Tech in 2017: Crazy, troubled and out of control?

There’s no doubt about it, it’s been a difficult year for the technology industry.

It’s also been a crazy year for tech, with cryptocurrencies surging and rollercoastering in value — presumably minting a few millionaires along the way, assuming they actually cashed their coin out.

Yet even those strange crypto-highs have come with some equal and opposite lows: Scams, hacks, pointlessly wasteful energy consumption, and — zooming out — the baffled confusion of anyone outside the crypto-boom trying to understand what logic (if any) it runs on.

Meanwhile AI’s touted efficiency gains have also been weighed down by counternarratives this year — the stories where AI is shown preferring to promote clickbait. Or to be biased. Or worse.

AI blowing “bubbles of hate” as one YouTube policy staffer memorably put it during a political grilling. Though he merely advocated the use of yet more AI to fix the problem.

The naivety and irresponsibility of tech giants whose platforms have scaled so big and got so powerful left the strongest impression in 2017, as marketing claims about fostering ‘openness and connection’ unravelled in the face of the literal opposite: Rising division and social strife.

If only Twitter had listened to all the users telling it to fix its troll problem for years. Ditto YouTube and its below-the-fold comment hellscape. And Facebook and fake news.

Worse was on show too: Uber’s reputation lies in tatters for a reason. And massive data breaches came to seem like an almost routine occurrence in 2017.

Sexism and sexual harassment were also shown to be an ugly and embedded problem across the industry.

Going into 2018, tech certainly has a lot of cleaning house to do.

Looking ahead, companies of all sizes should be trying to see outside their own filter bubbles and Kool-Aid-stocked canteens — and asking themselves genuinely tough questions about who and what will be impacted by their technology.

The unpopularity being sharply directed at once shiny tech brands should be a paradigm shifting wake up call.

Questions are being asked about platform power. Regulatory rules and knives are being sharpened. Politicians are eager to point the finger of blame. And with so much tech-fueled ammunition, who can blame them?

After the surge, the crash.

Tap the arrows to take an A to Z tour through the tech that troubled the news this year.

Published at Sat, 23 Dec 2017 17:00:23 +0000