This was a terrible year for the tech industry.
That’s an odd thing to say at a time of record growth and profits. In 2017, large American tech companies have kept hauling in more money and more users, and — to a degree that might seem dystopian — they continued to expand their foothold in our lives. This was a year in which Amazon created a way for its delivery drivers to let themselves into your house, and Apple created a phone you can unlock with your face.
Yet underneath this apparent success was a momentous shift in how the tech business deals with the world. Five or 10 years from now, we will come to regard 2017 as a turning point.
Why? Because this year, for the first time, tech giants began to grudgingly accept that they have some responsibility to the offline world. The scope of that responsibility, though, is another matter entirely.
If the big shift of 2017 is that tech companies now accept some responsibility for how their platforms impact the world, the big mystery of 2018 and beyond is what, exactly, that responsibility will look like.