It is of course notoriously hard to make predictions in the field of technology and many wise men have been made to look silly through their failed tech predictions. Nevertheless, I sat down to look at my crystal ball to predict what stories are likely to dominate the news in 2023. The crystal ball is made a little clearer because we are already a month and a half into the year and several of the 2023 technology developments will be an extrapolation of what we have seen in the last year. However, even in those cases, the extrapolation is rarely linear.
ChatGPT and its effect on the universe
From the coverage that ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, has been receiving since its launch in November 2022, you would be forgiven for thinking that that is the only technology story around. And it deserves the spotlight. Few had expected the jaw-dropping rapid strides this technology has made in the last few years. And it will continue to wow us this year. It has opened a bottle and a genie with unsurpassed powers has come out.
The news will be dominated by how this genie is going to impact a whole multitude of industries from journalism to higher education. And we will learn of unintended negative consequences, such as, possibly the unparalleled amplification of propaganda and fake news stories, or perhaps letting loose a torrent of sophisticated cyber attacks, or maybe upending what it means to get a well-rounded education so as to be able to present one’s ideas coherently.
Or, if you look at the glass as half full, as I usually tend to do, then you could see in ChatGPT a tool that will catalyze the efflorescence of human ingenuity. We will let it do the dreary tasks — checking the facts for a news story a journalist is writing, explaining the nuts and bolts of some mathematical process individually to vast numbers of learners, or entering reams and reams of data into software tools. And then we will do those impressive feats of imagination that only we are capable of.
A content arms race
There will be a new kind of arms race, between content generated by AI and tools to detect such content. The detection will become important for several reasons: first, there is the fuzzy desire we all have for telling apart what is generated by human creativity from AI (or machine-) generated content; second, there is the matter of copyrights with AI-generated content, to establish the primary (human) sources being used for the content; and finally, there is the need to evaluate people, be it in universities like ours or for interviews for jobs. We have had this arms race building up for some time, with deep fake technology being the immediate trigger, but this arms race will be dialed up several notches this year.
Monetization of free internet services
The free internet services (“free” as in not costing us any money) will start to look a little less free as the vendors try various business models to make them profitable. Exhibit A in this so far has been Twitter where it ungraciously tries to nickel and dime its users, then pokes the developer community in the eye, and then takes a few steps back in the face of widespread resentment. Such awkward steps will be taken by many vendors as they try to evolve from the overarching current model of advertisement supported services. Advertisers have been tightening their purse strings and privacy measures have also dented somewhat their ability for microtargeting the visitors. Therefore, advertisements, while still remaining a big part of the business model, will lose its major dominance, leading to the hunt for monetization. This will have the side effect of causing some software integrations to break, such as, an update to your WordPress blog may no longer be automatically pushed out as a Twit.
Search and Cloud become hip again
We have to go back a really long way when search and cloud computing were cool technologies. They have become such backbones of our tech world that we have been taking them for granted. This year there look to be some ripples to lead to some disruption there. For search, the generative AI’s integration with search will lead to some defining choices. For example, if the result of my search is a paragraph of well-formed text, rather than 10 different links that I have to click through, how will they serve us ads. Compounding matters, running search based on generative AI is much more expensive to the search providers, so that increases the need for ad revenues.
In the cloud computing space, as the world chafes against the dominance of the three, there is a nascent but growing movement in the horizon, the multi-cloud. Multi-cloud is simply put the use of cloud services from more than one cloud vendor and creates services that are portable across multiple cloud providers’ infrastructures. Seeing that this creates the possibility of removing the shackles of vendor lock-in, several companies, small and large, are getting into the business of providing multi-cloud services.
Overall, look forward to a 2023 of rapid technological developments despite predictions of a recession. Some big companies will be humbled at times while some innovative upstarts will dazzle us with their feats. As always, some of the developments will signal progress while a few will represent a backward step.