I found a nice notebook the other day, in amongst a cupboard of papers. I thought it was unused, but when I opened it I found a couple of pages of notes clearly written in one sitting, entitled “What I’d like to be in 2012”. A personal historical document, presumably written at or near the start of the new year, when I was approaching my final two terms of university and recovering after an ankle operation.
It is interesting to see what I was focused on. An ambition to be better read, perhaps natural for a young person about to strike out into the world of work. Music and languages were two things I wanted to do more of, the former has waxed and waned in my life, while the latter has fallen mostly by the wayside. Then vaguer interest in being “better prepared” and “more focused”.
The latter point of focus is given a bit more detail. I worried about the time I was spending on “Facebook and blogs”, or even “sitting doing nothing”, the latter of which has now become de rigueur with the rise of mindfulness. Oh to remember that time before smartphones (I had a Blackberry for my sins).
I am uplifted by a few sketched notes about “using the ankle injury as an opportunity… you will never have this opportunity again”. The primary manifestation of this was becoming Sports Editor of the student newspaper for a term, a first foray into writing, an activity which brings me joy to this day.
I finally entreated myself not to “spend your time writing things like this”. On this point, I must most heartily disagree.
Market sentiment is tricky, particularly when it turns. You could argue that Tech (capital T, whatever that means) had a good run, but it has certainly stumbled in recent years, as the halo of promise made way for a shadow of uncertainty.
Responses to that Tweet raised some good tipping points, including a trend-leading article from the New Yorker, as well as reminders of some of most high-profile stories (Fowler and Uber, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook around the 2016 Election). More recently there has been controversy at YouTube around their treatment of complaints by Vox’s Carlos Maza, Twitter is accused of providing a platform for white nationalists, while Facebook’s approach to altered videos has been scrutinized. Meanwhile fear of Deepfakes abounds, and Elizabeth Warren wants to break up Big Tech. Everything indicates that the rosy glasses have finally been removed, and may even have been replaced by green tinted spectacles*, revealing an unhealthy pallor of unforeseen consequences.
And yet I write mid-way through a banner year for tech IPOs, as stalwarts continue their strong 2019 and new direct-listing Slack closes its second day of trading to general acclaim.
One could argue that there are larger macro factors at play. But regardless, the financial markets at least are out of step with the popular narrative on Tech, and it will be interesting to see whether that divergence continues. There is a line of thinking that the industry still hasn’t taken ownership of the problems it faces; I wonder if a reckoning in the stock market would be required for Tech executives to take notice.
* I don’t know whether this phrase exists so please indulge me.