The 2021 Tech Top 10 List

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2020 has been quite a ride. For the most part, all we could do was look through our screens in horror as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the world.

And when we weren’t watching that, many of us doomscrolled through the heinous violence and injustices perpetrated on Black citizens in the U.S., the accompanying protests, and then a highly divisive election. And that was just in the U.S.

Wildfires, hurricanes, revolutions, poverty, rampant unemployment, explosions, floods, oil leaks, earthquakes, locusts, and name it, it happened somewhere in the world this year.

Then Elon Musk did that weird thing with a pig and a brain chip and we had to stop looking at the Internet for a while.

Tech in 2020

Technology-wise, trust us when we say that watching predictions from lists of the past come true was no victory. In fact, we wish we had been wrong about all of it.

Society’s failure to ensure access to wireless and spectrum (an item from our first list) became a brutal reality for many students, some of whom dropped out of school because they couldn’t complete their remote learning obligations. Behavioral biometrics (on the 2019 list) are now being used everywhere and combined with AI to scrape as much information about us as they can – to the point where people are even being punished for zoning out during Zoom meetings.

If you’re wondering why certain things aren’t on this year’s list, it’s likely because they’ve been covered before. And since this is a volunteer, ad-free, profit-free venture, it’s been hard to update those old entries. But we see from our creepy tracking analytics that people are still accessing them and from the notes you send that you’re still finding them a good starting point (even as a historical reference).

A note on AI

AI itself has never been on the list and it seems like a glaring omission this year considering it permeates so many new technologies. But that’s precisely why it’s never been on the list on its own. It’s almost too big to cover, and it’s woven throughout items on each year’s list, from last year’s AI and gamification in hiring to 2014’s predictive policing.

This year, it’s pretty obvious in at least 9 out of 10 entries.

A thank you

As always, we thank you for using the list and hope it’s helpful. If you’d like to cite it in the press, the Tech Top 10 list is the work of tech ethicist Dr. Jessica Baron, whom you can learn more about on her website here.

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