Thinking About 2018

Posted on by Larry

Last night, our podcast – the Digital Production Buzz – discussed the trends to watch for 2018. During the show, we heard lots of opinions on where the future is taking us.

Our analysts are pretty well agreed on the growth of machine learning, HDR and Augmented Reality, though AR doesn’t provide many opportunities at the moment for filmmakers. And machine learning will take several years to find its place.

We are split on the long-term prospects for VR and 8K, and hopeful that recent improvements in diversity throughout our industry will continue.

On the business side, software rental (also called subscriptions) and business consolidation are likely to grow, neither of which are particularly good for end users but make a lot of sense for developers.

The Cloud remains a question mark – absolutely necessary in some cases and overhyped in others.

In other words, the coming year will be a combination of good and bad news – where much of what happens will be obscured until the dust settles a bit.

For me, there are three bigger trends I’m watching:

It’s this last point that troubles me the most. The American economy today is founded on two contradictory pillars: sustained economic growth through consumer spending while at the same time, increasing the use of technology to reduce the number of employees.

A classic example of this “reduce the headcount” behavior came with the recent corporate tax cut. In more than 90% of companies surveyed, that money didn’t go toward improving wages or increased hiring, it went to stock holders.

What seems lost on industry is that consumers can’t keep spending if they don’t have jobs. And automation, in all its various forms, is claiming thousands of jobs every month. Just in our own industry, we see this on set, in post and throughout marketing and distribution. The mantra is: “Let machines do the repetitive work, while consumers bask in new-found leisure time.” Leisure time is no fun if you don’t have money to spend during it.

This increasing reliance on technology is creating an underclass of unemployed – and underemployed – workers that has me deeply troubled.

In addition to cool new toys and features, technology – along with government and industry – also needs to find new and innovative ways of retraining workers and reestablishing them in the workforce. We need a serious discussion of how to balance technology with employment. And we need to think more carefully about whether inventing in new technology because we can is the wisest course for society.

Just something I’m thinking about. As always, I’m interested in your opinion.

11 Responses to Thinking About 2018

  1. Gloria messer says:

    Larry, I believe you are right. If the end result is to be able to have everything done by
    technology or machinery, there will not be a need for people to work and there will be no need for the huge army of middle management to manage. This leaves a feudal state. Eventually the unemployed will have no choice but to organize for change.
    People do have minds and they need the satisfaction of work and creation. xxo goo

  2. Frank Maxwell says:

    Very good point about unployment. Here in England we are more or less finding the same situation. The youngster all live with phone, industry is automating as much as the can. Most 18-to 21 year olds who I know have bum sitting jobs working with computer in one form or others.
    The value of communication has gone in some aspect.Its YES OR NO words which are powerful now.
    Being 70 years old I can imagine after my life span things getting worse, regards people working and the planet forcing us to eliminate certain mechanical pollution dangers from our lives.

  3. Jay McAlevy says:

    I agree with your points. What is missed is how education will have to change, because as automation in creases, we will need people to fix these devices and the job skills will need to rise or shift to meet this, while the common worker that was replaced will have to find a new way to provide income. There is a cry for skilled construction workers, and we need to encourage people to look to those trades as well. All your other points i can truly say, yes that is the way it seems to be going.

  4. Jim Vaughn says:

    I agree with all three responses before me and I am 100% with your concerns, Larry. I have had various jobs over the years which included both technology as a system analysis and programmer during the early days of cad/cam for computer aided engineering with circuit boards for 10 years, while all the other 42 years were as an elementary teacher in grades K, 3, 4, 5, and 7th 8th grade special ed. Retired, I work my dream job as an enrichment teacher in after school and summer camp programs teaching stop motion animation and live camera green screen and special effects. What’s my point: If an EMP hits, our grid is shut down. Encourage our government to fund protecting the grid. It’s been on the books for years. That alone would provide jobs for several years.

  5. This is not a new idea, but is worth considering. What if we automate every job so people don’t have to work? Everyone receive a living wage and work become optional and more creative. The idea of “freezing:” automation to save jobs, leaves the fighting to another day.

  6. Jim Vaughn says:

    Larry, your concerns are well taken. I don’t use the cloud not just because of the privacy concerns but because it often requires wifi which adds to the amount of radiation we are exposed to. I keep my cell phone on airplane mode for the same reason and tell callers to leave a message and I check about once an hour. This of course does not work in high management. Your ethical concerns about FCPX’s transition “FLOW” in news media and YOUTUBE is a good point but is great for correcting actors dialogue. And if the if the present trend continues, it will be a few chiefs and no indians. I appreciate your high integrity and the comments before me.

  7. Pat Paquette says:

    The solutions: UBI and MMT

    The first, universal basic income, is not a new concept and has been batted around for decades. In a nutshell, everyone gets free money from the government to ensure a basic standard of living. It has the backing of many liberals and, surprisingly, conservatives, although not for the same reasons. Here are a couple of links:

    The big unanswered question is how to pay for it. That’s where Modern Monetary Theory – MMT for short – comes in. In a nutshell (admittedly oversimplified), MMT proposes that the government doesn’t have to worry about budget deficits, because it can just print more money. If, by printing too much, it causes inflation, it need only raise taxes to rein it back in. As you might imagine, this is a hotly contested concept, but it’s gaining traction among economists and academics. Here’s a link to one of the more readable articles:

    Remember where you heard it first. 😉

    • Jim Vaughn says:

      Thanks Pat for the links. They were interesting and educational. There always seems to be trade-offs not matter what. Even with our space programs, 80% success is the best that can be expected. When it comes to economics with humans the contest seems to be Greed vs. Need. Cordially, Jim V.

  8. Clyde Aly says:

    Companies may, in fact, give all this “found” tax money to stock holders, but that is just an extra stop on the way to new things. Do you really think that all those stock holders are rich old men who just sock the money away under their pillows? Although some of the stockholders may be “rich,” many are people like me who are trying to stash away some money for retirement. Or trying to find some extra money to buy a new editing computer, or new 4K camera. Or trying to find enough money to help those who don’t have the skills to get a job in the first place. Do you want the money in the hands of a wasteful government, or those trying to build new businesses? C’mon Larry, I expected better of you!

  9. Jim McQuaid says:

    Well, Larry, you opened a nice concise discussion on the future of the world as we know it. (but thanks).

    I will just address privacy, although the other issues are also vital. I believe we have entered a time when our culture and politics are oriented to large corporations, not to individuals. Large corporations are doing very well by accumulating data of all sorts about you and me and using it creatively to make money. ATT internet service uses deep packet inspection to record who you are communicating with and what you’re saying. Gmail sends you ads based on what you are doing. My grocery store records everything I buy, paying me a small discount (at least paying me!) for the purchase of my privacy.

    We have given up our privacy for “convenience.” Our corporate and political leaders can’t be bothered to reconsider that privacy is a precious and vanishing aspect of remaining an individual. The Europeans are ahead on us on trying to protect privacy. China is “ahead” of us in using personal data (no bad opinions about the government, etc.) to allocate who gets access to resources.

    We have — unwittingly — put enormous power in the hands of government (state and local, not just federal) and corporations in the (historically unwarranted) belief that “nothing bad will happen” and “I don’t have to worry, I have nothing to hide.” Nothing to hide, that is, until a genetic marker disqualifies you from health insurance, until being in a specific location at a specific time means you are automatically a suspect for a crime.

    Regardless of one’s political persuasion, I am convinced that Edward Snowden understood this when he acted.

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