The past decade has been transformative. From the rise of smart phones and social media to the maturation of the Internet and the worsening of climate change and the outbreak of a global pandemic
We will forever remember 2023 as the year AI came out of the closet and into the hands of the public, stoking fears of a Terminatoresque future and massive job losses. What the future will look like with the advent of AI has led to more questions than answers. In the capricious world that we are currently living in, the rapid acceleration of the pace of change seems to be the only certainty. But AI wasn’t the only story. We will also remember 2023 as the year inflation got worse, healthcare improved with fewer deaths from COVID and advancements in new technology, temperatures set a new global record and another war broke out in the Middle East.
So, what will the next year hold? Here are 24 predictions for 2024.
When will look back in 20 years, I believe 2024 will be seen as a pivotal year as the rise of AI tugs at the threads of the fabric of society. If we are not careful, it could lead to its unraveling. But it’s not all bad, as AI will also lead to improvements in healthcare, education, and science. The question is, if society descends into chaos, who will benefit from these improvements?
1. Truth becomes harder to distinguish from fiction. Even credible sources will become questionable as AI is used for creating realistic fake news, complete with photos, videos and citations from scientific studies and credible sources like BBC and the New York Times.
2. Content creation explodes. The rise of AI as a Service (AIaaS) platforms will enable more people to create content, including books, articles, digital artwork, music, movies, and video games. Some of it will be good, some will be horrible, but there will be an awful lot of it. This will have profound effects on the economics of the entertainment industry as it competes with user created content for the public’s attention.
3. Social Media has contributed to the polarization and the de-democratization of the world, with even the most liberal democracies becoming weaker over the past decade. This trend will continue, amplified by artificial intelligence, making the world a more dangerous place.
4. AI becomes a daily part of our lives and this year will see the spread of AI personal assistants that help plan your day, gives you a weather forecast, picks out your outfits, manages your house and helps you to stick to your diet.
We will integrate AI into home appliances including the TV, refrigerator and, yes, even your toilet, which can monitor your urine and stool for disease or potential health problems.
AI will also play an increasingly large role in healthcare, education, retail, transportation, entertainment, food, telecommunications, and engineering, tailoring more personalized choices for the individual.
Politics- Overall, it will be a tumultuous year in politics as the US Presidential Election enters its final phase and tensions in the Middle East, Europe and Asia intensify.
5. The United States, once considered the world’s strongest democracy, will falter and inch closer to civil war as this year’s election exacerbates existing tensions and leads to greater polarization. However, tensions will not be confined to the US and even the most liberal countries will see deterioration in political and race relations.
6. Trump will win his party’s nomination but fails to win the presidency, weighed down by his legal troubles. Biden wins a second term but Trump’s platform and followers continue to grow as the country becomes more polarized
7. More conflicts breakout in the Middle East and possibly Eastern Europe and East Asia as tensions between countries spreads and defense budgets grow.
8. Far right extremist white supremacy groups continue to grow stronger and calls for a race war by groups like the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters Proud Boys, and the Neo Nazis grow louder. In response, left-wing groups grow more militant and public clashes at demonstrations between groups are likely.
9. In 2023, there were 604 mass shootings in the United States that killed 754 people and injuring 2,443. In 2019, an incident in El Paso, Texas, killed 23 people after a 21-year-old male opened-fire on mostly Latino victims. These types of hate crimes will continue, not just in the US but in other parts of the world as calls for a race war by white supremacists grow louder, amplified by social media and AI.
We will focus more on sustainable practices across industries as the public demand for governments and businesses to adopt environmentally friendly to mitigate the effects of climate change grows and the plastic problem. This will lead to more eco-conscious products and services and will create new opportunities for green technologies, renewable energy sources, and innovative solutions that address sustainability issues.
10. Climate change worsens, and the temperature hits 1.5C and 2024 is likely to break more global records as El Nino exacerbates the already dry weather.
11. But it’s not all bad news. We add solar and wind energy at record levels and signs that fossil fuel usage is waning are on the horizon. Third generation wind and solar technologies which offer greater efficiency hasten the demise of oil.
13. We will learn to better listen to plants and animals. We can already tap into mycelial networks, get spinach leaves to send emails about whether they need water, and understand the moods and body language of our pets. This year we will use AI to listen to plants and animals about environmental conditions. This could prove invaluable in understanding how to conserve biodiversity and prevent species extinction.
A desire to live a more sustainable life will lead some to eschew cars in favor of public transportation and local governments will redesign their cities to make them less auto-centric. New technology will also give us new ways to get over the gridlock.
14. Trackless trams, roundabouts, and walking/biking cities increase as people tire of being slaves to their cars. EVTOLs take off, hybrids and EVs increase in popularity as battery technology improves, prices drop and range increases.
COVID-19 and the opioid crisis has strained our healthcare system. While this trend will continue as seasonal breakouts of COVID occur and fentanyl finds its way into communities, AI and Ozempic will offer some relief.
12. Aided by advances in apps, smart devices and AI, telehealth will become commonplace, giving people more control over their own health and easing the need to visit a doctor in person. Combining this with a better understanding of our microbiome and our genes will lead to more personalized medicine, diets and exercise plans.
13. The drug Ozempic begins making some meaningful strides against obesity. The drug is also increasingly used to treat addictions such as smoking, drug abuse, and even gambling and porn-addictions. This will give us some hope against the opioid epidemic.
Even though we aren’t in a recession and according to a recent survey, most Americans feel good about their financial status, that doesn’t mean there won’t be things to be stressed about economically. AI will lead to job losses and climate change, shows us we need to make some fundamental changes to our economic system if we want to live sustainably.
13. Calls for a Global Wealth Tax will grow louder, from poor countries, the public and even from the wealthy themselves. This will be crucial for solving climate change, reducing economic inequality, and improving healthcare, and education.
14. More countries and companies will move toward as four-day work week as studies show that it reduces pollution and gridlock and actually improves worker productivity.
15. Calls for a Universal Basic Income will grow louder as more jobs become threatened by the emergence of AI and global experiments continue to show us the potential mental health benefits, and that it reduces poverty and economic inequality. Although the implementation of a UBI in a major country is still years a way, This year the movement will grow substantially as the threats to jobs become more apparent.
15.Crypto scams will continue even as the price of Bitcoin goes up and Blockchain spreads throughout supply chains. Blockchain will also impact sectors such as healthcare, energy, and even education.
One of the major shifts we can expect is a greater emphasis on personalized and adaptive learning. This personalized approach will not only enhance engagement but also improve learning.
18, AI assistants in education will lead to personalized lessons tailored to each student’s pace and style. This will help teachers to prevent slower students from getting too far behind. IOT, VR and AR will also change the face of how we learn by providing students with immersive experiences. For example, instead of just looking at 2 dimensional pictures of the heart, students will actually be able to see a 3 dimensional heart beating. They could pick it up and even walk through an aorta. Rather than just reading about ancient Rome, students will actually be able to walk through a virtual render of the city just like a video game.
Soil degradation from over farming, the use of petrochemicals as fertilizers and pesticides, and biodiversity loss to expand the cattle industry, combined with changes in weather patterns from climate change, are all threatening to destroy our food system. However, changes are occurring. The question is, will they happen quickly enough?
20. -Veganism will continue to grow. Existing vegan brands will take market share and new vegan players will enter the market as the world moves to a more plant-based diet for health and sustainability. The changes in consumer demand will create unique opportunities for entrepreneurs to become wealthy as diets shift.
Although 100% vegans will remain relatively small, the number of people choosing a flexitarian diet will increase substantially, spurred on by the many documentaries and scientific studies touting the many benefits of a whole foods plant-based lifestyle.
21. Droughts related to climate change and El Nino will make water scarce. Out of necessity, farmers will adapt more efficient methods, like regenerative farming and drip irrigation. More farmers will use robotic systems and IOT sensors to cut down on costs, use less fuel and water.
AR/VR and Holographs change the face of entertainment and communication. As these technologies spread, they will offer us immersive experiences for concerts, travel, board meetings, real estate tours, movies and video games. This will make business travel less of a requirement and hurt the airline industry.
23. As deep fakes and fake news spreads, the calls for regulation on AI and Social Media will grow louder. This will lead to more lawsuits against AI companies and social media from newspapers and magazines who don’t want their content used. It will also lead to more congressional hearings and eventually legislation, although this may not happen this year.
24. AI related scams and cybersecurity issues will explode as criminals use deep faked videos, photos, and audio for identity theft and to dupe people into fake investments.
How to Save the Future
The world is at a crucial turning point and political, social, economic, technological and environmental upheaval have become the norm. If we cannot solve these issues, the fabric of society could unravel, leading to chaos and eventually breakdown. So, what are the solutions? I propose 3 things-
The first is to regulate deep fakes. This was proposed by AI researcher Connor Leahy in an opinion piece for Time Magazine as a first step toward getting control of artificial intelligence. But we shouldn’t stop there. There needs to be legislation put forward to label any content created by AI including articles, videos, and photos as such. Although many criminals would ignore this, at least there would be a line in the sand delineating what is acceptable usage and what is not. Just as there are laws against kiddie porn, there needs to be laws against AI deep fakes and AI generated content.
The second thing we need to do is rein in Social Media companies. These companies fuel our collective outrage while polarizing society and profiting from it. At the same time they are destroying local newspapers and established media companies and the poorly moderated content is undermining our sense of reality. If this continues, AI won’t have to destroy humanity because we will have done a good enough job, all on our own.
We need to hold these companies accountable for the hate speech and conspiracy theories and false news that is posted, just like we would hold any other media company responsible for publishing fake news.
There has already been a lot of legislation being discussed. In 2022 the United Kingdom passed the online safety bill which imposes a duty of care on social media companies to protect users from harmful content. Something similar will likely be passed in the United States in the next year or two.
In her book How Civil Wars Start and How to Stop Them, Professor of Political Science at UC San Diego, Barbara Walter says that there are six stages before a civil war begins: classifcation, symbolization, discrimination, dehumanization, organization and polarization. According to Walter the United States is someplace between stage 5, where groups organize into militias, and stage 6 polarization where a group escalates propaganda and demonizes and separates the target group. In her book Walters notes that it is not generally poor people who start civil wars, but rather a disenfranchised group that once held power. She also notes that after the 2021 insurrection that the United States came closer to civil war than anytime since the Civil War.
The rise of the right extremist hate groups has coincided with the rise AI and social media, the loss of manufacturing jobs and the gutting of the middle class. If we want to solve the problem then we need to get to the root of it. The hate that the extreme right feels is misguided anger projected on to people of color who they believe have stolen their jobs and taken their country. Social Media has given them a platform for voicing their discontent and share their beliefs while AI is used to support their fictitious narrative.
But the anger these groups feel is misguided because their jobs weren’t taken by immigrants in most cases, but rather by technological automation and the country was never theirs to begin with.
One solution to ease the economic pain that members of these groups are feeling is to finally implement a Universal Basic Income. Although this won’t solve everything, studies show that a UBI would reduce economic inequality, and ease money related stress, while improving mental and physical health. This could go a long way toward easing tensions and at the very least it is a step toward a more stable and civil society.
2024 will be a turning point for humanity. The proliferation of artificial intelligence will impact all industries and every single life on the planet, both human and non-human. Climate change will worsen and we’ll see increasing temperatures and natural disasters, but we will make progress in reducing our fossil fuel use spurred on by new technologies.
The choices we make over the next year will be more critical than ever. Artificial Intelligence is just a tool that could be our savior or our ruin. If the past is any guide, humans have proven time and time again that we have the intelligence to create technology, but lack the vision to use it wisely and for the benefit of all.
Because we are emotional creatures, driven by fear and greed, we will need to overcome our basic natures if we are going to save the future.