If a person runs just one operating system, then 8GB should be fine. IF one runs virtualized machines or containers, more is better.
The difference between now versus then is the flash storage, since now instead of 200 IOPS of capacity, you have thousands of IOPS and no seek time.
For those that do video/graphics/audio, the unified cache helps reduce the cost of doing the work between the GPU and CPU memory spaces, so it comes down to how fast do you get your content and how much parallelized work do you do.
Now the OS is a FreeBSD setup with a Mach kernel, so it is built for speed, so it can do the levels of parallelism needed.
16GB is about future proofing for those that run 5-7 years with their MACs.
The thing that concerns me the most is the biggest hole to the M1
You can't run two Apple Thunderbolt Displays. That is a serious hole.