1. The Bitcoin bubble bursts. This one is a no-brainer. As we write this, the crypto-currency Bitcoin has grown over 1,000 percent in 2017. Despite a recent, sharp downturn, the currency is poised to finish out 2017 strong. The gold-rush mentality has led, predictably, to a speculative mania exemplified by the absurd spectacle of the Long Island Iced Tea Company, which changed its name to Long Blockchain Corp. only to see its stock soar 200 percent. Having evidently not learned the lesson of the real estate market crash, the dot com collapse and countless stock market crashes, money continues to pour into Bitcoin, heedless of the looming reckoning that history dictates must come, sooner or later.
Let’s hasten to add that this is emphatically not to say that the blockchain technology that undergirds bitcoin is a fad on the verge of collapse. In fact, far from it. It has enormous potential in fields as diverse as finance and photography. But the speculative mania that has begat a million different cryptocurrency companies will inevitably harvest sorrow—and people’s hard-earned savings.
2. AI will continue to astound and worry. Long-term observers of artificial intelligence (AI) trends have been wary about all the current hype surrounding AI. In the early days of AI, technologists were confident that difficult problems (like teaching computers to understand human language) would be solved in a matter of months, if not weeks. When the realization dawned that these problems weren’t amenable to quick solutions, investment dried up and the so-called “AI Winter” set in.
It’s distinctly possible that the current enthusiasm for artificial intelligence will fade, but we’re willing to bet that particular reckoning is further off, if it comes at all. Consider that AI now forms the backbone of several major tech firms, including IBM, Google and Facebook, and playing a rapidly growing role at Amazon, Netflix, Adobe and more (to say nothing of the slew of startups leveraging the technology across a wide range of industries).
The future of AI looks promising in part because the future is so data-rich. Everyday, consumers generate megabytes, if not gigabytes, of data to say nothing of the data generated passively by sensors and connected devices. No human can manage, much less make sense of, this information. It will fall to AI to help us navigate this data deluge, ensuring a bright future for those who understand neural networks, machine learning and mathematical functions.
But as AI increasingly flexes its muscles, it will also continue to provoke fears and quite possibly legislation and regulation. Many high-profile personalities, such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, have warned of the dangers of artificial intelligence supplanting human dominance on planet Earth. Even without these more dystopian scenarios, AI can still be painfully disruptive—from the human jobs it terminates and its capacity to pick up our own bad habits.
3. Net neutrality battle escalates. The contentious battle over the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s decision to overturn net neutrality rules is likely to spill into 2018 and into the halls of the U.S. Congress. The Democrats are already on record saying they will use the Congressional Review Act to push for a reversal of the FCC’s decision. If that fails, legislation enshrining net neutrality principles is also advancing. Net neutrality’s fate now almost certainly hinges on which party controls Congress in 2018—and that’s a prediction we’re unwilling to make!