Opinion: The highs and lows of tech in 2021 - and what's in store in 2022

OPINION: I'm not sure this year will go down as the most memorable when it comes to tech news and innovations, but that certainly doesn't mean it was boring.

From extended ransomware attacks that brought hospitals in Aotearoa and elsewhere to a standstill to an ambitious Facebook rebrand and even pixelated images of cryptopunks selling for millions of dollars, 2021 had something which impacted just about everyone.

Here's a look back at some of the highs and lows of this year.


I reviewed so many tech devices this year that I lost count and I had so much fun doing so.

Some were expected - like new smartphones from the likes of Apple, Samsung and Oppo, which all impressed in their own way.

Others weren't as obvious, like the reinvention of the Rubik's Cube with an app that creates a virtual copy and allows you to test your skills against others around the world.

Some even made me wish I'd invested in bitcoin when I first heard about it and they cost around $50 per coin - a $200 investment back then would now be worth around $280,000. Ouch.

Apple MacBook Pro
Photo credit: Newshub

That would have made it easier to fork out on the Samsung's Neo QLED 8K television ($13,000) or the top of the range Apple MacBook Pro with a stunning 64GB of RAM  ($10,000).

One thing I will never tire of, however, is new devices which I can use to listen to music. 

Whether it was over-ear headphones, earbuds or even party speakers louder than a jet plane taking off, I listened to Ozzy Osbourne singing 'Crazy Train' so many times on streaming services this year I might have paid for a new house for him.

The death of an internet tycoon

The suicide of eccentric tech guru John McAfee in June came after it was announced Spanish authorities were going to extradite him to the US to face tax evasion charges.

Libertarian McAfee, who had twice tried to stand for election as US President, was facing up to 30 years in jail if he had been convicted.

That didn't stop conspiracy theorists alleging McAfee had instead been murdered, pointing to a tweet the previous year in which he wrote: "Know that if I hang myself, a la Epstein, it will be no fault of mine."

John McAfee
Photo credit: Getty Images / Newshub

A single letter Q was then posted to his Instagram account, which some believed was reference to the QAnon, a conspiracy theory group that believes a cabal of Satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles operate a global child sex trafficking ring and that Donald Trump is still the rightful President of the US.

An official autopsy confirmed McAfee died by suicide, bringing to an official end the tale of a man who was also alleged to have shot dead his neighbour in Belize in 2012.

Crypto scams

As more people became aware of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and cryptocurrencies, so too did the proliferation of scams trying to defraud those same people.

One such tale surrounded South African brothers Ameer and Raees Cajee, who allegedly disappeared with 69,000 bitcoins in the first half of the year, worth over US$3 billion.

The brothers initially said their firm Africrypt had been hacked but had asked investors not to report it to police as that would slow down the return of the money.

Some investors were spooked by being asked to keep it quiet and hired lawyers who could find no trace of the brothers.

Other crypto scams this year included multiple 'rug pulls', where the money put in by investors was drained by the scammers before anyone could cash out.

Some fans of Netflix show Squid Game were impacted. A SQUID cryptocurrency named after the South Korean show was reported on by the BBC, CNBC, Business Insider and others due to its growing value.

Within days, however, the anonymous creators behind the unaffiliated currency had disappeared with an estimated US$2.1 million of other people's money.

Hardcore porn on major websites

Vidme was a YouTube-like video sharing service founded in 2014 and shut down in 2017 after it failed to make money.

However, during that time, videos on the platform had been embedded on major websites around the world, from the New Zealand Herald to the Washington Post, New York Magazine and Fox Sports.

When hardcore pornography company 5 Star Porn HD purchased the domain name, all those long-dead embeds suddenly came back to life.

Porn on Stuff.co.nz
Photo credit: Newshub

That explained why random stories about Lorde and Taylor Swift, among many others, were suddenly found to be displaying graphic, uncensored porn.

Cue IT teams at every news website in the world quickly trying to work out whether they had ever embedded Vidme modules on their websites.

Major internet outages

One thing I'm hoping won't be repeated next year is the number of internet outages we had, both here in New Zealand and overseas.

In recent months we've had extended downtime for Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, but it wasn't all good news. (BOOM, BOOM!)

Here in Aotearoa, a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on international telecoms company Vocus impacted both national and international traffic in September.

With the majority of people working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this brought productivity to a near-halt with Microsoft's Office 365 suite unavailable - and with the PlayStation Network also down, those with some unexpected free time couldn't even take advantage of it to slip in some more gaming.

The outage also impacted PayWave and Apple Pay, leaving some people in the supermarket checkout queue with a trolley full of food and no way to pay for it.

A few days later another DDoS attack took out more NZ websites impacting banks, New Zealand Post and the MetService.

There have been other, smaller outages since, all of which are a constant reminder of exactly how ubiquitous the internet is and how little we can actually do without it.

The metaverse

This year also saw the rise of the metaverse - no, not another Star Wars prequel although the news was as well received as one.

Facebook announced it was changing its name to Meta to reflect it's focus on the concept, which at its simplest means a shared virtual world accessible through the internet.

The Metaverse
Photo credit: Getty Images

Early pioneers weren't exactly over the moon at the prospect, fearing that a company controlling the metaverse meant less innovation and control for users. Others pointed out that the metaverse already existed in limited form in the likes of Fortnite and Roblox.

One thing is clear though: The metaverse isn't going anywhere and we're going to be hearing much more about it in the near future. But whether it's a place we live our entire lives, or something to just pop into for some after work entertainment remains to be seen.

With 2022 on the very near horizon, it's also time to use my skills of prediction to take a stab at what we can expect in the tech world in the next 12 months.


More Internet of Things (IOT)

If lightbulbs, fridges and washing machines with in-built web connectivity haven't made it to your house yet, there's a good chance they will in 2022.

While that connectivity can be useful in a smart home, I've yet to work out the benefits of being able to turn on my washing machine via an app just yet. Maybe that will come next year.

Amazon Echo Show 10
Photo credit: Supplied / Amazon

The problem is, what's next? Smart showers that tell you when you've used your daily allocation of water? Smart plates that put a dome over your food when you've eaten enough? Smart beds that don't allow you to sleep unless you've brushed your teeth and said a prayer?

I might be a technology evangelist, but things can go too far. Which is why I think we'll see:

A rise of anti-tech groups

It's inevitable in a connected world where so many people are sharing so much information about themselves that people will rebel.

It might be internet outages that take out the tools people need to work and live, or it may be more of us deciding we're not willing to have virtually everything we do online tracked - but at some point there will be a push back.

I'm not suggesting it's going to be a Hunger Games-like fight to the death between pro- and anti-tech factions but, as governments around the world start looking at Big Tech and what it knows (and sells) about us, people will start to wonder how far is too far.

AI deepfakes cause a major international issue

AI deepfakes can be a bit of fun - I know I enjoyed putting my head on some of my favourite actors' and wrestlers' bodies this year and sharing those videos with family and friends.

But there's also a massive downside to the deepfake business.

A deepfake illustration
Photo credit: Getty Images

Not only is malicious deepfake pornography a thing, the tech is becoming so good that people aren't going to be able to tell whether it's real or not.

This will lead to more people starring in fake videos, potentially causing woes in their private and working lives. You might think I'm joking, but with the power of computers and smartphones these days, it's really not that big a leap to make.

How would your boss react if they saw an undetectably fake video of you doing something unsavoury on the internet?

I think it'll hit home when a major political or entertainment figure is caught by a deepfake in 2022, perhaps sharing too much information about something top secret, or a celebrity dishing dirt on their famous friends because they think they're conversing with someone they're not.

I hope I'm wrong!

More NFTs and crypto scams

With the likes of Adidas and Nike already signalling their move into the metaverse with NFT tie-ups, more and more people will be buying virtual clothes and shoes in 2022 for more than they'd pay for actual clothes and shoes. And that's just the start of it.

With land in Auckland still unaffordable to many, some entrepreneur is going to come up with a way of selling virtual Auckland land, betting that it'll be worth more in a few years time.

Photo credit: CryptoPunks

Early adopters will leap in hoping to make a fortune, driving those virtual prices up to unsustainable levels and the virtual world suddenly looks very like the real one.

With big money comes big scams - people will be ripped off, whether it's for virtual property or for pixelated tokens of bored apes wearing sunglasses.

It's a good time to remember the old adage: If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

Okay, that's enough negative stuff. Let's finish on a positive note.

Cool stuff in 2022

I can't wait for more immersive and amazing next-generation console games that are going to give us gamers a mental break as the pandemic continues around the world next year.

We're also going to get better phones with cameras which are going to allow us to take the best ever pictures of our loved ones.

Technics EAH-AZ60 true wireless earbuds
Photo credit: Newshub

Throw in new earphones and earbuds that allow us to hear our music at fidelity levels we only ever dream off, new wearables that are going to be even better at identifying health issues and new screens which will show us our favourite movies and television shows clearer than ever and suddenly the world seems a little better.

We might even, finally, see the announcement of Apple's first ever pair of AR/VR glasses.

I can't wait to try them out and then be outraged at how much they cost.


Mike Kilpatrick is Newshub's technology editor.