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Ask HN: What were the 2010s about?
23 points by networked on April 9, 2023 | hide | past | favorite | 35 comments
The 1960s were defined by youth movements; our decade is going to be defined by AI. What were the things that defined the 2010s?

I think it's really about mobile computing. While the iPhone debuted in 2007, adoption didn't really hit a critical mass until the early 2010s with the iPhone 4. That was also the time that Android was ramping up with Verizon's initial "DROID" campaign. People may have had an iPhone or a Blackberry in the late 2000's, but they were still doing most of their computing from a desktop. By the end of the 2010's, desktop computing (for non-professional purposes) had become the exception, not the norm.

And I think that goes hand in hand with how pervasive social media was during that decade. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram - all installed on millions of personal devices and taking up a lot of attention and focus.

I agree, but I don't think it's mobile itself that's important: It's that mobile was a sign of this new technology (the internet) finally overcoming the hurdles of adoption from the average person (in this case primarily ease of use and portability). The 2010s were about the information revolution permeating all classes and castes in society: Prior to the 2010s there was a pretty sharp divide in people who used or didn't use the Internet (especially outside of work). (While most of us here would have had bubbles where everybody was online way earlier, I'm talking about everybody. The person born in 1940. The people living in the worst parts of the country who don't have internet service. Etc.) The 2010s are what tipped us into the default assumption being other citizens have access to and should use this new technology.

It's the difference between car as rich person curiosity and car as standard fare for most households.

The 2020s-2040s are going to be us figuring out what cultural guardrails and standards we want; I think this is what a lot of our current hot topics are actually discussing. Once enough of the population had cars, we started needing things like driver's licenses, traffic laws, car safety standards, etc. And we started doing things like altering our urban planning.

2010's were definitely all about putting a phone in every humans hands.


The age of easy money - we're unlikely to ever again see a decade of 0% interest rates and money printing. MMT will be seen as a failed experiment that artificially and temporarily lifted economic well-being during the 2010s at the expense of crushing societal debt that's coming due in the 2020s and beyond.

I'd say (mass market) social media - that's basically when Facebook become nearly universal, and replaced a bunch of competing / regional social media networks, and also the rest of FANG becoming massive and dominant.

It's also when "the internet" and "computers" stopped really being about networking, information processing, getting work done, etc inside some traditional organization, and basically about advertising, marketing, retail.

The decline of civility, the election of 2016 in the us and similar events in Europe and the decline of the postwar political environment (Brexit, for example).

I’ll broaden the discussion: 70’s minicomputers, Unix. 80’s microcomputers, Bill’s excellent adventures. 90’s SGI and Sun, Linux, Networks and 3D graphics, workstations.

Or, 70’s diverse musical tastes: prog, pop, punk, disco, …. 80’s metal, 90’s alternative rock. Several were reactions to preceding genres, such as guitars as percussion instruments to almost out of the mix.

Or, 70’s Vietnam ends, proxy wars continue, gas crisis and inflation. 80’s Reagan, us hegemony, small wars w/o proxy, greed is good. 90’s the wall came down, europe ascendant, China enters the world economy big time. Throw in bad hair and a whole lot of polyester.

You're starting a bit late: the "Tea Party" movement was already doing the lack of civility thing well before Trump. And the "Tea Party" movement was just thinly-veneered racism, prompted by electing Obama. So maybe we could re-write "the decline of civility" as "the re-emergence of racism".

I remember seeing posters comparing George Bush to a monkey. When was the last time there was civility?

I was being polite. Trump was the symptom not the disease. The disease has always been present in all societies. It’s merely tolerated or shown more or less over time.

trump led us to 0 wars. a feat no one else can praise himself of in recent american presidents. Id say that its his greatest achievement and for the world one that puts him ahead of other american presidents. do you research and look up what dear joe biden was saying a few years ago, against african american or even same sex mariage and try to see who is evil

In the context of tech it was a period of stagnation. I’ve been working in the industry since the early nineties. All of the nineties was a period of dizzying acceleration of compute with new possibilities opening up every year. Things slowed down quite a bit after 2001 and went pretty comatose for much of the 2010s. Of course there were constant streams of hype and excitement over not very much. The one transformative technology that emerged during this era is affordable and powerful mobile devices. The rest was pretty middling.

I have high hopes for this decade with the excitement building up around generative AI technologies. My only hope is that the tech can be democratized quickly enough to be accessible to players of all sizes, not just the tech molochs.

Good list, categorized across culture, economy, politics, science, technology, etc.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010s

At the very beginning, it was about the subprime mortgage crisis, which cost a lot of people their homes, their retirements, their investments and created a great deal of disillusionment in our financial/political system. That led to Occupy, which (together with the right wing Tea Party Movement before it) fundamentally changed American politics.

The novelty of Reality TV wore off and it became a firmly established part of our media landscape. Video games stagnated for the first half, as did a lot of technology. Cryptocurrency blew up, which made a lot of people rich very quickly. "YouTubing" became a viable career path.

Tumblr took off like crazy and welcomed a new generation to the internet on very different terms than the MySpace/Facebook era before it. Dating apps blew up... Tinder, Grindr, etc. These things coalesced with a lot of young queer communities flourishing. That, together with the legalization of gay marriage, ushered in a new queer revolution that set the stage for the current culture war over drag shows/trans rights/etc.

Maybe the heyday of social media and the rise of "fake news".

Smartphones, social media exposed as what they really are, Google dropping “don’t do evil” and the excesses of companies posing as tech companies, like Airbnb, Uber, WeWork.

Government surveillance or corporate surveillance if you're not as paranoid.

As one other commenter posted you all got conned into carrying a "smartphone" with you at all times. They record everything and funnel it back to 1 of 2 massive corporation which the US govt has front door access to. They continually broadcast your location to the wireless operators which are definitely government fronts.

The economy was bouncing back from the housing collapse and it's massive ripple effects. The promising tech was Mobile Phones. Everybody wanted a piece, Nokia tried so much with Symbian OS, Samsung came up with Wave OS. Microsoft pushed Windows Mobile which was well liked but wasn't a commercial hit. Firefox and Ubuntu made their mobile OSes, it was a tough competition against the mountains that were Android and iOS. Not only on Software, the hardware tech was mind-bogglingly awesome as well. Nokia made folding phones with keyboard, Blackberry stuck to their game, Samsung followed Apple but later found their uniqueness, Apple is anyway Apple, Microsoft wanted Lumia series to be a big hit poured resources in it but didn't pay off that well. HTC, LG had their ups and downs. After the bad press for Huawei and Google withdrawing their support, Xiaomi and BBK that took the market by storm. Their cheap phones were an instant hit in Asia, Africa. Each pushing the hardware boundaries every so hard to stay in the market, edge to edge display, pop up selfie cameras, high refresh rates, higher megapixels, bigger lenses, 2 cameras, 3 cameras, 5 cameras, glass finishes, chips that'll give desktop computers a run for their money. It was totally wild. My first computer was an IBM PC running Windows 3.0, to many others like me 2010 blew me away is an understatement.

There was Blockchain, Cloud computing became widespread with AWS taking around 70% of the market and incumbence of multi trillion dollar companies were in the news towards the second half of 2010s.

Same-sex marriage was legalized in the US in 2015.

I think most contemporary decades have a "defining technology".

- 1980s: Personal computer

- 1990s: Portable computing

- 2000s: Internet

- 2010s: Smartphones

- 2020s: AI

- 2030s: Quantum dynamic molecular re-atomizers

Your list seems like an early adopter list.

Effective handheld and mobile synthesis of computing and communication in a wireless world. The ‘00s were desktop bound. This continual proximity to ‘network’ was entirely new and has changed society, globally.

Lots of work that steadily improved things. E.g. a lot of the research that Generative AI is built on happened in the 2010s.

Synthetic cannabinoids, cathinones, DMT, fentanyl, electronic music, smart phones, wireless internet


It's what I saw in my friend group and the online communities I was a part of. Age 22 to 32 from 2010 to 2019, spent a lot of time hanging out with drug nerds.

Gig economy

Social media. That's pretty much it. Really.

In some countries, the suppression and sidelining of the voice of the common person in favour of the peculiar priorities of the liberal middle class dominating mainstream media which ultimately led to things like the rise of Trump, Brexit and currently the growing revolt against woke culture as awareness of it has gradually broached the mainstream.

Related has been the destructive/enabling effects of social media and their particular efficacy in the scaling of division and discord and their amplifying of obnoxious voices on each side of the political spectrum.

The age of Social media.

The American culture based on greed and violence started to rot the western civilization from inside. Massive out-of-control monopolies continued to balloon to unbelivable scales. It was the beginning of the end for both the USA and the Putin dictatorship in Russia.

The pace of innovation kept growing exponentially as predicted. In the 20's humanity has reached a crossroads with technology, and will have to choose the path. Four choices. Two forwards: either a utopian or a dystopian type II civilization. Two backwards: technological degress or extinction.

edit: probably shouldn't say something like this in a mostly American forum. :) but this is essentially the world view in my local information bubble.

Humans aren’t even a type 1 civilization [0], so a leap forward to a type 2 civilization is unlikely.

[0]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kardashev_scale

I'm talking about the general path towards the future. Not about the present moment.


iPhone + apps, esp Instagram.

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