'Anti Tech': Is 2015 The Year We Put Down Our Technology?


We've already made our tech predictions for 2015 - and they mainly comprise a selection of drone-related disasters and, er, time travel.

But a more serious take predicts 2015 might finally be the year we put down our devices and use our gadgets less.

The Hotwire Digital Trends Report says that 2015 may end up as the year of "anti tech" and even the "era of the neo-luddite". So is this really the point where we reverse the trend?

Citing stress, overwork and general bafflement at the complexity of modern gadgets, their research indicates a large chunk of the population who are willing to return to a more analogue state of being.

"Have we saturated people with so much tech that the cool or trendy thing to do is to rebel by ignoring and rejecting it? Perhaps. We’ll undoubtedly see more of an industry built around making real, not virtual connections, and perhaps savvy marketers will amp up the emotional, human connections their brands enable rather than focus on innovation.

Building for the anti-tech generation will grow in 2015 and this, combined with a growing sense of privacy on the web, could fuel a significant economy built around anti-tech. But there’s something more interesting taking place within fashion and technology that may bring some of the anti-techies back into the warm glow of the mainstream."

The report also singles out advertising as a specific area of digital life that many of us are ready to dump.

"Ad-blocking is set to continue to grow and as we look to forthcoming generations, advertisers and marketers are going to have to contend with a much more hostile audience when it comes to serving unwelcome content."

It's an intriguing idea - and it's not an isolated one. The concept of the 'digital detox' has taken hold in 2014 - at least in the pages of broadsheet newspapers. And it's hard to argue with artistic representations of digital disconnection like this.

And even gadget makers themselves are focusing on ideas they think can make our lives easier and less complicated, rather than simply more dominated by electrical doodads.

However, it's also fair to say that tech as a whole is not going anywhere in 2015.

While smartphone sales for some companies are either stagnating or slightly declining, for others they are still growing. By comparison, sales of wearable tech and consumption of mobile data are also continuing to rise rapidly. The key services in our lives - whether its communication, entertainment or just bureaucracy - are unlikely to shift back to a pre-digital state.

And then there's the rest of the world. For while countries like the UK might feel they are approaching tech saturation - an idea undermined by comparisons with Japan and South Korea, incidentally - the vast majority of the world are still waiting for their moment to come online and make their own voices heard.

Efforts by Google, Facebook, and others to open up communication globally are widely hailed as important (if ambitious) moves for education, health and the environment.

Ultimately, as the Hotwire report notes elsewhere in its pages, tech in 2015 aspires to be more intelligent, not just less prevalent.

The continued growth of AI has troubling implications for the economy, for instance - and maybe for ethical philosophers - but the aspiration is for a more integrated, less obnoxious relationship with tech, not just an ever-deeper one.

Now your phone can increasingly decide what is important for you to know about and when - rather than just bombarding you with notifications - the hope and the pitch by tech companies is to help you carve out a clearer, less stressful life.

And - on a personal note, as an editor confronted with this issue all the time by friends and colleagues - it still seems clear that the common denominator in all of this stuff is not the technology, but you. You don't have to turn your phone on. You don't have to set it to vibrate during meetings. And you don't have to necessarily declare that you're on a 'digital detox' (on social media, usually, and ironically) in order to turn it off on Sunday afternoons.

It's easy to reference historical vandalism and cite a loss of "control" when it comes to tech, but the one who will decide how much you look at your phone in 2015 is not your phone, or the company who makes it. It's you.

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