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2023 will be a pivotal year for AI and its role in the future of humanity
The headline’s a bit grandiose, I know, but I couldn’t think of any other way of saying it. The thing is that humankind has talked about the science fiction of artificial intelligence and it’s role alongside humanity for a very long time. Up until now, it’s largely been talk, with glimpses of what might be fuelled by imagination and wishful thinking.
But that all seemed to change in late 2022 when OpenAI released the public beta of ChatGPT.
ChatGPT is built on GPT-3, a large language model that has built a human like ability to form patterns of words to make meaningful sentences.
Here’s The Thing: ChatGPT unleashed the potential that was already there by adding a UI that made it conversational. Now, all you have to do to access the massive capability of the AI is chat in a chatbox with it.
I don’t know if OpenAI expected the response to be so overwhelming when they launched ChatGPT, but it has been like someone just turned on the floodlights and now everything is clear.
Earlier in 2022, the text-to-image equivalent of ChatGPT was released, called DALL-E. Like GPT3, DALL-E is a large language model built on pictures instead of words. Type is a phrase or a request and the AI will produce an image to meet your requirements. Except that it’s not one image, it’s hundreds!
Here’s My Point: The breakthrough in 2022 was not the AI itself, but the user interface to access the AI. Dall-E, ChatGPT and all the variates that are fighting for dominance in this space now have a way that anyone can access the technology.
Add a simple payment layer over the top, make it mobile and wrap it in some appealing branding and bingo, you’ve got yourself an AI app that anyone can use to create words and pictures without too much effort.
Inevitably, it’s raised a ton of questions over copyright, ownership, moral creativity and the ethics of plagiarism. The debate on all of these topics will run for years.
Wiser! Prediction: My prediction is that 2023 will be the year that the debate over the role of AI will go mainstream. As better versions of the AI are rolled out (with GPT4 just around the corner and expected soon), the debate will intensify. The issues of ownership and accreditation will increasingly be debated as the volume of content creation rises substantially through 2023.
This debate will be fuelled by the collapse of many creator economies, such as photography, journalism and copywriting, all replaced by machines doinng what humans used to do.
The rise in generative AI will also challenge some current business models, mainly Google Search, which is suddenly looking inadequate and past its sell by date by GPT3 ability to answer the search question with a meaningful answer. Who wants a list of links you have to research yourself to find the answer when ChatGPT will write you a specific answer to a specific question. (It’s no different to Gen Z’s preference for TikTok as a search engine over Google.)
NFTs will endure and mature as a means for consumer brands to build customer engagement
Of the emerging technologies under the web3 banner, NFT’s (non-fungible tokens) is the one that will prove to be the most enduring. Over the past two year, NFTs have become associated with images of pixelated cats and cartoon apes, trading at unbelievably high and unsustainable prices.
In many ways, this association of the technology (NFTs) with the use-case (high-priced cartoons) has done the tech no favours. It’s created a brand misconception that’s closely connected with spam, scam and fraud. Just as in the early days of Bitcoin, when it was associated with buying illegal items on the dark web, this negative association is a distraction from the real benefits that the technology can deliver.
In the case of NFTs, it’s the ability to connect the physical and digital worlds together in a flexible and easy to use way without the need for clumsy databases and spreadsheet lists.
Which is why I am bullish on NFTs (and blockchain technology.)
Wiser! Prediction: In 2023, we will see NFTs move away from the association with cartoon characters to a corporate tool for building customer engagement. Global brands like Diesel, Nike, Starbucks and Porsche are some of the many brands who have been using NFTs to build engagement with customers. For more, read Brand Strategy for Web3 and the Metaverse.
The gap between Bitcoin and the rest of crypto will become a chasm
On January 3rd 2009, Bitcoin was born. The first cryptocurrency is now fourteen years old, and over that time there have been many other cryptocurrencies introduced to the world.
Here’s The Thing: There’s only ever been Bitcoin, and then the rest. No other cryptocurrency has come close to being like Bitcoin or a credible alternative to Bitcoin.
In a parallel stream you have Ethereum and it’s copycats, stablecoins, digital tokens and various other cryptographically sealed digital identifiers under the broad banner of cryptocurrency.
Like any startup market full of early stage businesses promising to disrupt, reinvent and redefine, 99% of them will fail and sink without trace. The crypto market is no different. And we’re seeing the demise of many of the crypto projects in real time as the global economic downturn bits all sectors.
The most notable of these is Solana, which promised to give Ethereum a run of its money for a while. The tokens have lost 99% of their value and developers are moving off the network. This is digital evolution at work.
But then there’s Bitcoin: For the fourteen year old cryptocurrency, it’s time to start thinking about standing on their own 21 million feet and distancing itself from the crypto family that’s grown up around it.
We're about 17 months away from the next halvening, the moment when it becomes doubly difficult to create new Bitcoin. The previous halvenings have been watershed moments, with supply being cut in half and demand skyrocketing. The Bitcoin teenager will be heading towards 16 when this happens. Time to make some decisions.
Like any teenager talking to their career counsellor at this age, the question is "what do you want to be when you grow up?"
In Bitcoin's case, it’s already clear on it’s career path - Bitcoin's destiny is as a store of value. It's easier to move than gold and less costly to do so than fiat. But, IMHO, it also has a future in payments. It's just not been realised yet, but it will.
Wiser! Prediction: I have two for Bitcoin. First, Bitcoin and the rest of the crypto market will diverge further than it has done to-date. It will become increasingly clear that Bitcoin is not like all other cryptocurrencies. It will be seen as a a maturing and increasingly stable asset.
Whereas crypto, including Ethereum, will continue to unravel and search for it’s true use-case and meaningful utility.
The second is that Bitcoin, via Lightening, will increasingly be seen as a payment vehicle as well as a store of value. We’re already seeing this play out in remittance volumes and Bitcoin adoption on Asia, Africa and South America.
Adoption of DeFi will continue to grow amongst the world’s unbanked
DeFi stands for Decentralised Finance and it defines a financial system that is built on top of a blockchain network and typically runs using smart contracts.
The point of DeFi is to provide financial services that are open, safe, and easy for anyone with an internet connection to use. It enables users access to a wide range of financial products and services, like lending, borrowing, trading, and payment processing, without the need for middlemen like banks or credit card companies.
Here’s The Thing: DeFi could change the way traditional money works and make it easier for people all over the world to get financial services.
For many people in the world, their fiat currencies consistently, sometimes severely, depreciate. There are still large parts of the global population who lack access to the most basic banking services, which we take for granted in the West.
So, whilst DeFi still has a long way to go regarding the technology and how it can be used, it promises to play a more critical role in people’s lives.
Wiser! Prediction: The most innovative DeFi apps, led by the likes of Uniswap, will out run the failures that have undermined confidence in this emerging technology space. The scam and ponzi scheme DeFi apps will continue to be outed and, sadly, these get-rich-quick fraudulent projects will continue throughout 2023.
But, the enduring and most innovative DeFi apps will prevail and I predict that by the end of 2023, there will be fewer, but stronger and more stable DeFi apps seeing growing adoption rates in the unbanked populations of the world.
TikTok won’t be banned in the US but the anti-China rhetoric will continue
Who knows if TikTok is a giant surveillance and propaganda machine for the Chinese Communist Party? If you’re Facebook or Google you’re going to want people to think that. Although the reality is that all three of these BigTech firms track what we do, where we go, how we spend our time and who we spend it with.
Personally, I don’t see TikTok doing anything different to any other tech platform. They all make money from surveillance and they all use behavioural science techniques to feed us the content they want us to see.
The difference is that Facebook and Google are examples of capitalism in action and the American dream. Whereas TikTok is owned by the Chinese - a symbol on communism and an authoritarian government.
Here’s The Thing: There’s a lot to be worried about by TikTok. If we learnt anything from the last decade about the impact of Instagram on teenage girls, it’s that social media can be harmful in the wrong hands.
With adolescent mental health rates at historic highs, the last thing society needs is a mobile app that constantly feeds the ill mind with bad thoughts. If you thought Instagram was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet when it comes to TikTok.
Wiser! Prediction: TikTok won’t be banned in the USA in 2023. But that won’t stop the conspiracy theory that its a secret weapon for the CCP. No doubt that Facebook and Google will use their considerable lobbying power to feed the narrative in Washington.
Sadly, this preoccupation with the CCP will prove to be a huge distraction from the real harmful effects of TikTok’s rapid fire addictive qualities.
If anyone is to lead the way on curbing TikTok I expect it to be the European Union, who have thus far, proved as effective as anyone outside of China at tackling BigTech’s domination.
2023 will see an accelerated move towards a "splinternet"
The "splinternet" refers to the idea that the internet will eventually split into several distinct and separate networks, each with its own technology, rules and regulations. Instead of a single, global network, the internet will become regionalised and in some cases, separate and distinct by geography and trading bloc.
You already see differences in regulations between the European Union and the USA. Add to this a non-EU participating UK moving closer to having its own set of unique rules. The recent decision by the Irish Data Protection regulator to fine Meta for privacy violations could lead to Meta being prevented from moving data from the EU to the US where it houses it’s data centre. It’s highly likely that in 2023 Meta will have to change its business model and create a ring-fence around European user data.
When it comes to the authoritarian states China and Russia, operating on “the” internet is completely different to the West. These countries have a history of censoring websites and online content. Building their own internets would give them more control over what their citizens are able to access online. Additionally, building their own internets could also allow these countries to more easily monitor and collect data on their citizens' online activity.
When nations like China, North Korea and Russia are motivated to build their own internets as a way to exert greater control over online activity within their borders, it makes sense that “the” internet as we know it today will shift to being one of “several” internets all operating under different protocols, technologies and rules.
Wiser! Prediction: Expect to see the internet continue to fracture into separate China, Russian, European and American instances of “the” internet due to increasingly different views in privacy, data, surveillance, freedom of speech, and consumer protection.
Update 5th Jan 2023: Literally hours after I posted this article, news broke of Meta's latest fine by the EU for the way they pushed users to view ads. The EU's regs are increasingly becoming out of step with other jurisdictions.
Musk will exit Twitter empty handed
In 2021, Elon Musk was named Time Man of the Year. He was the living embodiment of Tony Stark, a giant brained entrepreneur with the ability to turn science fiction into science fact.
That was a year ago. Now, Elon Musk as a bigoted, conspiracy theorist, a man who speaks with a forked-tongued and a narcissist with a mean streak when it comes to people. He’s also a lousy business man having paid $44 billion for a $10 billion business and turned it into a near-worthless one in less than two months.
Can Twitter Recover? IMHO, no, not under Musk. Which is a shame because I liked Twitter (note use past tense.) Pre-Musk, Twitter worked pretty was as the world’s global chatroom.
Sure, it was full of nutcases and there’s too much porn and NSFW content that’s very easy to stumble across, like tractors in a field. But on the whole, the content moderators at Twitter did an OK job in pruning out the extremists and keeping some form of order.
The issue at Twitter wasn’t content or free speech. It was that it had broken business model and was stuck in an innovation-less rut. Musk’s leadership has made the broken business model more broke and done nothing to bring innovation back to one of the pioneers of social media.
Wiser! Prediction: Musk will kiss his $44 billion investment in Twitter good bye and walk away with little or nothing to show for it. He’ll do this partly because 57% of Twitter users have already told him they con’t like his style of management and partly because his cash cow called Tesla is in dire straights.
The share price has collapsed, competition is catching up (a year ago Tesla could count 18 competitors in the US, now its 30!), problems with the product are mounting and shareholders are unhappy with his lack of attention on their business.
Musk may the the brain capacity of several humans combined, but there’s a limit to what any man can do. Fixing Twitter always was a pointless exercise driven by vanity and ego. It serves no greater purpose. Which is why I predict that Musk will walk away from Twitter, lick his wounds and get back to what he’s best at.
In a post-Twitter world, Social Media will become fragmented and factionalised
A downside of Twitter losing its place as the world’s News App, as Jack Dorsey once called it, is that there isn’t an obvious place to hang out anymore. I moved to Mastodon, which has emerged as the main beneficiary of the Twitter exodus. I got through the sign up process Ok through sheer determination and a motivation to not have to go back on Twitter.
But now I find the user engagement on Mastodon, frankly, dull and boring. It’s like I’ve turned up to a party in my finest rags, ready to go and there’s hardly anyone here. It’s like I’m in that scene from The Inbetweeners!
Here’s The Thing: There isn’t much partying going on in Mastodon. Twitter may have been a shit party, but at least everyone was there!
Wiser! Prediction: Users will continue to leave Twitter through 2023 in search of a new home. In the absence of THE place, they’ll gravitate to the one they most align with politically. Which means that instead of there being one chatroom for the world (Twitter), with everyone thrown in together regardless of their leanings, there will be several.
These new homes will all be friendlier places and less hostile. But that’s because the people in each one will be drawn there for the same or similar reasons.
That can’t be a good thing, can it?
Meta will pivot from virtual to augmented reality
In 2022, Gartner predicted that by 2026, 25% of people will spend at least an hour a day in the Metaverse. They’d be shopping, dating, learning or working in some way.
Well, I’m not sure about that. That’s less than four years away and I don’t know that many people who spend an hour a month in virtual reality, let alone 1 in 4 people. That’s not to say that in the long run I don’t see a place for the Metaverse, because I do. It’s just that my version is more immersive than virtual.
I also expect there to be many different Metaverses to suit each individual ever use-case, not one Metaverse.
Here’s The Thing: In 2020, Mark Zuckerberg switched Facebook into a Metaverse business. In 2022, he’ll invest 20-25% of all profits into developing the a Metaverse offering. That’s north of $10 billion this year alone. And Meta/Facebook can afford to do it since they’re a huge cash cow of advertising revenue from Facebook and Instagram.
And although Meta are expensing the costs rather than capitalising over the long term (that’s sensible), it’s hard to see how they’ll ever recoup that investment from virtual reality headset sales alone. Last week I reported how VR headset sales volumes were all down in 2022.
Despite all the hype and publicity, consumers are simply not buying the Zuck’s vision for the Metaverse.
Wiser! Prediction: Which is why I predict that Meta will pivot again. During 2023 they will switch focus from virtual to augmented reality wearables. This means developing miniaturised tech for ordinary eye glasses. Instead of wearing a brick on your face and replacing your sensory inputs with a digital stream, AR glasses allow the wearer to remain in the real world whilst overlaying useful and relevant information into their field of vision.
If you think of it like this, today most people are glued to their phones. Go to any restaurant, train station or shopping centre and you’ll see the majority of people looking at their screens. With AR glasses paired with a set of ear pods, the user can remain virtually online whilst physically experiencing the real world.
Space is getting closer as investment increases and the missions go further
My final prediction is out of this world. Over the past decade, private sector investment in space-related companies has increased ten fold, to over $10 billion in 2021. Morgan Stanley estimates that the global space industry could generate revenue of more than $1 trillion in 2040.
Up until now, the focus has been on lower orbit initiatives, such as a satellites and communications. The number of satellites launched year on year has grown steadily, with over 9600 currently orbiting the earth. The number of satellites increased by around 2000 year on year.
Here’s The Thing: Investment in space-related companies is shifting towards lunar and beyond. This includes developing technology capabilities around spacecraft components, space transportation, asteroid mining and robotics in space.
Morgan Stanley speculates that with declining launch costs, advances in technology and rising public-sector interest, space exploration may be the next trillion-dollar industry, up from $350 billion currently estimated.
Wiser! Prediction: The space sector will continue to grow towards becoming a $1 trillion industry, even through this economic downturn as technology firms position themselves to exploit the wide-open space that is space.
The US Supreme Court is about to change Social Media for ever
I’m talking about the Gonzalez v Google case that’s before the US Supreme Court. It centres on the 2015 killing of a US citizen in the Bataclan Paris terrorist attack. The case against Google is that YouTube videos promoting ISIS were being recommended by the algorithms. The plaintiff’s case is that this make Google liable because they’re being more than “just” an intermediary.
Think of it this way. If the the BBC or CNN showed ISIS propaganda videos and someone went an acted on it, they could be held liable. But because of a US law called Section 230 (written in 1996), social media firms are not liable for the content that users put up on their platforms. Google’s defence is that they have no editorial input to what a user choses to post.
But lawyers for Gonzalez argue that by using AI to recommend what a user should watch, Google are, in fact, being editorial.
So far, Gonzalez has lost in previous rounds, which is why it’s at the Supreme Court. If the Court finds for Gonzalez, if would mean that all social media firms could no longer hide behind the so-called “intermediary immunity” which allows them to wash their hands of any responsibility for content.
Wiser! Prediction: If I'm going to stick my neck out on this and say that the Supreme Court will decide for Gonzalez. There’s a growing wave of consent that a Section 230 overhaul is long overdue, and that BigTech has used the shield of Section 230 to hide behind its own failings and resistance to spending the money needed to properly patrol their platforms.
One man who will be watching this closely is Elon Musk. He’s just fired all the content moderation and policy staff at Twitter. If Gonzalez wins, he’ll have to hire them all back again, and more some!
Let us know what you think about this subject by putting your comments, thoughts or feedback in the comment section below. ☟
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