16 Hypotheses for 2016

Every year for the past decade, I’ve made the same New Year’s resolution: don’t accidentally write the wrong year when you write the date. I love to challenging my awareness against my own negligence.

2015 proved just too easy to remember, so as an additional exercise to bring in the New Year I’ll outline a few hypotheses 2016 will put the test.

Predictions w/ Extended Analysis

1 — Tesla is going to unveil the Model 3 and investors will finally shut up.

Okay okay, now that I’ve already made a few enemies, please let me explain. Tesla’s Model X, albeit technologically impressive, is still an electric luxury vehicle serving the trendy and environmentally conscious. The Model 3 will be a significant price reduction from previous Tesla models, placing it at the high end of the average commute vehicles. If performance and pricing are as promised, investors will have nothing to talk about and my friends will quit making fun of me. If it is a flop, investors will probably shut up about Tesla — forever.

2 —VR and Social Networking synergies will become apparent with use cases forming

With the first consumer release of the Oculus headset staged for 2016 it’s hard to not have VR on my mind. Oculus has a committed developer community, comprehensive SDKs, and an extremely excited (and patient) market of gaming enthusiasts. But the question everyone is asking — will consumer VR sell beyond that? This question can easily be followed up with many questions: is it going to break into adjacent gaming markets, expand the market, or will people think the games are too repetitive and get tired of puking everywhere? Only time will answer these questions, so instead I’ll focus on something I believe is going to happen.

For 2016, I see VR showing it’s true potential for vast market penetration through use cases found in Social Networking. Synergies between VR and Social Networking are often left out of the primary conversation, despite that the biggest social network owns the most significant player in VR. With the addition of the 360 degree video feature, Facebook seems to be positioning themselves to be the place to have virtual social interaction. Could this be virtual chat rooms with Mii-like avatars? Or how about virtual viewing rooms for all getting together with your friends and watching that Vine compilation of the best “Hotline Bling” edits? One thing is certain: Facebook will bring on features aimed to encourage non-gaming consumers to buy an Oculus Rift.

3 — Two of the Valley’s darling Unicorns won’t go public in 2016

Uber will not go public and Palantir will continue to raise ridiculous amounts of money as a private company to expand the only consulting practice ever referred to as a mythical creature.

Each of these companies mentioned will not go public, but for very separate reasons. As mentioned, Uber’s P&L statements aren’t conducive to Wall Street’s methods of accounting. In addition to that, there is a certain level of privacy that public companies are not privy to that Uber significantly benefits from.

Palantir is circumnavigating the IPO as a means to continue the transparency of its operations. Public vs. Private companies enjoy different levels of transparency, or opacity as many of Palantir’s customers would prefer. Although, Palantir is a very transparent company, the nature of the function of their products (taking down terrorists) is often highly sensitive. Furthermore, capital is cheap right now. If macro-trends take a turn for the worse, maybe there will be some light at the end of the tunnel for a Palantir IPO.

4 — AI added on top of the messaging layer, pervades mobile and breaks into enterprise

AI products exploded in 2015: M, Cortana, Google Now, Siri, and then the plethora of Slackbots. 2016 will be an even bigger year, with significant products being built on top of the Slack platform, financially powered by a fund that’s the first of its kind.

People are building functionality into messaging in a way that is going to revolutionize how we communicate. Calling an Uber directly from a messaging platform has been an example many turn to. Slash Keyboard allows you to search the web for links directly from the message. Every messaging app should have that feature built in! And they will, soon. In a Facebook Messenger re-design Brian Nelson shows how a consolidated user-flow could increase productivity and take away all of friction involved with sharing your favorite song in Messenger. The real power to be unlocked is when these applications built on top of messaging layers are woven together with machine learning.

We are used to the relatively simple uses of AI that have limited applications even to consumers (order flowers, schedule meetings). But what about if it can manage your client relationships and schedule meetings for you like a human would? In 2016, AI injected into messaging applications (Email, Messenger, Slack) is going be standard for consumers and begin to make a strong case for enterprise.

An overview on the state of Machine Learning / AI: here.

5 —3D touch, Force touch and alike become standard in mobile as Devs find (useful) use cases

Until 2015, I have never been on the cutting edge of mobile. I was that kid in 8th grade who still didn’t have a cell phone. You can only imagine my excitement upgrading to an iPhone 6s. 3D Touch has been slightly useless outside of: keyboard cursor movement, photo preview on Instagram, and of course link previewing on Medium. Kudos Medium Engineering! This is something I have gotten in the habit of using and on my iPad I’ll find myself attempting similar actions to no avail. This technology will begin to pervade mobile devices as people realize how useful: link previewing, photo previewing, “push-to-click”, features could be on mobile. It is literally and figuratively adding a new dimension to user interaction.

6 — “Encryption Backdoor” dies in 2016

I’ve decided to make my selection process simple for the 2016 elections: I can’t vote for a candidate who supports an “Encryption Backdoor”. Current odds indicate I won’t be participating in our nation’s democratic process. Essentially, this conversation boils down to government wanting to be able to spy on encrypted communications as a measure of counter-terrorism. The idea of Security Agencies (FBI, CIA, NSA) keeping “an escrow” of private keys for all kinds of encrypted communications is slightly terrifying given our track record. Regardless, I hope someone can convince policy-makers that the Manhattan Project for Encryption shouldn’t happen. Or else, as a nation, we will spend a substantial amount of money attempting to “put a key under the doormat”.

Also, what kind of cryptographer would even opt into a project of that nature? They would have to be the Ned Flanders of the White hats.

7 — Title II, Data Scarcity, Un-bundling, how many more buzzwords can this title fit?

I’ll do my best to not be vague, but seriously, does anyone really understand this stuff? The shouting match between big ISPs (AT&T, Comcast) and Internet companies (Google, Facebook) has somewhat been the pot calling the kettle black. Of course the ISPs want to maintain their position of regulated profitability. Of course Internet companies want people to have greater access to their technology via cheaper and more abundant data. The big difference is that the American people will benefit from the Internet companies’ position. Wouldn’t you be happier if you had more access to your favorite technologies, regardless of WiFi connectivity? So what will 2016 bring? Good question, to which I have no specific answer. All I know is that competition will drive down prices to the benefit of the consumer.

An Attempt At Humor

8 — People will quit making wallets, keys, and pens on Kickstarter

Please stop the madness. Save a life and share with any of your friends who are guilty of this.

9 — I’ll finally convince my parents to trade in their WMT for some AMZN

I attempted this three times in 2015. Although Walmart is the only positive stock for 2016, I’m not backing down from my position.

10 — I’ll finally understand Robinhood’s angle

Empowering millennials to make trades by charging no fees? No monetization strategy available without taking away the differentiating feature? I’m determined to figure it out in 2016.

11 — Donald Trump will not win the general election

I’ve included this hypothesis just to make sure I don’t go 0/16.

Very optimistic, vague, and short hypotheses

12— Democratization of everything, driven by more data access and computing power

13 — AI is no longer a product, but a feature for mobile

14 — Fintech reaches consumers via Bitcoin and Blockchain SDKs (1 2 3 4)

15 — “Finding a New Runtime” will result in more breakthroughs for Slack

16 — Quantum computing inches closer to consumers

As an unapologetic technologist, my opinions are often too heavy to be carried out in full. Please don’t take my unbridled optimism as ignorance or regard me as analytically naive. I’m just hoping 2016 provides another big technological step forward for mankind. Only time will tell!

I tell stories about the compelling things I experience everyday. A few friends and I are currently creating a tech/lifestyle publication for UIUC and beyond. Contact me at wjones700@gmail.com if you’d like more details.