This is Hardcore: Predictions for 2020 and beyond


This is Hardcore is a regular series that takes a closer look at a growing trend. We look to explore a bit more of what’s behind the headlines to see what’s really going on. Here, Neil makes some predictions as to what the 2020’s might look like in media, technology and culture.

So we’re coming to the end of the 10s. It’s been quite the decade. I’m sure we’ll be seeing towards the end of the year, many pages, screeds, opinions and general analysis of what happened and predictions of what will come next. So I thought I’d get in early and give a few thoughts of what I think might be the main themes of the next few years.

Why just a few years? Because while crystal ball gazing is a popular sport, particularly at year end, those who are serious futurists only generally look a few years out. Beyond that things tend to get very murky. So in the interests of giving you something useful, and not just navel gazing, we thought I’ddo the same. Oh and just in case you’re expecting heavy political predictions, I’m going to look more at media, technology and culture...mainly.

In making predictions I want to split this into three parts.

  • What we’ll say goodbye to

  • What the key themes might be

  • What we’ll be introduced to - concepts, themes and things to grapple with.

Goodbye to...

Baby boomers as a cultural force. A changing of the guard. Obviously this is a big generation with still a lot to contribute. But there are going to be a number of retirements and a general sense that the 20th century is increasingly receding in the rear view mirror. The millenials are a big demographic bump like the boomers were and their influence will be felt for a very long time.

Digital and technology as a force for change. So Moore’s Law is declining. There’s a sign of another forthcoming AI winter. Quantum computing is the great white hope here, but the jury’s out. All this means, not that technology is going away, but it’s the new normal. I suspect this means a great deal of creativity, but a lot less disruption.  

Sex and gender as bones of contention. The last ten years have seen a lot of brands caught out over these issues. There is surely now enough case studies and social media know how in public affairs and crisis management teams of what can go wrong as a result. I hope I’m right.

Key themes to grapple with

Digital Ethics. It sometimes seems to be that in certain circles, Digital Ethicist is the hot new job title. And this is leaving academia, where people like Zeynep Tufekci and Evgeny Morozov have been raising these issues for years. Ethics is a regulatory issue. If you don’t get the right counsel, increasingly you’ll face the threat of regulation disrupting your business model. Thinking about whether you should do something as well as if you can is increasingly important to mitigate this risk.

YouTubers not on YouTube. Book deals aside, it’s been amazing how little crossover there’s been into traditional TV from YouTubers who have built up huge audiences. Given that YouTube is becoming more restrictive and less profitable I suspect it’s highly likely we’ll see more crossover (and not just as contestants on Strictly Come Dancing). 

The return of collectives. Unions hit a low at the end of the 20th century. The new frontier is surprisingly in tech businesses and online media outlets, where traditionally no activity took place. There’s also fascinating examples of platform collectivism where the workers own the software platform that coordinates their work. This means they share the profits, amongst themselves, rather than it being taken by the platform owner, like for instance in the case of Uber. 

Organic news. Deep fakes have moved in leaps and bounds in recent years and the signs are it’s only going to get worse. We face several key elections in upcoming years and hence the provenance of news is only going to become more important. Hence the concept of organic news. The problem is that creating and verifying a high quality news product in an industry that only now is coming out of the ravages that digital has inflicted upon it, is an expensive luxury. If people want this organic news (and I do believe there’s a market for it), it’s going to be expensive and this will no doubt create a digital divide in access to information.

Things arriving

Chinese culture as a force. China is the workshop of the world, but cultural exports have been less prominent. But in recent times we’ve seen a few examples: global science fiction hits, a Shanghai club scene considered globally innovative, Alibaba studios, and more traditionally (for China), some of the most innovative phones. Is it time for a breakthrough moment where economic power is augmented by soft power? 

New luxury brands, new luxury. We’ve been working on a few luxury projects this year so we’re very much interested in how this world is changing. On one hand you have Chanel taking a very pop culture approach to their marketing in some territories. On the other side you see brands like Supreme and Offwhite moving into luxury territory. Prediction. There will be an Offwhite concession at Dubai airport in the next five years.

Retail reinvention. I’d like to think the retail apocalypse will be halted. Perhaps it’s because I’ve just returned from Japan where they do retail very well but I would imagine the wave of customer experience will bear fruit, with new models, new experiences and finally crack the question of why you would still want to go to a store with limited choice when you could go online with infinite choice?

And finally
One big event. OK this is a cop out but nevertheless it’s worth saying. I suspect we are due one very big event in the next few years. Something they remember 100 years from now. Serious game changer. Hopefully something positive - hey, they’ve just cured Ebola, it could happen.

What do you think? Drop us a line with your predictions, theories, feedback and anything you’d like to see in the next This is Hardcore.

Neil Major