My favorite thing about the new decade is that it offers an opportunity to practice long-term thinking. I’m aware that the effect is purely psychological. What matters is, that it works!
So let’s put the weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly rhythms aside, and focus on decades for a change.
Review of the 2010s
Tech is mature and mainstream
Companies like Facebook and Twitter lost their startup status and became mature. The sentiment changed, especially for Facebook. At Google, employee tensions are rising, and Amazon kept growing super fast. Tech companies are now a huge part of the economy, and are there to stay.
Mobile apps became a central channel how humans interact with the world. Everyone has a supercomputer in their pocket, filled with audiobooks, podcasts and of course, a credit card. Now, there’s an app for everything.
Social media addiction
We became addicted to social media, longing for likes and followers, and competing for attention on Instagram and Snapchat. Slowly, people are becoming aware of this. People started quitting social media, or dramatically adjusting their behavior.
Age of surveillance
Edward Snowden, and the bumpy 2016 US election, reveal the downsides of the new information age. We become aware of how much data is collected and stored, and that this information can easily be stolen. Now, everyone must assume that everything about us is collected somewhere. The uneasiness about it is growing, yet we don’t know what to do about it.
Aftermath of financial crisis 2007-08
The financial crisis was top of mind when we started the decade. Many of us believed that the crisis was far from over, and that it could return anytime. While it did locally, it didn’t globally. What we got instead was unprecedented money-printing and record-low interest rates. And ever increasing regulation in the financial sector.
Bitcoin is a new technological and social breakthrough. It has its roots in the Cypherpunk movement, and also the frustration that arose from the financial crisis. It builds on open source and decentralization. The rise of Bitcoin was fueled by the Cyprus banking crisis in 2012-13 (and especially the one-time tax on deposits) and the inflation problems in South American countries. We also saw huge bubbles, speculation and scams.
Awareness of unsustainable living
Slowly we are becoming aware that the way we have been living for the past 100 years is not sustainable. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is rising. Air pollution is killing millions of humans per year. Oceans are filled with plastic. Movements like FridaysForFuture were born. We start seeing signs of hope with the electrification of vehicles and increasing deployment of solar, but it’s still early days.
We started to rethink how we work. Co-working spaces, remote working, nomadic lifestyles are on the rise. Many of us are sick of the old paradigm, and are seeking something better. One example is the FIRE movement, where people seek financial independence and early retirement. Blogs like Mr. Money Mustache have exploded in popularity.
New space race
Companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin have demonstrated the re-usability of rockets, and kicked off what might be called the “new space race”. The historic Falcon Heavy launch was one of my personal highlights.
Hopes and Predictions for the 2020s
More digital and global
The Earth will become increasingly digital and global. This is “obvious”, but it has, and will have, profound implications for a long time to come. This, together with increasing population, will be the engine of the world economy (and stock markets). There will be bumps, occasionally huge ones, but the long-term momentum cannot be denied.
Privacy and encryption
People will realize that the only way to protect themselves is to encrypt and control as much of their data as possible. Privacy focused products will experience tailwinds, while data driven business models will face headwinds. We will also see a trend towards decentralization.
Exponential technological development
The technological development is far from over. The pace of innovation will increase further. Full self driving (Level 5 autonomy) will be solved and rolled out fast. Medical breakthroughs will be made. Cashierless stores will be rolled out. Revolutionary products and services, increasingly powered by artificial intelligence, will be invented and deployed.
Something big will hit us. If not this decade, then one of the next. It will come out of the blue. A new vector. A bio attack, a pandemic, cyber warfare, eruption of a huge volcano. Something we won’t be expecting. Something that will change society overnight.
Death of heroes
We might experience some tragic losses: The Dalai Lama, Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, or many of our other heroes, might all have 20 more years in them. Or they might not.
As John Mihaljevic suggested, we need a robust framework for pricing externalities, so that we can start tackling air pollution, carbon concentration and plastics pollution. I also hope we will see the shutdown of many coal plants, and a massive deployment of solar and other renewables. We might also want to have a look at new, safer nuclear reactor designs.
Tech companies will start getting regulated, and the trend towards ever increasing regulation in the financial markets will continue. The big question is: will this all be a net positive or a net negative?
Universal basic income
I hope to see the adoption of universal basic income in at least one country. Switzerland was one of the first to hold a national referendum in 2016. And I’m proud that my home canton (Basel-Stadt) had the highest approval rate of 36% (the national result was 23%).
Here are my initial tweets on this topic: