Taking Red Pen to Past Predictions

We are in a golden age for technology industry prediction articles.

A Google search for “2023 tech industry predictions” finds 212 million results. Turn to just about any mainstream technology or business publication and you’ll see a recent piece compiling commentary from glamourous lists of CEOs and innovators. Setting aside the obvious technological advancements in content creation and consumption, annual predictions pieces are increasing for a number of decidedly human reasons.

For one thing, they are fairly stress-free to assemble. Many executive contributors have PR teams working tirelessly on their behalf to secure opportunities like this. In turn, their contribution eases the burden of the search for editors, who also won’t need to assign much work to their own writing staff. As easy as they are to compile, they are even easier for audiences to pick up and put down. The barrier to entry for readers is low since predictions aren’t asked to be overly technical and rarely require much prior knowledge for the reader.

Additionally, these articles, and the contributions within them, are consequence-free for everyone involved. The publication’s editors and reporters aren’t tied to the predictions, but curiously, nor are the contributors. Part of this is because “spice” is prioritized: it’s more exciting to offer (and to read) a fiery prediction about VR taking over the world than a measured guess that the VR industry will grow by 3%. Another reason for the disregard of accuracy is that many predictions can be waved away as early rather than erroneous: VR may indeed take over the world, it just hasn’t happened yet, and so the prediction isn’t wrong yet. A third is that nobody really ever returns to the previous year’s predictions. Who has time to read old predictions when there’s a new batch to consume?

Predictions pieces are fun, but if we’re going to elevate technology executives as prophets the way these roundups can, we might as well keep track of their accuracy. They do this on sports morning shows by tracking their panelists’ game picks over the season, as well as for stock pickers and for meteorologists. Almost everywhere you find predictions, you find grades of past predictions, except when it comes to the technology industry’s annual expert collections. In the spirit of being the change I wish to see in the world, let’s take red pen my own past predictions.

Prediction #1: Remote work is part of the culture now; it’s not going anywhere.

Grade with a Gif:

Evaluation: Despite a few tech giants changing their remote work policies during 2022, the industry-at-large saw relative stasis regarding the percentage of employees with remote or hybrid status. Research on 2022 workplace patterns from Crestron showed that around half of enterprise firms planned to mostly maintain their ratio of in-office to remote days, while the other half split between increasing or decreasing. That indicates that on a societal level, remote work is about as present as last year, at least in the United States enterprise working world. COVID may be over (it’s not), but the remote work revolution it ignited lingers.

I’m still bullish on this prediction moving forward into 2023. Companies like Twitter and Apple have made a lot of noise about tightening their in-office attendance policies and getting “hardcore,” but most companies aren’t like Twitter and Apple. By this time next year, I expect metrics on remote work like average days in office, percentage of hybrid or remote employees, and percentage of meetings including a remote attendee, will be within two or three percentage points of where they are now.

Prediction #2: The wearables market is saturated.

Grade with a Gif:

Evaluation: Accurate but hardly a hot take. The boom in popularity during the pandemic reminded me of a backup basketball player boosting his stats when the starter gets hurt. The growth of the wearables market did slow in 2022, but that was largely due to macroeconomic pressures that many projections saw coming, and not just a sated consumer base. Analyst groups expect wearables to improve their growth in the coming years, but I’m going to predict the category, particularly within the US, falls short of these projections by at least a point or three. The people who want wearables already have them; the people who don’t, don’t.

Prediction #3: The United States government will take significant measures to shore up critical infrastructure cybersecurity.

Grade with a Gif:

Evaluation: In a pleasant surprise, Congress actually did pass a pair of cybersecurity bills in June 2022. The first bill allows The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to share tools, resources, and procedures with local governments. The second allows government IT and cybersecurity employees to rotate through roles across agencies to provide further exposure to the distinct challenges of each field. Neither of these are directly related to the cyber vulnerability of critical infrastructure systems though, so we’re still waiting. CISA issued alerts on the issue, and fortunately rules changes are coming, but systemic vulnerabilities are still yet to be fully addressed with formal legislation or regulation. Maybe we don’t need it, but that’s a prediction I’d hate to be wrong on. I’m crossing my fingers and predicting (hoping) some serious actions are taken in 2023, perhaps prompted by a major cybersecurity event that causes a fatality.

Overall Assessment:

My 2022 predictions were a mixed bag, with no takes too hot to be proven clairvoyant nor crazy. Though it’s nearly the end of January, here are my takes on these same topics for the remaining months of 2023:

  1. The rate of remote work will actually grow in 2023.
  2. A new type of wearable will arise – and flop.
  3. A major cybersecurity event will threaten American critical infrastructure and prompt an Executive Order.

That’s it for my 2023 predictions. I’ll see you in 2024 to see how right (or wrong) I am.

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