Arthur C. Clarke once said:

Trying to predict the future is a discouraging and hazardous occupation becaue the profit invariably falls into two stools. If his predictions sounded at all reasonable, you can be quite sure that in 20 or most 50 years, the progress of science and technology has made him seem ridiculously conservative. On the other hand, if by some miracle a prophet could describe the future exactly as it was going to take place, his predictions would sound so absurd, so far-fetched, that everybody would laugh him to scorn.

But I couldn’t resist responding to a recent request for augery. Eric asked An Event Apart speakers for their predictions for the coming year. The responses have been gathered together and published, although it’s in the form of a PDF for some reason.

Here’s what I wrote:

This is probably more of a hope than a prediction, but 2021 could be the year that the ponzi scheme of online tracking and surveillance begins to crumble. People are beginning to realize that it’s far too intrusive, that it just doesn’t work most of the time, and that good ol’-fashioned contextual advertising would be better. Right now, it feels similar to the moment before the sub-prime mortgage bubble collapsed (a comparison made in Tim Hwang’s recent book, Subprime Attention Crisis). Back then people thought “Well, these big banks must know what they’re doing,” just as people have thought, “Well, Facebook and Google must know what they’re doing”…but that confidence is crumbling, exposing the shaky stack of cards that props up behavioral advertising. This doesn’t mean that online advertising is coming to an end—far from it. I think we might see a golden age of relevant, content-driven advertising. Laws like Europe’s GDPR will play a part. Apple’s recent changes to highlight privacy-violating apps will play a part. Most of all, I think that people will play a part. They will be increasingly aware that there’s nothing inevitable about tracking and surveillance and that the web works better when it respects people’s right to privacy. The sea change might not happen in 2021 but it feels like the water is beginning to swell.

Still, predicting the future is a mug’s game with as much scientific rigour as astrology, reading tea leaves, or haruspicy.

Much like behavioural advertising.

Have you published a response to this? :


1 Like

# Liked by dirk döring on Friday, February 12th, 2021 at 12:07pm

Previously on this day

2 years ago I wrote Back at CERN

Bringing web history alive. Again.

4 years ago I wrote From New York to Porto

From FOMO to imposter syndrome in a fortnight.

14 years ago I wrote Après Web Directions North

A great conference with the best post-conference activities ev-ah!

16 years ago I wrote The web is a many-splendoured thing

About a week ago, I was having a chat with Andy about all things web related. It seems that Andy and I use the web in very different ways.

17 years ago I wrote My iBook is iBack

All is well with the world once again. UPS delivered my iBook this morning after trying and failing yesterday morning (nobody home).

17 years ago I wrote PHP sendmail frustration

I spent hours last night tearing my hair out trying to fix a mystifying PHP problem.

18 years ago I wrote Darwin Day

Happy Darwin Day!

19 years ago I wrote The Always Amusing Euphemism Generator

Have some fun winding the pork wristwatch.

19 years ago I wrote The new iMac Animations

Here’s a match made in heaven: Pixar have come up with a couple of animated shorts featuring the new iMac

19 years ago I wrote Examples of abuse of the Apostrophe

The Apostrophe Protection Society presents a rogue’s gallery of snaphots depicting some of the worst offenses against the apostrophe.

19 years ago I wrote Java Spectrum Emulator

This is fantastic!