WHAT WE LEARNED THIS YEAR
2015 was the year of coming out of left field.
- •Silicon Valley is confusing pseudo-science with innovationFrom Theranos to Pathway Genomics to Google's quest for eternal life: this year we saw what happens when you mix venture capital with dubious health startups.
- •The media is afraid of FacebookFacebook wields massive clout and controls the bulk of site traffic for a lot of publishers. Needless to say, it has some leverage over the way the media does business. It's all going to be okay, unless it isn't.
- •All big tech companies have started to look the sameApple made a Surface and Microsoft made a Macbook, Google is trying to level-up in hardware, and everyone is trying to be everything. If you can't beat 'em, be 'em.
- •Apple spent the entire year in betaEvery product Apple released this year seemed like it could have benefited from more focus and more time. The Apple Watch still seems incomplete, the new Apple TV didn't revolutionize anything, and Apple Music is pretty much a mess. If we expected more, it's only because they told us to.
- •Netflix and Hulu changed the rules of televisionKimmy Schmidt, Master of None, Wet Hot American Summer — many of the year's most anticipated comedies never touched network TV. Streaming platforms started getting first dibs on great original shows, and with each passing year it seems like network TV does less to fight back.
- •Virtual reality still isn't readyMost VR experiences are still more like an amusement park than a type of entertainment you can easily integrate into your daily life. The tech is still far from approachable, despite all the big promises we've heard. In fact, we're not even sure what success for VR would look like — a popular gaming accessory? a new artistic medium? a tool? an entertainment system? Who knows, maybe 2016 will tell.
- •Streaming is making the music industry more unequalLabels make money from both ends when streaming grows, but it's still only the top .1% of artists who take home significant cash for their successful albums. Tidal was the only service that made the "artists are underpaid argument" argument, and it botched the message so bad it may be a while before anyone else can try it.
- •The word "censorship" has lost all meaningOne of the big responses to Gamergate calling everything censorship has been saying that "only governments can censor, period," and anything platforms do is up to them. That’s technically true, but as some people have pointed out, it’s a pretty extreme libertarian position for groups that generally think corporate control can still be coercive and bad.
- •Diversity in entertainment is more important than everHollywood has long been making half-hearted gestures toward diversity through quotas and special achievement awards, but this year audiences started voting with their dollars and their clicks. And the message was clear: the future of entertainment won’t be VR blockbusters or 4K Laser Projected 3D IMAX with rumbling seats. It will be an on-screen America that reflects the real America, and a community of directors, writers, and producers with a huge array of backgrounds and points of view.
- •The new space race is onlineThe Pluto flyby, The Martian, SpaceX's reusable rocket launch and landing, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, One Direction at NASA HQ, and plenty of International Space Station antics were all the rage on social media this year. Public interest in space really rebounded with the Mars Curiosity rover in 2012, and NASA's ruthless self-promotion, paired with some convenient pop culture events brought it to a fever pitch this year.