What are the news stories that will be dominating the tech press in 2024? The Grant McGregor team dusts off our crystal ball to make some predictions
Tech made the headlines in 2023, with news about generative AI taking much of the column space. We think it will be dominating the 2024 agenda too along with some other pressing tech stories.
One thing we can be sure of is that, given the increasing digitalisation of our lives, these tech stories are likely to also be dominating the broader news headlines in 2024.
The company behind the generative AI tech Chat-GPT closed 2023 with drama at the top. Sam Altman was sacked on November 19, 2023. The following day, Satya Nadella invited Altman and his loyalists to head up a new AI research team at Microsoft. By November 22, it was clear that Microsoft’s backing and the changes to the OpenAI board was enough for Altman to be reinstated at the top of OpenAI.
According to the New York Times, OpenAI employees warned the board about a project, known as Q*. This technological breakthrough could make AI even more powerful - and dangerous. The board wanted Altman to implement additional safeguards, but he rejected the idea. This was at the heart of the disagreement.
It seems certain we can expect big news from OpenAI in 2024 and we will definitely be keeping our eye on more news about the Q* project. At the same time, the developments there highlight the importance of another tech story that we think will be stealing headlines this year.
The speed of progress in the area of AI is phenomenal. All the major tech companies are rushing to lead and dominate to secure their own competitive advantage. Governments have, thus far, been slow to regulate.
Just last month, the UK’s Digital secretary Michelle Donelan said the UK government will not legislate on artificial intelligence (AI) until the timing is right. She told the Science, Innovation & Technology Committee that “It is important to remember that this is an emerging technology that is emerging quicker than any technology we’ve ever seen before. No country has a full handle on exactly what the risks are.”
Maybe so, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be working hard to understand and mitigate them. The USA has made some noises about this, but much will depend on the forthcoming Presidential elections. In the meantime, the EU is leading the agenda on big tech regulation. On December 9 2023, the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement with the Council on its AI Act. The agreed text will now have to be formally adopted by both Parliament and Council to become EU law and become the world’s first comprehensive AI law. It remains to be seen that, just as with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the rest of the world will follow suit.
Through 2024, a large proportion of the democratic world is heading for the polling booth. With elections in 50 countries, more than two billion voters will head to the polls. Perhaps most significantly for our shared global future, this includes the Presidential election in the United States. Elections are also happening in India, Mexico and South Africa as well as here in the UK.
As The Guardian notes, “Paradoxically, this unprecedented vote-fest comes at a moment when classic forms of liberal democracy are under existential attack from authoritarians and dictators such as China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, far-right nationalist-populist parties such as Fidesz in Hungary, and military coup plotters and Islamist militants from Venezuela to Chad.”
As a result, geopolitical volatility is the biggest risk identified in the World Economic Forum’s Chief Risk Officers Outlook 2023. You might be asking yourself what this has to do with tech. Unfortunately, technology’s part in the biggest election year in history is not likely to be a glorious one – not with social networks (and, therefore, voters) being manipulated by the dollars spent and comments posted by malicious foreign actors. Already, misinformation campaigns have started on the most seemingly innocuous Facebook groups and other social channels.
Unlike Facebook and Google, Elon Musk has refused to sign X up to the code of practice set out in the EU’s new Digital Services Act. The Act includes powers to hold social media to account for failure to take steps to prevent the spread of misinformation, including huge fines or a potential blackout.
With evidence of Russian involvement on Twitter influencing the 2016 US Presidential election and the 2016 Brexit vote, we can expect much more of this interplay between Big Tech and Politics through 2024.
Tech billionaires and space seem to go together like Ramma-lamma-lamma-ka-dingity-da-dinga-dong. Perhaps to us mere mortals, their exploits are a troubling echo of those of the reclusive tech billionaire Sir Peter Isherwell, founder of the tech conglomerate Bash, played by Mark Rylance in Don't Look Up, yet they continue unabated.
In 2024, it’s the turn of Jeff Bezos to try to dominate the headlines with the first all-female space flight. It was announced last year that his off-on girlfriend and media personality Lauren Sánchez had secured herself and a crew of five “impactful” women a spaceflight aboard Bezos’ Blue Origin spacecraft. The trip is slated for some time early in 2024.
One of the cornerstones of the responsible use of AI solutions is to ensure a human is kept in the loop. You may question, then, why there is a need to “humanise” AI. Perhaps because if we anthropomorphise AI, we find it more explainable and less threatening?
Work is already underway to teach AI to understand human emotions. Rana el Kaliouby, CEO of Boston-based AI company Affectiva and the author of Girl Decoded, co-founded her business with the aim of developing technology that understands humans the way we understand each other. It is currently devising ways for machines to be able to read human emotions via the devices’ integrated cameras and assess their state of mind. This will allow the technology to then tailor its response accordingly – whether that’s to suggest a change of tone or subject in a social media post or to prevent a tired driver from continuing to drive a vehicle.
This effort may seem decidedly worrying for those who believe in “the singularity” – a science fiction trope that describes the moment when intelligent technology can no longer be controlled by humanity. Yet, like so much of this technology, there’s little the average bystander can do to thrust the cat back into the proverbial bag.
Only time will tell what else 2024 has in store for us but, whatever comes your way, we’re here to help and support you with technology advice and IT support services throughout the year.
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