The battle for the internet will take a whole new meaning come the new year. With the US FCC ruling to abolish the concept of Net Neutrality, 2018 will see moves by both opponents and proponents alike. Internet service providers (ISP), may start to implement throttling on different internet services, as well as introduce the concept of “internet packages” to consumers. Content providers, large and small alike, may need to start making deals with ISPs on how their content is treated on the internet highway. This may then translate to how the consumer experiences the internet. On the other hand, supporters of net neutrality can expect to hunker down and try to hold the line, as the FCC ruling is challenged in both the American judicial and legislative branches.
Regardless of the outcome, the final fate to net neutrality will be determined in 2018. And the decisions and compromises made in the run up to its conclusion will have a lasting impact on the internet as we know it.
During the tail end of 2017, the field of machine learning experienced a huge stride. AlphaZero, a machine learning algorithm developed by Google’s DeepMind group had just beaten Stockfish, chess’ best computer playing program. Out of 100 matches AlphaZero won 28, tied 72, and lost none, after only 4 hours actually “learning” the game. This paves the way for data scientists to give machines the ability to learn and self-improve. Imagine, having to only explain the basic rules of something to a machine, leaving, and then coming back to find it having completely mastered that field in only a few hours.
While some would argue that this paves the way for the inevitable “Skynet”, proponents to machine learning will counter that this could lead to advancements in a variety of different fields. Imagine a computer being given medical records of cancer patients, and having it identify the best methods of treatment. The course of machine learning may be fraught with risks, but its impact on society in the coming years is becoming increasingly hard to ignore.
2018 is going to be an interesting year for electric vehicles. With Tesla hopefully releasing its long awaited Model 3 en masse this year, and China making a big push into electric vehicles, perhaps 2018 will be the year that electric vehicles will become truly mainstream among the populace. The introduction of lithium batteries as a replacement to fossil fuels will be a welcome change for many. Owners of electric vehicles may also have a lot to look forward to. As manufacturers look to make their cars smarter, more functional, and competitive, as a slew of new players enter the industry. This is not to mention the potential impact that driverless cars will have on how we all commute.
Who at this point has not heard of BitCoin? The infamous cryptocurrency that, as of writing, has skyrocketed by over 371% over the last 3 months. What is also important to note however, is that BitCoin is not alone. Other popular cryptocurrencies are also on the rise. Ethereum (+200%), Dash (+275%), Ripple (+341%), and IOTA (+642%), are all other currencies that have shot up in valuations in the last few months along with BitCoin.
One of the things that makes BitCoin and other cryptocurrencies such a huge deal is how surprisingly easy it is for consumers to get in. Either through setting up their own wallet, or through services like eTorro. The amount of money to be gained (or lost) is massive come 2018. Consumers will need to watch out, not only for regulators. But at their own data security as they execute their transactions.
2017 has been fraught with security breaches, and there is no indication that that trend will stop anytime soon. The Equifax and Uber data breaches revealed just how susceptible we all are to malevolent hackers. Along the same vein, the revelation that Uber could be employing CIA-esque tactics to monitor its rivals also shows how corporations and large organized groups can violate our privacy on the internet. This serves as a similar wakeup call as the NSA surveillance program. That while the internet can be a tool to benefit society, it can also be used to violate our privacy.
The new year
As 2018 draws closer, it may be prudent to take additional steps to reflect on how to treat the new year. There are wonderful opportunities abound. Cryptocurrencies may serve as an alternative to money, it can also serve as a lucrative investment opportunity. We may finally be getting a handle of global warming with electric vehicles. Services offered may also improve thanks to machine learning. But that is not to say that 2018 will be without threats. The abolishment of net neutrality threatens an open internet. And data security breaches (both personal and corporate) are a major threat. Especially as more and more of our transactions are done electronically. As we approach the new year, consider shoring up on your own data security. Using tools like VPNs, encrypted password databases, as well as 2-factor authentication apps are all good steps in the right direction. Enjoy the benefits of 2018, while mitigating the risks.
Merry Christmas, and have a Happy New Year!