7 Predictions From a Cloudy Crystal Ball


2017 and my first big post.

Number one, and most importantly, welcome to a new year and a fresh set of possibilities and opportunities that could help us change the world.

Clearly, we have all followed the overwhelmingly expressed social media view that 2016 was a bust with fear expressed for what 2017 might bring.

Time to move on... we get what we allow and we get what we tolerate. Many have gotten what they wanted, even if you didn't.

So, take your passion, your commitment, your hope or fear, and your desire to better the world and channel it into positive ideas, actions, programs and activities to make it happen. No one is stuck with anything, and that is the beauty of it all.

Which leads me to my blind guesses for 2017...

Now, some call them forecasts, others label them as predictions, and the most audacious as prophecies.

And what they all have in common is that for way too many years most of the industry seers have been wrong time after time after time.

Don't get me started on 2016... Brexit, Trump, ISIS, Pokemon Go. Pathetic really, but the reasons are always the same:

"Polls apart: UK experts red-faced after failing to forecast win for Cameron's Conservatives." - Fox News

"Sanders' Michigan victory will count as among the greatest polling errors in primary history." - Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight.com

"Understanding American politics just got a lot more difficult and, not coincidentally, a lot more interesting to figure out than what it was a couple of months ago. ... This year, one could be smart, reasonable and, nonetheless, very, very wrong because this time it is different." - Dante Scala

Yet, interestingly enough, I see a common thread. A simple theme that weaves in and out of all of the excuses.

"The world is so unpredictable. Things happen suddenly, unexpectedly. We want to feel we are in control of our own existence. In some ways we are, in some ways we're not. We are ruled by the forces of chance and coincidence." - Paul Auster

"No one really knows why humans do what they do." - David K. Reynolds

"But,instead of what our imagination makes us suppose and which we worthless try to discover,life gives us something that we could hardly imagine." - Marcel Proust

People are not machines. People are not numbers or symbols in an algorithm. There is a power and beauty to human spontaneity that transcends the latest so called disruption, that defies the DIGIBABBLERS.

Now, having said that, and to give you an incentive to continue, I will tell you that my thematic blind guess for 2016 was that there would be consequential data blips, causing events like surprise elections. And, I am proud to say, I remained a naysayer all year long and saw no surprises other than my continued amazement that others were constantly surprised.

All of which proves nothing more than that my cloudy crystal ball--as murky as ever--is as good as anyone's.

A word on crystal balls.

In my favorite movie of all time, MGM's 1939, never-equaled classic The Wizard of Oz, crystal balls play a prominent role and best portray their use and impact.

You see, both the wizard and the witch manipulate simple data, but more importantly, manipulate their audience by showing, predicating and suggesting scenarios and situations that were already in the head of the watcher-in this case Dorothy. Call it confirmation bias, a topic I have written on before.

Frankly, it's the oldest con in the world, and in my opinion, the basis for so much of the disfunction we seem to be swirling in.

So, if you expect to hear about on-going disruption, brilliant world-changing innovation at CES, a drone-based society controlled from our VR existence...read no further. I apologize, this ain't for you.

However, if you are ready to take a leap, be a dissident, not follow the herd...stay with me a paragraph or two more. Ok, maybe three...

Thematically, I believe we will see a continued shift back towards a PEOPLE FIRST orientation. The bottom line of which is that finally we will see a slowing down of the insipid discussions of digital first or mobile first or VR, AI, wearables, drones, autonomous cars, planes, boats or anything else first.

Let's be clear. We live in a digital world that enables all of the above and more. Yet in and of themselves, they are merely tools that we employ to make our lives better (one would hope), make the world better (one would equally hope), and ensure our continued future (one can only hope and pray).

But let me be specific as to how I see it playing out...or not (I said it was a blind guess).

1. Algorithms and anything programmatic will lose their luster this year. Not that we won't use them, in fact, we have always relied on versions of the same-long before digital-but there will be a movement towards adding human insight, human emotion, appreciation for the serendipity of it all. My sense is that the luddites will be those who still insist that they can make you buy the purple pants with the pink embroidered whales that you don't want, simply by following your so called data trail. Frankly, I'd stay away from them and instead gravitate towards the folks who combine the two.

2. Media will also return to its human roots. After all, it is humans who consume it...no? LOL...except for the trolls. By this I mean we will see a return to more accountability for placement of advertising and yes, by using that term I mean anything that is out there to influence an audience in any way. The excuse that your beautiful brand content (I'm being PC, call it what you will) shows up in the center of racist incitement because you bought audience programmatically will no longer wash. The dilemma, of course, is that those racists must be your audience...no? After all it was the algorithm that chose them. Another PEOPLE FIRST issue...

3. A follow up to this is the fake news online that has become such a big business for all. The creators make money, the platforms and publishers make money, and the brands find audience. My personal view is that we will swirl around this one for a long time.

I don't believe that any of the platforms can or should be held liable for fake news. It is not a new problem nor will it go away. It plagued us long before Facebook and will continue long after. Only publishers can be liable. So number one, the big publishers like Rolling Stone and even The New York Times need to police themselves and employ more fact checkers. Number two, brands, as I mentioned before, will have to adopt stricter guidelines regarding placement, and some will. And again, I believe we will see a people's movement begin to coalesce around this issue. Where we will see movement is on hatred. Platforms can no longer allow loose definitions of what hatred is or allow incitement to masquerade as free speech. I see both of these issues related (see the libel case involving David Irving and Deborah Lipstadt in the UK which actually dealt with both)...lies that incite have ulterior motives and come from places that cannot be countenanced by a free society.

News media will grow in importance again. At least those that are able to be convincingly open and news focused. The world is craving authenticated and trusted sources, particularly in times of crisis and upheaval. I expect to see some interesting developments here.

4. TV will continue to grow in importance. And by this I mean TV in all its glory across all its platforms and devices. The trend of buying great series and shows from countries other than your own will continue, as Netflix has shown that subtitles do indeed work. However, the issue will not be content or what platform or device you watch it on-as confusing as it is... do I watch on my big TV through Samsung, Fios, Xbox, Amazon or link my iPad? I see the real issue being how do I pay for it all? Everyone will keep producing their own unique content forcing me to buy in to their platforms or service, but 80% of their offering will be the same as everyone else's and btw I want that live content too-sports, news and whatever else. My cloudy view? Watch for the next cable-like consolidation offer. I'm ready to bet that advertising will play a key role in reducing the price.

P.S. take a look at Apple's new app icon for video entertainment before you comment...

5. Experiences...let me not forget experiences. A term that has been perverted, subverted and highjacked by the worst of the DIGIBABBLE crowd. Experiences are as old as living organisms and continue to evolve as we do. But there are no experiences like live events, where the crowd becomes a living, breathing entity, bringing more life to each participant.

The power of the place transcends mere physical rules. Through live broadcasting the longer tail of the tale itself lives on. New Year's Eve around the world, The Super Bowl in the US, Cup games anywhere, concerts and plays....Experiences will remain...EXPERIENCES...and yes VR and AR and whatever will enhance their afterlife-but such has always been true... they're an evolution of how we remember and not a proxy for being there.

6. There will be another shakeup in the social platform world. Facebook will continue its dominance but if it continues in the path of Yahoo (that is thinking it can be everything) it will water itself down. Snapchat will continue to "pivot" as it opens itself up to more revenue opportunities and as its IPO looms, expect more changes like data sharing... after all, these were the folks who said they'd never sell advertising. Twitter needs to find a place for itself. Donald Trump will keep it alive but it needs purpose. People will begin to realize that 15mgs of fame is fleeting and that in the ever-shrinking, we-serve-you-what-we-think-you-want universe their "choices" are limiting them and also limiting their development. There will be pushback.

7. Finally, I think that people will once again seek to take back some control of this planet's destiny. Disruption is stale. We will see more dissidence...more coalescence of people in movements to solve problems and not the DIGIBABBLE of believing that a drone delivering you pizza is anyway better than the kid who has brought it for over a hundred years.

To that end...

We will see a shift from public to private development. The political climate will give birth to highly innovative and ambitious private companies and causes that seek to change the world for the better. DISSIDENT companies, a conspiracy to change the world: Tesla, SpaceX, Hyperloop, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic.

A case in point is Bill Gates' new energy venture fund:

Bill Gates is launching a $1bn fund for new energy technologies in a sign of how the private sector is continuing to invest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions despite the shadow cast over US climate policy by the election of Donald Trump...Learning from the failures of other funds investing in emerging energy technologies, Mr Gates said his $1bn Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund aimed to be "patient capital", potentially holding investments for 15-20 years.- FT

Think about that "patient capital" breaking the quarterly cycle that spanned DIGIBABBLE and the shallowness of disruption...profit will be judged by the success of the mission and not by the appetite of Wall Street for hype.

And last but not least, as this is CES week, going in, all the hype will be on innovation of every sort you can imagine. Going out, watch for the stories on the next big screen you will buy...and so it goes.

Like I do every year, I will hold myself accountable and will report back on how wrong or right I was....meanwhile let's turn to a real expert.

Robert Kahn is the co-inventor of the TCP/IP protocols and was responsible for originating DARPA's Internet program. In December 1997, President Bill Clinton presented the U.S. National Medal of Technology to Kahn and his colleague, Vinton Cerf, for founding and developing the Internet. This is what he said:

"You can't gaze into the crystal ball and see the future. What the Internet is going to be in the future is what society makes it."

And there you have it...what will be is what we decide...not some algorithmic AI or DIGIBABBLE disruption.

You and I. PEOPLE FIRST. And with that I put my rather opaque crystal back on the stand.

What do you think?

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