Intellyx Predictions for 2021: Cyberwar, Crypto Crash, and COVID End

Welcome to our eighteenth annual installment of our retrospective and predictions Cortex. Eighteenth counting the ZapFlash newsletter at my previous company, ZapThink, anyway. Intellyx’s Cortex retrospective and predictions newsletter dates to 2015.

Unlike most other pundit predictions, we score ourselves on the previous year’s prognostications. Even better, we rotate the authorship of these articles so that no one is in the position of critiquing his own clairvoyant capabilities.

With this in mind, I ask: how did we do last year, and what’s in store for 2021? Read on.

Our Predictions for 2020

A year ago, Charles Araujo asked whether 2020 would be the year of getting real. He had no way of knowing about the pandemic, of course – but getting real was still in the cards, just not the way he expected.

His first prediction was that the term ‘digital transformation’ would lose its mojo, as tech marketers would look for new terms to leverage.

While it’s true the term is losing some of its currency, digital transformation took on new importance and urgency as enterprises responded to Covid. From the dramatic shift to work from home (WFH) to the sudden implementation of Covid-related services like the Payment Protection Program loans, digital transformation suddenly became an urgent, top of mind affair.

Charlie’s second prediction was that the customer experience would find its place. In this case, he was bang on, although the pandemic would cast its shadow over the customer experience as well.

In this case, WFH was only a part of the story. Add an increased emphasis on shopping from home, including home delivery of goods and services we would have been happy to leave the house for.

Even the business-to-business world has seen a dramatic increase in online interactions as Zoom calls become the norm for the B2B customer experience in many situations.

Charlie’s third prediction, interestingly, can be seen as remarkably prescient in the light of the Coronavirus. He predicted that technology evolution would give way to business evolution.

Particularly in times of disruption like we saw in 2020, companies must evolve or die. This phenomenon has been most obvious in the hardest hit industries like airlines and hospitality, but impacts all industries.

It’s still not clear who the survivors will be, but rest assured, the companies that come out on top are the ones that adapted the best to disruption. Darwin would be proud.

My Predictions for 2021

Annual predictions are fraught with challenges. My crystal ball doesn’t work any better than anyone else’s, of course. Many trends take longer than a year to play out. And there’s no sense in making an obvious prediction.

With those caveats in mind, here goes:

The Biden Administration will conduct a dramatic counter-cyberattack against Russia. The Trump administration has been overly apologetic toward Russia all along, but with the latest SolarWinds hack, it’s clear that the Biden administration will have to take a harder line.

Fundamentally, the SolarWinds hack was a case of espionage, more so than cyberwarfare. The difference: the Russians were after information rather than trying to cause damage.

The question the incoming administration will have to consider, however, is what kind of damage can the Russians (or other bad actors privy to the espionage) do with the information they stole?

I expect to see more than the usual covert counterespionage in response to this attack. The Biden Administration will not only have to send a message, but it should do its best to take out our adversaries’ cyber abilities.

The massive Bitcoin-Tether Ponzi scheme will collapse. Tether is supposedly a ‘stablecoin,’ pegged to the value of the US Dollar, with real dollars backing up its value. As long as people believe this fiction, then it’s possible to print millions of dollars of Tether out of thin air, adding the corresponding millions to some scammer’s balance sheet.

Next, use those Tethers to buy up Bitcoin, thus running up its price. The rising price of Bitcoin, in turn, attracts the marks – people who put real money into Bitcoin in hopes it will continue to go up – which it does, for a while. Meanwhile, the whales get out with the cash before the marks know what hit them.

Just like every Ponzi, it works until it doesn’t. I predict the scam will explode in 2021 – perhaps even in the first quarter. Or next week.

The pandemic will end with a bang. The current recession is different from all other economic slowdowns in recent memory because it has a specific cause. Once sufficient numbers of people have received the vaccine, that cause will no longer be driving the downturn.

The result will be a release of pent-up demand for everything from restaurants to renewable energy. This sudden demand will lead to increased investments, which will raise all boats, leading to positive economic conditions across the board.

The economic effects on the enterprise technology market will be correspondingly positive. We in this industry have been relatively lucky in 2020, as enterprise investment in IT hasn’t dropped off as much as demand in harder-hit industries. WFH, after all, depends upon technology, and cybersecurity is in more demand than ever.

Once the economy picks up generally, demand for enterprise technology will only increase apace. Pundits are already expecting different ways of working in the post-pandemic future – and all such differences require new or revamped technologies as well as their underlying architectures.

We’re already seeing a convergence of activity around cloud-native computing, edge computing, AI, and 5G. The growth of these combined technology trends is too obvious to warrant its own prediction. I will say, however, that the influx of business interest and the corresponding investment will drive this cloud-native/edge convergence to explosive new levels of growth.

The Intellyx Take

Past prediction newsletters have centered on enterprise technology trends. This Cortex, in contrast, focuses on broader political and economic forces that impact the technology world while simultaneously impacting many other areas of our lives.

Such forces have always impacted the world of IT, of course. This year, however, they promise to be more than influencing factors. Instead, politics and economics will drive the technology stories of the year.

The pandemic and its resolution are the root of the matter. One of the most important lessons the IT world can take away from 2020 is that technology never operates in a bubble.

There is more to our connection to the world at large than whether enterprises want to buy more or less technology. Pandemic or no, that’s a lesson that’s worth taking to heart.

© Intellyx LLC. Intellyx publishes the Intellyx Cloud-Native Computing Poster and advises business leaders and technology vendors on their digital transformation strategies. Intellyx retains editorial control over the content of this document. Image credit: public domain.