly reconsidered how they should look (which is staggering given Silicon Valley’s compulsive need to “disrupt”).
But the future needs not look like the past, and we could today do away with the keyboard entirely. We could use a stylus, stick to touchscreen, use projectors, or even verbal commands. The possibilities are many, and I believe they are worth exploring. Others will too.
I will miss the soothing sound of keys being battered at in coffee shops, trains and offices. In 2022, that sound will begin to fade.
9. Block or Salesforce Buy Twitter
Jack Dorsey never really liked Twitter. It’s obvious he’d rather use it than run it. And because of this decade-long mismanagement, the company never updated its business models, and as such, is not making nearly as much money as the space it occupies in the popular discourse warrants.
Twitter, however, has a lot of value as an attention-grabber. As an entertainer. The kind of attention it generates could be a powerful force for the right actor. I see two possible acquirers who could be willing to dish out $35B for the blue bird (seems like a lot but would hardly rank the transaction in the top 10 of the past 2 years):
- Block: the company is owned by Jack Dorsey, who knows Twitter better than anyone else. It’s composed of half a dozen companies bent on bringing about the future of FinTech. Having Twitter join the roster could ensure they have a social media platform on which to test their ideas.
- Salesforce: having bought Slack, Salesforce will be looking to strengthen its social chops, noticing that Customer Relationship Management requires… relations; the types social media was created to improve.
In 2022, one of these two companies will buy Twitter.
10. Synthetic Biology Becomes Commercial
You know how nature is cool? Well, we’re trying to come up with something that’s even cooler: FAKE nature. And we’ll sell it, too. Hurrah for capitalism!
Glib aside, synthetic biology is a big deal: it helps the realm of biology (obviously), bioinformatics, mathematics, chemistry, biotechnology, engineering… For the past few years, a lot of this has been theoretical, but many start-ups have begun thinking about bringing their wares to the public.
In 2022, companies will start commercializing renewable chemicals, materials / fabrics / fibers, alternative plastics, fertilizer, “alternative pharma”, biofuels & Oils, Protein and feed… all made using synthetic biology science.
11. Algae Tech Continues to Fascinate
The coolest use of synthetic biology is Algal Biotechnology, which has the potential to help us optimize many industries while reducing existing energy use, costs, and environmental damage.
One of the key industries for this technology is food commercial markets, which will be well served by ingredients and products derived from microalgal biomass. Algae has a comparatively small environmental impact as it needs less water, less land, and less pesticide. Another is the pharmaceutical market: we are far (very far) from having characterized the full range of algae out there, and some of them are sure to have useful medicinal potential. Algae also have the potential to be an economically viable feedstock for bioplastics production while ensuring minimal environmental impact and lower production costs
In 2022, we will realize the technology used to improve algae production is key in overcoming challenges and limitations that conventional industries will face in the years ahead.
12. Computer Vision is Everywhere, Thanks to YOLO
Real-time object detection is a technique used to detect objects from video. It’s the underlying technology behind… well, most things we want to use in the future, from Tesla’s self-driving cars to Amazon’s cashier-less stores. The YOLO (“You Only Look Once”) models refer to some of the most versatile and famous real-time object detection and labeling models.
The latest iteration (V5) of the model is worthy of this list for a couple of reasons. It’s written in PyTorch, which will make its deployment to mobile a lot easier. It’s also quick. Very quick. 140 frames per second quick while also preserving accuracy. Finally, YOLOv5 is nearly 90 percent smaller than YOLOv4. This means it will be deployed to embedded devices much more easily.
This innovation is important because it means that in 2022, we will be able to do real real-time analysis — detecting and labeling videos 140 times per second. For context, previous models struggled to get to 10 frames per second. At this speed, you can use AI on videos of fields as varied as the world of medicine or that of sport. It can also improve things like detecting obstacles in autonomous cars earlier to avoid even more collisions.
13. Deepfake Videos Topple an S&P500 CEO
Better computer vision often means better deepfakes. And the latter is becoming way too easy to make by the public, and companies don’t have the proper tools to fight them.
As such, it’s only a matter of time before a video emerges of a CEO doing something ungodly to a pig. That video will be fake, but it won’t matter as social algorithms are tuned to make controversial content spread faster than truths. The unlucky executives’ stock will tank before the truth comes out. Once the flood gates have opened… we’ll all be at risk.
14. Folding Phones are Cool Again
Folding phones have been making a come-back, and they’re somehow managing to be both retro and futurist.
Samsung is dominating this space at the moment, and it may make sense for them to push this strategic advantage further. Premium phones are getting “better”… but bigger. A lot bigger while not necessarily being better for a large part of the population (does everyone REALLY care about being able to zoom X15?). Proposing a slightly less powerful tool that still fits in a pocket is a trade-off many will consider… once the kinks are worked out.
I don’t know what they’ll add to my life, but I intend on finding and buying one in 2022, so it goes in this list. I believe folding phones will go mainstream.
15. Self-Driving Causes Mayhem
We’ve been hearing about self-driving a lot in 2021. Elon Musk made sure of it. What we haven’t spoken enough about is the environment within which autonomous cars will evolve. Let’s no longer put a pin in that and make three things very clear:
- The laws aren’t ready
- The people aren’t ready
- The streets aren’t ready
Even if level 5 is reached, it’s likely that we will never fully replace the cars as we know it. Indeed, combustion engines are so central to our daily lives that changing them may mean rebuilding most of our daily world: parking would become less important, charging stations would change, the ways pedestrians interact with safer roads would be forever altered…
In 2022, we’ll launch cars in environments that are not ready for them, causing a lot of unnecessary suffering.
16. Smart Cars Get Hacked by Smart Chargers
The car industry as we know it is dead. Before long, electric vehicles will be in the majority, and politicians who know what’s good for them (and their children) will fast-track investments in fast/smart chargers throughout developed nations.
The issue with those chargers is that they carry information to ensure the battery isn’t harmed during charging. Now, I don’t know much about cyber-security, but I do know that if a device can carry harmless information from point A to point B, it’s possible to hack it.
In 2022, white/black hat hackers will show that it’s possible to get control of parts of a smart car by going through smart chargers. This will be patched, but it will make big waves, further slowing down the adoption of this much-needed innovation.
17. COVID’s Third-Degree Impacts Change the Tech world
You know what happened last time we had a “once-in-a-lifetime” economic crisis? Uber and Airbnb were created. As such, it’s very likely that tech giants will emerge from the pandemic crisis. Venture Capitalists are well aware of this, which is why they’re investing so much in grocery delivery services — they don’t want to miss the next Uber.
But it’s not that easy to predict future markets, and innovations will surely come out of an unexpected place. Let’s take a simple example: staying at home is a first-degree impact of the COVID crisis. Delivery growth is thus a second-degree impact. A third-degree impact would be our kitchens getting smaller, because we cook less, so now we have more space for sports equipment. Following that (terrible) logic, the wise investment would be in-home sporting goods.
It’s a silly example but highlights well that the next innovation never comes from the most expected place. In 2022, we will once more be reminded of this.
18. Mental Health-Tech Becomes Bigger Than Ed-Tech
HealthTech and EdTech are both SO 2020.
The pandemic that hasn’t been talked about enough over the past 2 years is the mental health crisis sweeping through all nations. More suicide, more depression, more anxiety… as things get better in 2022 (fingers crossed), we will have to face the hurt that we’ve hidden from for too long while we barely got through the 2020/21 tunnel. And that’s just part of it: we’re yet to find out how many will grieve the loss of more than a year of their lives.
That’s where Mental Health Tech (Meth-Tech?) comes in. In 2021, the number of people seeing a psychologist will skyrocket, leading to an improvement in society over the long term.
19. Sleep Tech Startups Become Unicorn
I haven’t slept well in about 2 years. I guess the same goes for many people. COVID, wars, politics, climate change… It’s hard to fully give oneself to Morpheus embrace when the horsemen of the apocalypse are running circles in our heads.
It affects all of us, and as such, the cost of bad sleep to the economy is astronomical ($411B a year in the US alone). If a company manages to offer large companies and countries a way to reduce that number by 20%, while taking a mere 1% cut, they’d be making the same amount as…
I believe I’m far from the only one who’s made this realization. This is why, in 2022, we’ll see start-ups reach the status of unicorn by promising us a rest that has evaded us for years.
20. Circularity Tech Becomes Bigger Than Web 3.0
Circularity is a word we’re not hearing enough in the tech industry, which is upsetting given the dire need we have for it. Reusing, sharing, repairing, refurbishing, remanufacturing, and recycling are all verbs we must become much more familiar with in the future if we want to have a future.
Flashy tweets, long speeches, and fancy marketing campaigns around new disruptions and paradigms only serve a handful of powerful millionaires. Building closed-loop systems to minimize the creation of waste, pollution and carbon emissions is how we wrestle control of the world back from them.
In 2022, governments and consumers alike will join hand in creating tools and systems to do more… with less.
21. Tech Wrestles With Ethical Questions
In 2022, Big Tech will continue to wrestle with important questions.
Questions like “Do we want to continue spying on billions of people?”, “Should we treat our employees like humans?”, “Is inciting genocide OK?”, “Should we continue providing technology to authoritarian governments?”, “Is working for the military really what this company should be doing?”
The answers seem obvious, but maybe that’s just me.
In 2022, Tech will continue to help reduce infant mortality, deaths from infectious disease and wealth inequalities between the poorest and wealthiest nations. Great medical advances will be made, education will be further democratized, and green technologies will emerge as a long-term force for good. We’ll be OK.
A lot of the above might seem harmful to society. It is nevertheless paramount to remember that technology is both created, implemented, and shaped by all of us, and that we have a very real say in how it affects us. This may be as small as sending a disapproving message to a corporation on Twitter, or as big as voting a politician out of office when they do not have our best interest at heart. Our actions matter, and it’s up to us to ensure that these predictions either do or don’t become a reality.
Good luck out there.