since the best of times department
Longtime readers of Techdirt know that since 2008, I’ve been writing a year-end post to stay optimistic. It started when some people read my writing and told me I was angry and frustrated, but when you met me in person, I always seemed optimistic about the world’s prospects. As I mentioned, I don’t see this as a contradiction at all. I remain incredibly optimistic about the potential for innovation, and generally feel frustrated and angry at anything that gets in the way of that optimistic vision becoming a reality.
If you want to read last year’s New Year’s messages here they are all:
For large parts of this year, I’ve wondered if there really is much to be optimistic about in technology, but I have to admit that the past few months have been the most optimistic I’ve been in a long time. About a week ago, I went through some of my thoughts and noted that I see no reason why anyone should spend time building another social graph. centralized social media network, we now see how a decentralized one works and works well.
When I wrote this, someone at Mastodon joked that they didn’t know I was a secret optimist, but then again, that’s the spirit of these posts.
And now a fantastic it’s time to be optimistic about technological innovation, even though it sometimes feels like the world is collapsing around us and tons of terrible regulations are proposed (and sometimes tragically become law). Also, some will argue that high inflation, an outright economic recession, and the contracting of much of the tech industry is one of these nuclear winter scenarios.
But I don’t agree. Yes, they are all bad and have a real impact on many people’s lives. But after experiencing many tech “crashes”, I’ve learned how things get more interesting at times. The most interesting innovations almost always come out of the “dark” times of technology. Sometimes it happens because From those dark ages because more tech people have extra time on their hands, or because an industry (or broader economic) downturn simply illuminates new opportunities.
For the past five or six years, people have insisted that the big internet companies are too big and too powerful to ever fail. I’ve noticed that people have said that many times in the past about technology, and they’ve always been wrong. However, “this time is different” was the refrain I heard over and over again. And… while the big companies are still big, none of them seem invincible anymore.
These giants are not so invincible anymore.
It’s crazy exciting. I know that Techdirt haters (falsely) claim that we are “tech giants” or whatever, but watching the natural order that disrupts these giants and opens new avenues for innovation is one of the most exciting developments for innovation in Azerbaijan. In recent years. Of course, I don’t think any of these companies will go away, but it’s a plausible idea for them to take a back seat and let some new entrant lead the innovation train for a while (just like with previously dominant firms like Microsoft and IBM).
We see that there are many possibilities. I’ve already talked about the rise of Mastodon and its ability to push power away from the internet giants and towards users. This remains one of the most interesting things to happen in the last year, especially since people have been predicting it for years with very little. Until now. It’s fun to see the innovation happening at Mastodon right now, especially with Facebook and Twitter buzzing around spectacularly.
And it’s not just on social media.
For the past few years, we’ve been told that the “big tech” companies have an impossible lead in AI. We’re told that only Google, Meta, Amazon, and Microsoft can “lead” in AI because they have access to the best talent and the most data, and no one else can catch up. We’ve been told repeatedly that antitrust needs to look at these big companies and how they’re going to control the AI world.
However, the most interesting AI developments of the past year… come not from any of those companies, but from the nonprofit startup OpenAI. Earlier this year, it introduced DALL-E 2 to the world, showing just how powerful and creative AI-generated art can be. And almost immediately, we saw many similar offerings (many based on OpenAI’s early work) appear, such as MidJourney and the open source Stable Diffusion. While Google and Meta are considering their own versions of this technology, both are trailing rather than leading the way.
As the year draws to a close, OpenAI’s ChatGPT has the world excited about advances in generative text, with some even talking about how ChatGPT could eventually challenge Google’s core search business. It’s too early for that, and ChatGPT is nowhere close to making a dent in Google’s search business…but, there is an opening. A year ago, the opening that many people insisted on was impossible.
There were other fun surprises in the hardware world. Although it’s set to launch in 2021, it looks like the Framework laptop will really take off in 2022, showing that a brand new laptop company can tap into what’s felt like a largely closed market with an innovative approach focused (again) on end users. putting more power in the hand: sending a laptop that is not only intended to be replaced by the owner, but also where the user is specifically encouraged to repair and replace their own laptops. In an era where big companies are still fighting for the right to repair, we are seeing smaller companies getting involved and seeing the right to repair as a tool. market opportunity to come in and beat the big boys.
Meanwhile, another thing that some people think is a weakness for the technology may be the opposite: the cryptocurrency crash ended with the complete collapse of FTX, revealing that it was just three different scams stacked on top of each other. an actual financial firm… great news. I have very mixed feelings about much of the cryptocurrency space, as I think there are some potentially beneficial opportunities (once again) to shift some level of power from the giant central players (in this case, banks) to a more decentralized world. it empowers those previously excluded from the system.
And it was kernels interesting ideas included in some innovations around smart contracts and decentralized finance. But… almost all of these are completely overshadowed by scams, fraud and get-rich-quick ponzi schemes. So I think a lot of that is going to be destroyed and a lot of people’s focus is going to be elsewhere, to see how people can do useful things with technology that aren’t in the money aspect. Or maybe they won’t do it at all. But we have a better chance of finding out that the scams and nonsense have been cleared up and everyone thought they were dead and buried.
In short, all the things that many people think are really “bad” for technology are actually bad for old ways that have very real problems. And that means we have a huge opportunity to rebuild things for the better. As we saw with Mastodon and more decentralized social media, and we may see with new innovations in AI and elsewhere.
Things may be bad for “big tech,” but this is the perfect time to fix everything that’s gone wrong over the past decade. So it’s time to be optimistic again. It’s time to innovate and focus on doing things better this time.
Last year I talked about the idea of Eternal October and… it was wishful thinking at the time. Now I can see the path to that becoming a reality, and it’s incredibly exciting.
Separately, it’s been a wild year for Techdirt and the Copia Institute. Copia launched our first browser-based game called Startup Trail to go along with the many other game-related projects we’ve been working on (and there’s so much more in the works that we can’t wait to share soon). We’ve also been incredibly busy with about half a dozen different papers and reports, many of which will be coming out soon.
We’ve had some great stories on the Techdirt side that have gotten tons of attention. We were the only ones in California that really covered some of the horrible laws. We’ve done some major exposé stories, and I’ll pat myself on the back for the most detailed and comprehensive coverage of everything Elon Musk has cracked on Twitter in a crazy, crazy year.
We also went through the somewhat Herculean task of migrating 25-year-old legacy Techdirt to an entirely new platform. It hasn’t been without some hiccups, but it’s been a relatively smooth ride considering how far it’s gone (although we’re still finding and fixing some bugs months later), and we’re looking forward to doing more now that we’ve moved on. is a more scalable platform. Yes, we also celebrated our 25th anniversary and had a really fun event for Techdirt Insiders. We plan to do more of those, so I’m going to take one last step to consider becoming an Insider, joining the Discord, and attending future events. Or there are many other ways to support us.
As always, the last point of these posts is thanks to all of you, the community around Techdirt, for making it all worthwhile. The community around Techdirt remains an amazing thing to me. I’ve said in the past that I write as if I’m going to share my thoughts in an empty space without expecting anyone to notice, and I’m always surprised when someone does, not to disagree. Feel free to add some additional ideas, challenge my thinking, or even get in touch to talk about how to take some ideas forward. So, thanks again youFor making Techdirt such a wonderful and special place over the last 25 years, and everyone reading this as we move forward into this wide-open world of new possibilities.
Filed Under: new year, new year message, optimism