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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Chang

the iPhone is 10 years old

2017 Technology Predictions

Ten years ago the iPhone was released by Steve Jobs, and that got me thinking.... [re-live the moment here]

Earlier this year I completed a college degree and some of my classmates remembered starting their careers before personal computers... and before calculators! Last night I was discussing the future of technology with a recent college graduate. I explained to him that when I started my career, connectivity was the Nextel phone/radio that was on my hip. When I got my first Blackberry it felt like a promotion.

Given how fast the world is changing I am constantly vacillating between excited, amazed, and annoyed with technology. Sometimes it seems like progress is a step backwards (credit cards w/ "chips"), pointless (bluetooth headsets), and sometimes it's simply awe inspiring (robotic surgery).

In the spirit of technological advancement I wanted to make a few predictions on technology. These will apply whether you are a student, worker, investor, business owner, or consumer.


  1. E-Commerce is just beginning. Most folks guess that e-commerce is anywhere from 25%-50% of the retail economy. Given the news about firms like Amazon and Netflix it's easy to understand. Here are the figures for the last 4 years: 2014 - 6%; 2015 - 7%; 2016 - 8%; 2017 - 9%. Retail is roughly a $5 Trillion dollar per year industry. I don't foresee traditional retail shrinking, I just don't see it growing. In the next 25-30 years e-commerce will max out at roughly 50% of overall retail, where e-commerce will be $5TN and traditional retail will be $5TN for a total retail economy of $10TN. Look for e-commerce to replace the relationships consumers have with traditional retailers. The next to fall: grocery stores.

  2. The Sharing economy will create efficiency and jobs. Manufacturing companies have long fretted about lazy assets. Idle machines, truck fleets, office buildings, and warehouses are unprofitable. The emergence of the sharing economy, best embodied by services such as Airbnb and Uber, have unleashed a latent capacity in personal assets. Applications emerge almost daily that help individuals connect in a manner that mirrors a digital classified ad. Websites like Craigslist feel almost old-school. Sharing will continue to spread in industries that are already seeing disruption, such as ride hailing (Uber/Lyft), car sharing, and housing (Airbnb). Additionally, sharing will continue to enter new spaces such as: office space, food / nutrition, and household goods like tools and furniture. The additional economic activity generated will allow individuals to have partial to full employment from sharing (just like Uber). This is important in #4 below...

  3. Smart Cities will comfortably hold a growing population. ​Overpopulation has been a concern since the industrial revolution, but technology and modernization have always risen to the challenge of solving the problem. Agriculture was scaled, cold supply chain allowed longer storage of food, modern sanitation allowed for waste disposal and clean water. Mass transit systems allowed people to move in vertical cities. Power grids electrified, cooled, and heated homes. Cars and highways took people to work from the suburbs. Tomorrow's smart city will employ a myriad of coming technologies, all based off of AI (artificial intelligence) and IoT (internet of things). Driverless cars will drive closer together on our roadways, increasing the capacity of highways and making surface streets more pedestrian friendly. Smart buildings will forecast weather and people's occupancy patterns and use far less electricity. Varied work and school schedules will allow people to optimize their work and education around family functions, personal preferences, and community. Cleaner, more responsive waste and recycling programs, coupled with reduced pollution from emissions, will make community spaces more usable by a population, even as the city densifies. The smarter the city, the higher the per-capita GDP.

  4. Automation will dramatically change employment. Factories have long seen automation change the face of employment. The assemblyman gets replaced by a machine, the pallet builder gets replaced by a robot. In their place stands a smaller, but better educated workforce of computer technicians and mechanics. Already, it's apparent that cashiers will be the next to see a major change, as traditional cashier jobs go away and are replaced with customer service (or concierge) representatives overseeing self-checkout lanes. Professional jobs too will see strain. Stock traders, lawyers, healthcare providers, accountants, administrators, engineers, and construction workers will all see attrition in some of their job roles as automation of work tasks begins to take over and the efficiency of automation requires fewer workers (productivity will go up).

  5. Agriculture will move towards local. It was once true that nearly all food was local. Then, the food supply chain went regional and then national as mega farms created more output and food processing and packaging technology enabled longer shelf life. In theory one factory could make enough Oreo cookies for us all, right? The food supply chain is currently maximized around mega farms in select areas of the country, where conditions are perfect. The problem with that is that the food supply chain has never been more vulnerable as a whole, issues like avian influenza remind us from time to time. The trend towards local, organic, slow food, and farmer's market will continue. New technologies will allow farming to return to local communities. Green houses, grow houses, hydroponic, aquaculture, and nutrient re-capture are some of the techniques that will allow farmer's to return to communities to feed the population. We will begin to ask ourselves if it is ethical or even common sense for lettuce grown in drought stricken California to be served in a salad in Boston during the winter. Our food supply chain will continue to move towards local, fresh, and organic.



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