We kicked off the start of 2023 by exploring what we thought were the big themes in tech for that year: AI, Web3, etc. This year, we’ve started with something similar—asking not only the big tech questions that will define the year, but why most tech seems a little… mid.
That word is big with the youths nowadays, but I’ll walk right past my attempt at relevance and hit you with a new word from a fellow old head: enshittification. That’s from Canadian author and journalist, Cory Doctorow, coined by him to articulate the process through which digital platforms slowly become worse. It was just named 2023’s “Digital Word of the Year” by the American Dialect Society.
“We kinda want to leave the internet.”The BetaKit Podcast (kinda)
For Doctorow, enshittification is about the platform decay of things that are at once both unusable and unavoidable. It’s a word for the current moment, and in the spirit of the time, something we will happily appropriate for our own uses (Cory, come on the podcast).
Because this isn’t just a platform problem, or a two-sided marketplace problem; it’s pervasive.
It’s tech companies souring on the cloud, and cloud companies souring from the generative AI pablum they’re also promoting. It’s social media algorithms growing an ideological divide between young men and women. It’s Sam Altman saying AI will require an energy breakthrough to make the technology viable while ChatGPT gets very good at telling you what it won’t do for you. It’s Apple being dragged kicking and screaming into allowing competition for apps, streaming, and web browsing. It’s the death of cultural touchstones because digital media still has no viable business model and no longer any place within the culture—so much so that the co-founders of Instagram shut down their AI news aggregator service because there’s not enough good content to surface.
Listen, this isn’t an anti-tech podcast. We love tech! We just want it to be good and a force for good. The first step is admitting you have a problem.
Let’s dig in.
The BetaKit Podcast is sponsored by the Master of Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship at TMU.
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