2024 could be the year our relationship with tech is tested like never before

From AI to social media, there’s no going back

Characters removed from a sign on the Twitter headquarters building piled on a street in San Francisco on July 24. AP
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I think it’s safe to describe 2023 as the year most of us went on our first date with Artificial Intelligence. We tried out OpenAI’s ChatGPT, sought out answers that used to take several internet searches to decipher, and started to widely use "prompts" in our day-to-day language while describing to others how to make the most of ChatGPT. It was fun, it felt revolutionary, and it’s clearly not going away anytime soon.

What does that mean for 2024? Of course, what goes up must come down to some extent. I’ve lost count of how many companies and entities have introduced their own large language models, which make up the backbone of AI. That’s not to say that I’m minimising those efforts. They’re all important pieces of the puzzle we’re all trying to put together in terms of how AI will affect our lives.

There will, however, be disappointments and inevitable market saturation. In the year ahead, we can expect to see some start-ups basing everything on AI to go bust, just as we might see the companies that first pioneered the technology, like OpenAI and Google, adjust accordingly as they try to live up to impossibly high expectations from both investors and consumers.

For the past 12 months, we’ve also been bombarded with speculation about what AI could do to white-collar jobs and potential unemployment. It’s all been speculation for the most part, but 2024 will be the turning point when the rubber meets the road as more companies begin to embrace and implement AI. New jobs will be created as a result, but this could be the year we find out just how durable the employment fabric is going up against supercomputer intelligence and computer science research that stretches back at least 80 years.

Let’s not forget about the companies that have remained suspiciously quiet about AI. On this front, Apple comes to mind, but I wouldn’t mistake the tech giant’s quietness for stillness. Think back to the late 70s for a look at what might be ahead. Apple was not the first company to go to market with a personal computer, but it was the first to do so in a way that made the computing experience palatable to most consumers.

Fast forward to MP3 players – again, Apple was late to the MP3 party, but it looked closely at where other device-makers failed, and the iPod eventually obliterated just about everything in its path. Then there’s the smartphone. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive at the time, laughed at the price of the iPhone back in 2007 for not having a keyboard and noted the device’s premium price, but again, Apple turned the table and hasn’t looked back.

This brings me to 2023, when AI sucked all the air out of the room from 2022’s hot topic, the metaverse. This year, most people didn’t exactly take to the idea of virtual-reality headsets, but Oculus, owned by Meta, stuck with it, and the devices are slowly but surely selling better, and now, in 2024, a funny thing is about to unfold, Apple is going to enter the market with its much-anticipated Apple Vision Pro, seemingly validating all of Meta’s 2022 metaverse hype.

In the middle of this battle for the future of AI and the metaverse/mixed reality world we’re all about to inhabit, social media platforms have become more prevalent than sidewalks or public parks. In 2023, much like in the preceding years, we’re likely all going to continue to complain about social media, but hypocritically, we’ll complain about it on social media platforms, proving that the platforms may change and evolve, but we’re not going back to the life we knew before them anytime soon. TikTok, Instagram and even LinkedIn are hotter than ever, and we’re still seeing new bids from platforms such as Post, Vero and Bluesky, seeking to quench the thirst for social media connectivity.

There’s always something just around the corner that we, despite our best efforts, can’t predict. Speculation abounded when Elon Musk took over Twitter, but few, if any of us would have guessed that Mr Musk would take the social media company’s name, one of the most valuable in the tech-world, and throw it out the window in exchange for a rebrand to “X”. Few, if any, would have anticipated so much volatility from the once beloved social media darling. Will X survive in 2024? Probably, but I wouldn’t expect it to thrive anytime soon.

The most common theme emerging from all this, is that there’s plenty of unsettled tech business from 2023 that still needs to be dealt with in 2024, and what that means is for better or worse, our attention will be consumed by tech leaders, when it could easily be argued that our attention might better be served elsewhere. There’s no going back though, onward to 2024 and the artificially intelligent virtual world we’ve chosen to inhabit.

Published: December 27, 2023, 4:00 AM