For many people, talk of the 1920s or 1970s brings immediate images to mind. Here’s my best attempt for those images of the ’00s and ’10s along with predictions for the 20s.
**The 2000s: Decade of Lies / The Last Decade of Trusted Institutions**
Something that began in the ’00s and has mostly come to fruition in the 10s is a distrust in authority and ’trusted institutions’. The US government lied about WMDs and it was corroborated by the New York Times. The banks lied to us about how safe their lending practices were and the government bailed them out at the expense of the American public. People rightfully began to lose trust in the institutions that they were told to trust.
**The 2010s: Decade of the Internet**
Even though GAFA (+Twitter) were all founded pre-2010, their impact and rise were really felt in the 2010s. Beginning with the Arab Springs, some alleged Russian election interference in the middle, and wrapping up the decade with the ongoing Hong Kong protests, many of the 2010s largest events could not have happened without the large internet platforms and smartphones. With the prominence of cheap smartphones, the developing world was also able to come online and people without a voice could be heard for the first time.
With less trust in institutions, new sources of truth were able to emerge. Large internet platforms (Facebook, Twitter) and new funding mechanisms (Patreon, Bitcoin) enabled these new voices to get their messages widespread. As one example, at the time of banning, Alex Jones had 900,000 Twitter followers and his media company, Infowars had 430,000.
Outsider politicians like Trump were also able to win elections because they were seen as being free of the very institutions (New York Times, DC-establishment, etc.) people grew to distrust over the prior decade.
**The 2020s (Predictions): Decade of Rebellion**
I predict the 2020s will be a decade of rebellion and revolution. We are seeing the beginnings now in both developed and developing economies around the world. In America, we have Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, who are two sides of the same coin arguing for different kinds of revolutions. Elsewhere in the world there are the yellow vests in France, Brexit in the UK, protests in Hong Kong, and SO many more. The internet has allowed protestors to organize at scale in a way that was previously not possible (see: Telegram/Hong Kong, Arab Springs/Twitter).
This short video from the BBC explaining the role the internet has had and how protestors around the world learn from each other is very good.
The 2020s will also be categorized by governments trying to roll back the progress of the democratization of voice made during the 2010s. Countries like China have already sanctioned off “The Chinese Internet” with deep surveillance and censorship apparatuses. Other global superpower like Russia are now discussing doing the same. Hopefully “dissident tech” like VPNs, cryptocurrencies, and anti-facial recognition clothing will be able to counteract the heavy hand of governments.
First published on January 2, 2020