Tech’s new year resolution: More humility

So, that was 2022. After two years of plague, we’ve now added poverty and war. Feeling optimistic about 2023, anyone? Enjoy those Christmas parties while you can…

It feels somewhat churlish – amid a cost of living crisis, looming environmental catastrophe, rampant inflation, the public sector falling apart, incompetent government, and England getting knocked out of the World Cup – for anyone in the tech sector to nervously raise a hand and say, “What about us?” But equally, it is true to say that the tech sector closes the year in a gloomier mood than it has for a long time.

Let’s say the unsayable: the pandemic was good for tech. Sales boomed. E-commerce grew. Digital communication became essential. Just imagine, if lockdown had happened 20 years ago – even just 10 years ago, when home broadband was mostly slow and often a luxury. The disaster of the pandemic would have been exponentially worse. As a result, tech companies entered 2022 on a high. Let the good times roll!

We end the year cowering somewhat, under the shadow of our own ambition, over-optimism and hubris. Tens of thousands of jobs lost around the world. Share prices plummeting. Belts being tightened and budgets cut. Elon Musk making everyone think the tech sector must be full of idiots. Want a new smartphone for Christmas? Nah – not giving my hard-earned cash to those fools on the hill.

The mood is gloomy – many in tech expect the first half of next year to be very difficult, hanging on to the hope that by the summer, things will be looking up. We’ll see. But perhaps bursting a few bubbles is not such a bad thing.

The sector needs to lose the mentality of tech for tech’s sake. Tech is, and always has been, nothing more than an enabler. It’s enabled some amazing things, for sure – changed lives and workplaces for the better. But nurses are on strike, leaving the profession in droves because they can’t make ends meet. Childhood poverty is on the rise. People choosing between heating and eating. None of this is tech’s fault – but tech is not enabling the sort of social utopia that some of its loudest cheerleaders would like you to believe. The real world is not Silicon Valley.

For 2023, let the tech sector’s new year resolution be a little more humility. Let’s return to what makes technology great – making ordinary people’s lives better. To all tech leaders, use this time of slowdown to reflect on what matters. The opportunities of the digital revolution will continue – let’s focus on making them work for the good of all.

Happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year from all the team at Computer Weekly.

Data Center
Data Management