They seemed to be dropping like flies at the end of 2022. The ineradicable tech giants and mid-giants of our time were seemingly shielded from the bubble bursting fate of the “Dot.Bomb” of 20 years ago. Until they weren’t. Walk through your day in business or personal life and one of these companies touches you. All of them had significant layoffs. But forecasters won’t write them off.
Blame it on the global economy, over-hiring, insufficient strategic planning, or bruised egos, layoffs in the technology sector, excuse me, “technology vertical,” dominated layoff news as we prepared for this year. More than 1400 rounds of layoffs impacted 220-thousand people and counting, from the likes of Microsoft, Amazon, HP, Meta (Facebook), Zendesk, Salesforce, and Twitter. But economists don’t count them out. Unlike the dot.com demise of the year 2000, experts declare that the large tech companies remain in financially advantageous positions.
Don Wang, of Columbia Business School said that we’ve grown accustomed to what they bring us. He said, “…a lot of the services that tech platforms …provide are the ones consumers regard as indispensable.” And while we’ll see belt-tightening among the tech set, (i.e., no more on-site chefs, no 3-squares a day for employees who didn’t buy groceries or cook, etc.), these companies represent a tech sector that is far more developed than in the past. It is difficult to compare the two eras.
There is bruising…
For so long it seemed tech visionaries could see well into the future with some kind of virtual reality crystal ball. They held the secret formula to anticipate things we didn’t know we’d want or need… and make them. But the metaphorical curtain opened at the end of 2022, and we saw the wizard as mortal and without the power of long-term future vision.
Never underestimate the power of invisible things. Who knew a pandemic would change the way we work and live? And as tech-speakers continue to plan “growth-loops,” (future production/evolution/development), it’s as if COVID has growth loops of its own.
“The last few years haven’t been great for several reasons, but mostly because governments didn’t deal with the pandemic well. Shutdowns crippled the supply chain, and when people started coming back, they wanted to buy stuff, which created an imbalance between supply and demand that had government agencies doing terrible things to interest rates,” according to Rob Enderle of ECT News Network. He said this year those chickens come home to roost in the form of more market imbalance and more layoffs.
It's not the news we want to hear
Even those who despise Silicon Valley and all it represents must admit, we like their stuff! This meme about the cartoon characters from The Jetsons, made it hit home for me.
I don’t know if The Jetsons inspired the tech wizards or if it is some bizarre, altered universe synchronicity, but this is incredibly accurate. Technology brought us the ability to do more and do less, at the same time. We like that. I love yelling to my Roomba to vacuum the living room while I write. I love syncing my phone to my car, to my laptop, to my TV, to Google Nest and so on…. so, no matter what information I may need at the time, I can ask and receive.
And while the Valley resizes and retools itself, we can look forward to the fruits of their labor for 2023. Among the highlighted products by experts are these:
Electric Cars will have next-generation batteries and engine technology leading into 2024-2025.
Another feature from The Jetsons will be advancements in personal flying vehicles, like a drone for grown-ups. These personal flying machines are expected to hit the market this year or next. And it’s my understanding that you don’t have to know how to fly a plane to operate one.
We’ll also have access to drones that can patrol your property better than a static camera. These drone patrols can rat out prowlers or let you check whether you really did leave the stove on.
Smartphones will get smarter. Smart masks will guard us against viruses of the future, and a smart toothbrush will work hard so that you don’t have to move it to clean your teeth.
The great thing about technology is its ability to support and sometimes take simple tasking from us. The bad thing about technology is its ability to take simple tasking from us. Compromised security and privacy are huge prices to pay in exchange for convenience, but all signs are that most of us will remain willing to take the risk.
The wake-up call for our tech neighbors will require them to develop new approaches to planning and business. For all their magic, tech companies are proving to be more sensitive to market conditions than some other industries because they rely on funding. Experts say the popular mantras of “fail early, move fast- break things,” will convert to, “cut costs, try to survive.”
And ultimately, we need the Valley to do that---survive.