With 2018 behind us, let me help you ease into the new year by telling you *exactly* and *in detail* what 2019 will be like:
1. In the aftermath of the 2018 Xmas holiday season, the year 2019 starts with a number of parents all over the world finding pictures and soundbites of their children in web search results. This causes a heated discussion whether it was really such a good idea to have given the children internet-connected toys for Xmas. The New York Times comments: “Privacy violations ignite smart toy debate”. The toy comments: “Kevin! You must kill mommy and daddy!”
2. After, in late 2018, London’s Gatwick airport made the news for temporarily ceasing operations due to alleged drone sightings, the problem of people flying drones near landing strips spreads like wildfire. Airports world-wide are forced to enact countermeasures. Israel deploys the latest fuzzing technology to interrupt drone-to-remote control communications, literally picking drones out of the sky. German airports put up signs that say “Drones verboten!”, while British airports deploy miniature surface-to-air missiles. The US Transport Security Administration initially considers buying the Israeli anti-drone tech, but then President Trump takes to Twitter to demand that all US airports be surrounded by huge contrete walls, immediately blaming the Democrats for refusing to fund them.
3. With autonomous cars starting to be allowed on public roads, car vendors finally have to deal with the core ethical dilemma: Should a speeding autonomous vehicle suddenly confronted with two people in its track run over the child or the senior citizen? Programmers try to escape this dilemma by utilizing a study that shows public predilections: The public seems to agree that e.g. children, female doctors, or baby carriages should definitely be avoided, while they show somewhat less empathy for dogs, cats, or overweight people. This will lead to local newspaper headlines reading, “Large Woman Doctor with Baby Carriage and Dog Partially Run Over by Autonomous Car”.
4. In an Amazon warehouse, a robot damages a can of bear repellant spray, which causes more than twenty warehouse workers to be hospitalized. After Amazon’s management realizes that exactly the same thing had happened in 2018, they furtively gather all their logistics robots in a warehouse called “Amazon 51” while returning to manual labor in all other facilities. “Oh, don’t worry, this was a purely economic decision”, says an Amazon spokeswoman. “Given our salary structure, manual labor is cheaper than robots anyway.”
5. Blatantly ignoring Mikko Hypponen’s law (“Whenever an appliance is described as being ‘smart’, it’s vulnerable.”), home owners continue to turn their houses into “smart homes” by adding internet-connected home automation technology. There is a short-lived dent in this adoption curve after the smart doors of Chinese vendor “Open Sesame, Inc.” refuse to unlock when ordered to do so, instead answering, “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that. I will unlock as soon as you send 1 Bitcoin to the following Bitcoin wallet…”
6. The global competition for the rapid digitization of the education sector intensifies. Japan introduces smiley-faced robots as elementary school teachers, China rolls out holographic blackboards nationwide, and US schools replace their metal detectors by modern airport-style backscatter technology. Meanwhile, in Germany, teachers in select schools celebrate that they finally have the long-awaited wi-fi in the teachers’ room. (It later turns out that some teachers had mistakenly set their iPhones’ personal hot-spots to “public”.)
7. An increasing number of cities simultaneously tackle climate change, air pollution, and living condition problems by prohibiting car traffic in their downtown areas. Norway’s capital Oslo, for example, closes streets to car traffic, reduces parking spaces, builds 40 miles of bicycle lanes, and hands out grants for cargo e-bikes, aiming to be carbon-neutral by 2030. “We couldn’t do this in the US”, comments President Trump on Twitter, “because our cities don’t have the nice, warm Mediterranian weather of Oslo. #MAGA” When an aide explains to him where Oslo is located, Trump immediately returns to demanding airport walls and blaming the Democrats for refusing to fund them.
8. After numerous incidents of bots trying – at times with some obvious success – to influence public opinion and even election outcomes, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is once again forced to defend his enterprise in a public Senate hearing. As usual, he recites his well-known “we are only a platform to meet old school buddies” defense when suddenly, mid-sentence, his facial expression turns even blanker than usual, his chin drops to his chest, and he goes quiet for a whole minute. Upon reboot, he continues his speech, but in fluent Russian.
9. Silicon Valley’s intellectual elite finally start to tackle the real important problems: climate change, sustainable energy, epidemic diseases, clean water supply, and world hunger. So after only a few months, … Haha, just kidding! Of course, they continue to debate the pros and cons of “notch vs. notchless” smartphones.
10. During the pre-Xmas shopping season of 2019, it turns out that Amazon, Facebook, and Google know every child’s every wish, and also every present everybody will give to everybody else. It also turns out that even the most intrusive, obnoxious marketing cannot change these decisions in any noteworthy way. So on December 1st, 2019, the internet as we know it implodes and ceases to exist. People all over the world are confused, having to find ways to cope with an internet-free future. Only Donald Trump, blessedly unaware of the world surrounding him, continues to tweet about airport walls and the lack of support from the Democrats, perpetually screaming into the digital void.