What will happen in the 2020s

A hand-wavy list of open questions

My last post was about how I saw the last decade, and I wanted to finish that series and write about what I think about most for the 2020s. As you can imagine, many of them are still open questions and some may come across as being hand-wavy (isn't that the idea?). This comes strongly based on personal preference, so your mileage may vary. I would love to hear what are the biggest open questions in your mind!

1/ Will we see the disruption of the Public Cloud? It's 2020, and the public cloud has won. However, just like Linux provided an open-source alternative to Windows, Kubernetes has emerged as the open-source distributed operating system. While all the public cloud vendors are rushing to provide stronger support, I do think the main driver is that there will be a lot more people who will self-educate themselves in the k8s ecosystem, leading to it being the default "contender" for infrastructure as new projects are started. That is very powerful. Whether k8s will truly enable multi-cloud, hybrid-cloud or eliminate vendor lock-in is far more complicated, but it's definitely one of the big trends.

2/ What will be the next big technology trend? '95-'07 was defined by the Internet and '07-'19 by mobile and the last decade by SaaS - but I do think we are at the tail end of these massive disruptions. The gig economy, AR/VR, Direct-to-Consumer have all been huge trends but not quite at the scale of these mega-trends. There are many candidates: Blockchain, Privacy, Machine Autonomy (like Self-driving cars), Robotics, Microservices, Plant-based food, Electric cars, FinTech consumerization - Companies and VCs alike have invested Billions of dollars behind their thesis, and invested years in marketing theirs: however, I do not think we know what it is going to be, and I think this is one area where I would love to hear from you! I do think a clearer opportunity is taking the advances of the last decade to the laggard industries: such as healthcare, agriculture, construction and so on.

3/ What will be the future of software delivery? Software and software companies have gone through many iterations in its short existence. Starting from proprietary to open-source, and now SaaS and open-core. Many software companies are thriving, but at the same time, many core infrastructure (and open source) companies are struggling because the large cloud providers are eating their lunch and business models are coming under question. I think we will see a divergence of the economic models being adopted - between full solution providers like Zoom, Okta, and Datadog and core software companies that ship libraries and components. We will continue to see interesting struggles for the latter like ElasticSearch, MongoDB - it's interesting for instance to see the new BSL license for companies trying to protect their business model. A few others to watch are HashiCorp and GitLab- with an open-core business model that has been incredibly successful in recent years.

4/ How will education evolve? Education is one of the biggest expenses (or investment depending on how you look at it) that most people make. However, when we think about it, education today serves two purposes - 'learning' and 'proving'. Learning encompasses things like creative writing, learning Java, or Accounting and contributes to what we know. 'Proving' encompasses things like branding, alum community, validation that will vouch for how good we are and is what elite institutions like Ivy League colleges, Business Schools, IITs, etc mainly sell. I believe we will see a division of models more clearly focused on one vs the other. We are already seeing some interesting learning models like Udemy and Income Share Agreements, and I do think we will see more innovation in this area.

5/ How will our expectation of 'Trust' change when it comes to 'Technology'? This probably encompasses two parts: 1) Automation and AI, starting with basic things like home automation and monitoring to self-driving cars. Personally, I still grapple trust-issues when it comes to leaving control to the car for instance, however, for something like watering my yard, I've completely outsourced it to Rachio. I think over the next ten years, we will start outsourcing and trusting technology for more critical functions - though I'm still not sure if L5 self-driving will become a reality. 2) At the same time, I trust many corporations less and less - when it comes to "my data becoming the product". I think we will see clearer incentives and communication becoming must-have for companies by 2030 - whether they are selling us a product, or making us the product.

6/ How will we grapple with the data growth that may turn into a crisis? The pace of the growth of data is only increasing both in our normal lives as well as machine captured data (like sensors, cameras, etc.). How are we planning to store all of this data and will the cost of storage keep the same downward trajectory? It is my belief that data storage costs will balloon for most companies (and probably for individuals) and costs may go up. Unfortunately, while we capture more data the signal: noise ratio is dropping, again both for individuals as well as companies. For instance, it's far harder for me to find quality pictures from my albums today than it was ten years ago though it's far easier to create those albums and take more pictures. I believe this will mean a couple of things: We will need to start finally becoming more careful of data that we collect, store, archive and throw away. It will also mean that AI tools that help us find the needle in the haystack become even more prevalent (Google Photos is an early example)

5/ Will we all work remotely by 2030? I'm a big believer that the remote work movement is here to stay. I won't touch upon this in detail here since I covered it partially in my last post.

6/ How will we deal with a rapidly aging population? While there are many reports on this, as well as a lot of ideas, I think we will see a significant impact on this trend only in the latter part of this decade. We will use rapid acceleration in the usage of technology, business models and delivery models. It doesn't help that our geriatric care costs keep growing. This is an area where I don't understand the landscape really well, so its hard for me to come up with what will work, but I would welcome comments on what people think.

7/ Will we finally get serious about climate change? Living in California, it's easy to see the activism around climate change, however, the important question is if it will become a worldwide phenomenon. We will start becoming more mindful in our usage of resources, the sustainability of its sources, and the long term impact of our actions but the bigger impact may come from large parts of the world population coming out of poverty and becoming more educated.

What do you think are the biggest things to watch out for in the 2020s? Would love to hear from you!