It’s that time of year again. After the ball drops, the hangovers wear off and the thermometers dip even lower, pundits and columnists invariably turn their pens to bold predictions for the year ahead. As I write, the east coast of the U.S. braces for a predicted “colossal” winter storm, while at the same time “thought leaders” offer contradictory opinions about Donald Trump’s inevitable collapse / triumph in 2016. It’s either going to be a great year for the markets, or we are headed into a catastrophic downturn that will put the recent recession to shame. Or, it could just be meh. Oil prices have either bottomed out or are primed to sink even lower.
Tech journalists are no exceptions. At this time last year, after the Fire phone flop, the consensus opinion was that Amazon was in trouble. The company was “trying to do too much” and doomed to never turn a profit. Some predicted Netflix’s demise after a run of successful growth. Well, needless to say, be wary of predictions. Amazon and Netflix were the top two S&P stocks in 2015.
In this great tradition, Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times has written a prediction piece about the future of tech. His main prediction is that the tech giants of today (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft) will dominate the tech landscape for the foreseeable future. (Ironically, at this time last year, he predicted that Google was spiraling towards its inevitable demise, in a piece entitled, “Google, Mighty Now, but Not Forever.”)
Before I disagree with Manjoo’s article, I should say that I think he is one of the better mainstream tech columnists (take this piece on Popcorn Time as an example.) And in between the bold predictions and alarmist adjectives, he actually makes some more nuanced points. However, I also understand why Manjoo undertook the inherently fraught process of bold predictions about the most unpredictable of markets — technology. From the Oracle of Delphi to Miss Cleo, humans love bold prognostication. In the classical era, trusting them too much could get your civilization destroyed. At least In the Internet era, they generate traffic; also, they might cost investors some money or lead to bad regulatory policies.MORE »