The Tech-Driven Tech Backlash
2017 is going to be a year of strange winners, and perhaps the strangest of all will be a giant leap away from technology and back to solutions that don’t rely on 24/7 connectivity. With the onslaught of major hacks and Facebook embarrassment, the antitech crowd may have its best year in decades.
The early evidence is somewhat startling:
The average US Internet user has 130 online accounts, each of which carries its own username and password. Such a wide-ranging online presence greatly increases the risk of losing personal data. In response to this threat, a Swedish firm is putting the final polish on its new Deseat software, which enables you to delete (or at least scale back) your Internet presence.
Facebook has run afoul of German hate speech laws, putting the social media giant in the crosshairs of a fury over what a social media organization can and cannot be held accountable for.
Ransomware became a billion-dollar industry in 2016, including a hit on the San Francisco transit system that demanded payment in Bitcoin.
What do these examples have in common? They’re readily resolved by minimizing technology in the equation. Low-tech will be the hot tech trend for 2017.
Rather than looking for the next in the endless procession of new players in the Internet of Things (IoT), companies that want to seize on the hottest tech trends for 2017 need to give serious consideration to unplugging. As hackers continue their dedicated push to break into everything from your laptop to your pacemaker, companies that rely on technology as their backbone will be looking to older tech as their “back brace.”
For some individuals, the rationale behind the shift away from connectedness is personal rather than technical. US National Public Radio’s All Things Considered in November 2016 featured an interview with Rachael Garrity, a specialist in marketing and publishing for nonprofit organizations. She is one of the legions of people who have decided to cut at least part of their Internet “cord.” “I am finding Facebook to have a negative impact on my continuing to keep a positive feeling regarding some of the people I have known longest and cherish most,” she said.
Individuals and businesses are taking more and more control over their connectivity, and for some that means depending on local data storage and non-Internet-reliant approaches to their endeavors. This doesn’t mean that innovation will be quashed in 2017, but rather the opposite. Deseat.me is just the first firm out of the box with termination technology. And while the cloud will continue to grow (Cisco is predicting traffic will be up to 14 zettabytes in just four years — that’s 14-trillion gigabytes), the other, quieter growth industry is hard-copy tape backups with physical pickup and delivery by firms like Iron Mountain. The movement to real (rather than virtual) data storage is just one more sign that 2017 will be a year for hedging bets against an unsafe, insecure virtual world.
Ways to Disconnect
How can you take advantage of this trend?
It becomes a lesson in creative thinking, and thinking outside the Internet may prove to be the ultimate lesson in both forward thinking and disaster recovery. The questions managers and executives should ask are:
Can I approach my latest innovation with a tandem (connected/unconnected) strategy?
Can I convert my products/services in a relative flash to/from a connected environment?
If I can’t do either of those things, have I minimized my exposure to the outside through other strategies?
A peer of mine with a semi-apocalyptic bent has always had a classic VW Beetle. When I probed why he opted for the Bug, his reply was very much in line with the tandem strategy: “I don’t have to take it out of the garage very often, but I do, just to make sure it still runs.” He went on to explain that if every hacker, electromagnetic pulse, and solar flare hit the earth simultaneously, he could still roll the Beetle down the hill, pop the clutch, and off he’d go. Everyone else would be trying to figure out why their Lexus just turned into a paperweight.
An effective tandem strategy doesn’t require a Luddite’s mentality. It simply requires that we have the ability to turn on a dime from a high-technology approach to a lower-tech version of the same solution. But it can get expensive and definitely requires a lot of forethought.
Until I get my own VW, I have Keith. Keith is a neighbor, a skilled mechanic, and an artisan in the garage. If technology ever gets the best of my computer-driven, high-tech automobile, I know that I can rely on Keith to jury-rig something to get me back on the road in relatively short order. It won’t be pretty, but it’ll work and get me past any crisis. (Evidence? My son’s engine light was permanently on. Keith worked a little magic and squeezed another eight months of life out of my boy’s dying car.)
For corporate conversion strategies, we don’t have to build in supplemental infrastructure, but we do need our own corporate Keiths. These individuals should be identified for their ability to identify ways to access data, work around systems, and build temporary solutions when technology becomes an enemy rather than an ally.
This is actually where most organizations land, trusting the cloud, trusting multiple backups — and firewalls and antiviral defenses — to keep them safe. It’s standard … 2016. As 2017 gets into full swing, anticipate that some of these traditions will fall, and the realization will strike that all things new are not all things wonderful.
What will 2017 bring? Surprises. And most businesses and government entities really don’t appreciate surprises. Nor do they handle them with aplomb. 2017 will bring a renewed emphasis on conducting business in a safe space, including spaces where the Internet cannot reach. 2017 will praise many older approaches as “innovative” and will see great gnashing of teeth when connectivity becomes a profound challenge.
Oh, yes, and 2017 will bring with it flying cars.