This Week's Predictions

Recently I read The Art of Thinking Clearly. I enjoyed it and one of my takeaways was we tend to remember the true predictions we made, but don’t remember our incorrect predictions or justify some external reason why we were wrong. A good way to check some of my biases is to regularly write my predictions and revisit them later to see how well I did. So I’m going to try and do that weekly from now on. I figured I’d blog it so people can bask in my prescience (unlikely) or laugh at how hilarious my idea of a port-less iPhone is (much more likely). Anyway. Here we go

1. Port-less iPhone

Less holes means easier to waterproof. Apple’s been pushing folks to wireless iPhone management since iTunes Wifi Sync over 7 years ago. Apples loves consistency over its product line and has USB-C on all Macs and the iPad Pro. Compared to USB 2.x and USB-A, Lightning has no significant advantage over USB-C. And If you’re going to rework the port area anyway why not just rely on the Qi charging customers have been using for over a year and wireless data transfers while they’ve been using for over five. I bet we see this in the next 2 years.

2. Flight out of cities and 100% remote work hype is overblown

Major companies that are willing to experiment with working styles (e.g. Google) have long been against 100% remote work, or even non-HQ office work depending on ladder. Other companies that are willing to experiment (e.g. Twitter) are willing to let people work from home, away from expensive cities, in exchange for a downward cost-of-living salary adjustment. Most companies may allow more flexibility around days in the office but most will want butts in seats at least a few days a week. Suburbs may expand as people are more willing to have a long commute 2-3 days a week instead of five, but the idea that cities are going to see population dwindle as finance and tech jobs are worked over Zoom from Ohio is incorrect. What we may see however is a turnover as some small amount of people and companies take the plunge, and rent prices fall a small enough amount to encourage a new cohort of city-dwellers.

Companies that experiment with all-remote employees mostly won’t keep it for two reasons. First, lots of innovation comes from random interactions and relationships that are difficult to replicate in a remote environment. So remote companies that need to innovate will falter after using up their runway of innovative things already in the pipeline. Second, culture is hard to build or maintain over Zooms when the company can’t control the environment and interactions to such a significant degree, and interpersonal-relationships deeply affect our work. We’ll see the major “anyone work from anywhere” experiments be effectively unused or officially disbanded from most major companies within 5 years.

Exception: companies that go all remote, as in no HQ, no physical office location anywhere may succeed as there will be no disparity between office and home workers and the culture building will be difficult but consistent.

3. The 4-day-week hype is under blown

Peter Gibbons in Office Space said “I’d say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work.” That’s hopefully an exaggeration for most of us, but output in companies has mostly stayed the same or gone up during work from home in Covid. Part of that is because we live at work now. But we’ve also had far more distractions and things demanding our attention, from people living with us, to frustration, anxiety and other mental health issues.

So while we may be “logged on” as many or more hours as pre-covid, there’s no way our corporate outputs should be the same or higher. Unless the work it takes us 40 hours a week to do doesn’t actually need that amount of time to get done to an acceptable quality. As companies like Microsoft Japan experiment with the same-pay 4 day week, and like Cisco US experiment with the 80% 4-day week, expect to see this rise as companies realize they can get the same output for less work, and potentiaily while paying less if Cisco’s experiment goes well.

The 4-day week will be popular, but expect to see in general lots more flexibility over how many hours and when it’s acceptable to do them, even if butts in seats are still expected on some cadence.

5. There will be a major scandal about something fundamental in Bitcoin that changes public perception

I realize making a super vague “scandal in Bitcoin” prediction is kind of like the free space in Bingo so I’m going to clarify it a bit.

There are several often repeated qualities of Bitcoins that are presented as pros that I argue are cons. One is the lack of government or large institutions (e.g. banks) involving significant control and involvement in the system. This is presented as being a pro so that the government doesn’t do shady things or inflate the currency.

However there are already significant consolidation of control within Bitcoin especially. It’s naturally difficult to directly tie wallets to owners but in 2017 1000 people owned 40% of the market. This is not as bad but is approaching the same level of inequality we see in the US system where the top two richest people own more wealth than the bottom 50%. The amount of social and technical control people and institutions with massive wallets can exert is concerning, especially over a commodity that is pseudonymous with only nascent regulation and oversight.

In the more public sphere a lot of the Bitcoin craze is facilitated by large institutions. As more people buy and trade Bitcoin they do so through companies like Coinbase, Square, etc. This is a buoying of new de facto banks that are already regulated. We’ll see more and more Bitcoin controlled or facilitated by these institutions.

As the wealth consolidates into the hands of a few people and organizations that want it usable and spendable. Because of the consolidation the “tulip bulb” crash will not happen with Bitcoin. If Bitcoin dies it will likely be slow while big players convert to other investment options. More likely the consolidated players will want Bitcoin protected and will lean on the institution with a monopoly on violence - the government. We’ll see Bitcoin exchanges and related companies become more like Chase and Goldman Sachs than the other way around.

Bitcoin as a commodity is here for the long haul but in the next 18 months we’ll see a scandal where the public is made aware of the manipulations of the Bitcoin market by a few major players.

(As I wrote the above, I read that the Coinbase leadership team have sold a massive amount of their stock in their listing on the stock market this week with the CFO selling 100%, and CEO selling 71% of their holdings. As this was a DPO and not an IPO, leadership cashing out is not as bad of a look, and is likely less indicative of fear than it would be in an IPO. We’ll see though). I misunderstood the reporting on the Coinbase selloff, the numbers in that parenthetical are totally incorrect.

6. Vaccine hesitancy will rise again

As the vaccine rollout began in the US, hesitancy dropped. Polls from two weeks ago showed over 60% of Americans willing to take the Covid-19 vaccine. The CDC recommending a pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with poor communication will make this number drop again.

The literal 1-in-a-million side effect of the J&J vaccine causing blood clots does not seem to be the exact reason for the pause (after all birth control has that side effect in 11000 cases). It seems instead to be about treating the side effect. This rare side effect is treatable but should be treated differently than most blood clots. As such the CDC seems to want to make sure medical professionals are aware. This makes sense as not just the vaccine administrators but ER staff, family doctors, etc. need to be aware of treatment details if they run into this and not treat it like a standard blood clot.

However communication to the public has been poor and many new organizations have sensationalized this. As such faith in the vaccine will drop and we’ll have a tougher time than expected in getting needles in arms. The reopening of America may still happen this year but will be later than it should have been.

Author

Eldridge Alexander

Manager of Duo Labs at Duo Security. Formerly employed at Cloudflare and at Google. Technologist, magician, designer, musician, videographer, blogger, and avid sweet tea drinker.