Looking back, 2017 seems like a momentous year for tech. But, if it is, it’s only because of the even more dramatic effects we could see in the years to come because of what happened this year. A lot of the tech stories we saw this year could completely transform society in the years to come, and not to the benefit of everyone.
Here are the five big stories that caught our attention this year — not just the events, but the trends that will remain worth watching going into 2018!
The tech giants consolidate power
I think it’s safe to say that we’re all tied into using Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft — maybe you’ve escaped the grasp of one, but definitely not all five! 2017 was the year we started to understand what it means for so few companies to have so much power not just in the United States, but in many parts of the world.
Apple and Microsoft didn’t make many waves in 2017, but the other three? Kinda scary! Facebook came under intense scrutiny for letting fake news spread across their site, affecting elections not just in the United States, but abroad as well. And when you think about what fake news is, Facebook gets even more worrisome — at heart, fake news is articles created for the sake of getting clicks with no regard for truth. It’s an extremely profitable business, and Facebook, until now, hasn’t done much to discourage it. This year saw Facebook attempt to do something about it by introducing fake news flags, but those were recently scrapped, as they were found unhelpful. The only thing Facebook could really do to crack down on the practice is to close their ad platform and only work with verified partners — something that would give Facebook control over what news you see. So, you know, weigh those two options in your hands.
Meanwhile, Google had the same kind of ad problems with YouTube and extremely off-putting and sometimes disturbing videos aimed at capturing the attention of kids. It’s the same practice as fake news — all you need is marketing savvy and a complete lack of morals — and with Google’s similarly open ad platform, the results were the same. Google is also trying to do damage control by preventing abusive videos from making ad revenue, but it’s clear they don’t have a coherent policy yet. But, having a coherent policy would also amount to Google having control over what you see — also disturbing!
Then we have Amazon, which made waves in a much more straightforward way — they bought Whole Foods. By lowering prices and making discounts available to Amazon Prime members, Amazon has set other grocery chains into a panic. Everyone knows Amazon will slash prices because they’re massive enough to do it — that means the retail apocalypse that’s been hitting department stores and malls could be coming for grocery stores very soon.