The start of the Noughties for me was Y2K. It was a non-event, thanks, I might add, to people like me making ourselves mentally unwell fixing endless date issues in crappy database code. Next was the massive dot com crash — our wonderful future of super internet everything was an illusion… except, well, the biggest technological development of the decade was in fact the growth of the internet and all its related technologies. The problem existed in the mind of the market, not in the soundness or long term significance of the underlying technology.
It’s hard to believe that almost everybody was on dial-up internet in 2000, broadband existed, but it was slow and not many had it. The rise of blogging was interesting. To start with many more traditional media sources were freaking out about the idea that some 15 year old from his bedroom could get as much exposure as their latest newspaper article. Now blogging is just another part of the information ecosystem. Wikipedia: the encyclopedia’s went through the classic Ghandi stages of ignore, ridicule, attack and then lose. The iPod completely changed the music business, espeically combined with file sharing. Nobody I knew had DVD‘s before 2000, this was the decade they became big. Same for flatscreen monitors and TVs. I got a digital camera in 2000 when they were just coming out and still cost a fortune. During the Noughties they revolutionised photography. Wifi, nobody I knew had it in 2000, now it’s almost everywhere. Same for internet to the phone. Or text messages, that’s been quite a change. I remember when online banking was seen as strange and a bit risky, now it’s how many people do most of their banking. Google existed, but they really only became huge during this decade. Youtube, another big change in how many people used the internet. Same for Facebook. I still remember how people would react to my enthusiasm for open source software, basically it was seen as a hippy movement that wasn’t something that most serious business people would entertain. That certainly has changed. The iPhone revolutionised the smart phone industry.
In a nutshell, I’d say that the Noughties were all about a massive proliferation of digital communication. In a way the dot coms had roughly the right idea, but it took another decade for the vision to mature.
Outside of technology, 9/11, Bush and Iraq feature strongly in my mind. I think the rise of robotic weapons is something that is currently under appreciated. The rise of China and the way in which global warming went from fringe to mainstream were also significant. For me seeing a black man elected president of the US was one of the most surprising, and thrilling, things to happen in the last ten years. If you’d asked me in 2000 about the probability of that happening, I’d have put it at something like 1%. Was I grossly mis-calibrated, or was Obama really a rare event? I’m still not sure. Then finally we have the financial crisis and the continuing repercussions from that now. I can only presume that the next decade is likely to bring a similar amount of change. It should be an interesting time to be alive…
First question, what will we call the next decade? The “teens”? That seems kind of lame to me! Second question, what do you think are likely to be the changes of the coming decade? Are we in for some big surprises, or just a continuation of current trends?