Biggest Concerns for Tech in 2019

For the last 34 years, I have written a new year prediction column at the end of each year. I have tracked these columns over the years and have seen that my accuracy rate has been pretty high. A key reason for that is that I get to see a lot of technology in the works during the year that I know will hit the market in the new year and glean from those technologies and related meetings to make those predictions.

But this year I want to write a slightly different column that does not focus on predictions but rather my concerns I have for our industry in 2019. If you are interested in some really well researched and thoughtful predictions, please read fellow Tech.pinions columnist Bob O’Donnell’s top 10 predictions for 2019.

Some of my concerns were articulated well by NYT columnist David Streitfeld, who I spoke with multiple times for his article entitled “Big Tech May Look Troubled, but It’s Just Getting Started.

This article makes similar points that I made in a Tech.pinions piece on December 17th entitled “What Tech Companies Know about Their Future”.

Here is the key point I made in both articles.

“But the truth is that tech is now at the center of all of our lives and is only going to be more expansive over time. I would argue that we are only half way through what is a 70-80 year journey from analog-to-digital. We are on the cusp of delivering all types of new technologies from self-driving cars, smart cities, connected homes, along with VR, AR, AI, machine learning and robotics based technologies that will eventually encompass all that we do in our tech-driven future. Tech is on track to impact and influence pretty much every aspect of our business and personal lives”.

While Tech has had a very negative year in terms of publicity and its impact on everything from privacy, security and democracy was a negative highlight, and the fact remains that technology is so ingrained into our work, lifestyles, and society. As I stated in my quote in the NYT’s article, “The image of Silicon Valley as Nirvana has certainly taken a hit, but the reality is that we the consumers are constantly voting for them.”

As I point out, Technology will be a driver for our economy and has a long growth path ahead. But this will not come without a lot of bumpy roads and serious challenges ahead.

The number one challenge I see for tech’s growth is the potential for government regulation, especially in the US and EU. Given the problems surrounding social media spreading false news and its impact on democracy and not protecting people’s security, at the very least various governments are under pressure to intervene to protect people and their countries from the real or perceived harm social media has done around the world. Another possibility is that many big tech companies will be scrutinized for any monopolistic practices and we could see some serious challenge to their business models in the next two years.

The second threat is security and privacy in general. Every day now we hear of some company being hacked and giving up millions of private data records of their customers to hackers and villains of all types around the world. This problem will become even worse this year with little recourse for the consumer insight. I expect to see no less than another three major data breaches that could impact just about everyone in the US in 2019.

The third is Hacking of the Power Grid. Last year we saw around 18 attempts to hack into the US power grid, and in one case they got pretty close to the core of the grid but did not do any damage. This particular attempt is very worrisome as it shows that at least one bad actor has the skills to do this and may be waiting for an optimal time to try and bring down at least part of the US power grid. I have predicted an attempt to hack the power grid for at least the last 10 years and each year we see more attempts to try and cripple our power infrastructure If any nefarious group is ever capable of doing this it could cause a catastrophic impact on our financial systems, and things like nuclear plants, hospitals, etc. This one keeps me up a night.

And my fourth biggest concern is China. While the US Tariffs in China has impacted China’s economy, their debt load is a ticking time bomb for China in general and US Tech companies in particular. There is an interesting book that tackles China’s Debt problem called “China’s Great Wall of Debt” by Dinny McMahon.

US Tech companies see the writing on the wall and are slowly and intentionally beginning to move some of their manufacturing out of China to Viet Nam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Indi, and even Mexico. While China’s implosion over debt could take as much as ten years to play out, this will not end well for this country. At the same time, China’s overall economy and GDP is declining, and Premier Xi Jinping is under major pressure from the Communist party leadership for what we are hearing is an overreach and bad decisions he has made in the last two years.

This makes Premier Xi Jinping even more dangerous as some feel he will move faster to try and bring Taiwan into the Chinese fold and could even start a targeted war to improve his position with the Chinese people. US tech companies have a real rocky road ahead in China as the country is being boxed in by debt and questionable leadership and 2019 could prove to be a pivotal year for China and US and tech company relations.

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Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

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