Trend Mill's 2024 Predictions
A collection of (inevitably wrong?) predictions for the year ahead
First off, Happy New Year, Trend Mill readers! I hope you’re well-rested and ready for another year descending further into the dystopian tech hellscape. Hooray!
In a first for Trend Mill (and maybe a last, depending on how it goes), this is an attempt to predict some of the things we’ll see in the year ahead. It’s a bit AI-heavy (no surprise), but I’ve included predictions about the wider tech landscape.
Let’s get to it.
All things AI
AI will have a big ol' 2024. Oh my god, no way. What a smart and out-there prediction. Of course, you get no points for suggesting AI will have a bumper year. The technology gained seemingly unstoppable momentum throughout 2023, and it's a no-brainer to suggest this will continue (for good and for bad). 2024 will see the true beginning of the AI arms race, but it will also face challenges and increased pushback.
I’ll start with a few predictions regarding AI:
We’ll see ChatGPT 5/6/7 etc. — The shackles are off for OpenAI after the recent boardroom drama. While there are still moving parts behind the scenes, the significant change is this: Sam Altman has far more control, and the company is now pursuing profit. Lots of profit. So expect everything to ramp up at record speed as Altman and co look to drive up OpenAI’s valuation and suck up every VC dollar going.
AI steals more jobs — A slightly worrying trend that crept into last year was the rising number of media companies caught sludging out shitty AI content. Unfortunately, mass media is a dying medium, and many head honchos see AI as an easy way to churn out more while paying less. Expect more layoffs to come and legacy media to have a bad year. In 2024, AI needs to start making money to show it’s not just another bubble fuelled by hype. As author and journalist Brian Merchant puts it, “[This year] they’re going to have to move product, and that ultimately probably means pushing what is another software automation product to try to turn a buck. And how might AI be good for business? Well, it can automate tasks, it can cut labor costs, and it can generate efficiencies. It can do people’s jobs.”
More pointless AI devices — We've already had a neckless and a pin. AI stuffing is set to continue and will continue so long as AI remains the buzzword of the moment and gets investors wet in the pants. Much like the rush to make devices' smart' or the buzz of IoT devices, the next wave is incoming, with AI set to be the new tech frontier for 2024. One less pointless device could be Smart Glasses, which may get another shot this year. Meta's latest haven't been totally shot down, and rumors are circling that OpenAI and Snap are discussing resurrecting Snap's failed glasses project.
Industries will fight back — I’m not going to pretend to understand the nuances of the actor's strike or whether they got a good deal from it. But, they did show that industries can organize and coordinate a movement, and if they remain steadfast long enough, they can force change makers to fold. In 2024, we can expect more industries to protest against the use of AI. It’s already begun with the New York Times suing OpenAI and Microsoft for training chatbots on millions of the publication’s articles. My guess for who is next? Artists in the music industry.
Blurred lines — No, I don't expect that godawful song to make a comeback. This year, we will see the lines between real and generated blurred like never before as deepfake technology advances and, more worryingly, becomes more accessible. We'll soon be at a stage where visual and voice replications will be almost impossible to tell apart from the originals. When we reach this level, society will be at a tipping point, and governments/lawmakers/regulatory bodies will have to move quickly and smartly to keep us safe.
Wider tech/business predictions
Thankfully, AI isn’t the only thing worth keeping an eye on for the year ahead. There’s the always-on battle for supremacy in tech, social media and streaming, new technologies, and megalomaniac overlords doing everything they can to gain more control and make more money.
Here are a few predictions for the wider tech landscape:
Privacy continues to lose out to the relentless pace of “progress” — When reading Mozilla's *privacy not included, I was struck by the latest trend in gifts: privacy-intrusive devices aimed at children. If that doesn't send a shiver down your spine, nothing will. Coupled with the incoming flood of AI devices and the forcing of AI capabilities into anything and everything, privacy will continue to be pushed aside in the pursuit of progress, no matter the consequences.
Apple headset is a bust, but it won’t matter to Apple — Apple's VR headset is too expensive, doesn't look as lush as its other product lines, and, frankly, is entering a market that's failing to get on board with the idea of strapping a headset on to perform daily tasks. The EyeSight feature is designed to let people "see" your eyes while you have the device on—Freaky as hell and straight from a Black Mirror episode. The headset will sell an underwhelming number of units, and… no one will care. Apple's stock price will monetarily dip, and then everyone will remember they have billions in cash under the mattress, and everything will be fine. The bigger question is whether they will follow it up with iterations or call it quits.
The Metaverse will still fail to become reality — Do we care about the Metaverse anymore? Not really. Does Meta care about the Metaverse anymore? It seems not, as everyone except Zuckerberg has got the message that most people either a) don't want it or b) aren't ready for the huge cultural/societal shift it would entail. Still, Zuckerberg has already pumped billions into the project and is adamant he will continue to throw money at it. While we can't rule out the Metaverse becoming more tangible and more adopted, it sure as shit won't be anytime soon.
Streaming services continue to cannibalize each other — Disney is losing millions with its streaming service and is now caught up in culture wars (or undoing culture wars). Netflix is doing well enough. Apple and Amazon have had slumps, but both have a bucketload of cash. Is this year that the many become the Big Three? Rumors suggest Apple TV+ and Paramount+ could merge. If Disney keeps hemorrhaging money, could it look to join up? Expect more deals and the bigger services to eat up the smaller ones. With almost all streaming now adding advertisements into packages (let's be honest, what a fucking joke), churn is increasing. Many will be left with no option but to seek a merger.
Crypto will hit an ATH — Slightly out of my wheelhouse, but crypto continues to defy all logic, and I think it will hit an all-time high this year. 2023 saw some huge shockwaves (looking at you FTX and Binance), and yet, the price barely faltered and instead rallied for much for the later months of the year. If it wasn't clear already, most cryptocurrencies don't rely on fundamentals but on continued hype. Should Bitcoin ETFs get approval, an injection of this hype will follow.
Threads gets dissolved into Instagram — With Threads recently launching in the EU, it ended 2023 with a nice bump in user numbers, but it’s going to have to work harder to take the text-based social platform crown. In 2024, Meta will have to implement the basic features users expect and, *shock horror*, innovate new and exciting features that can help the app stand out from competitors. I think it plays out like this — Meta will try feature-stuffing Threads to win users, fail, give up, and eventually, the company will bury Threads and integrate any valuable bits into Instagram.
X becomes the nothing app — X wants to become the everything app. The problem with trying to do everything is you invariably end up doing nothing. I think X is in for a rough year, and Musk doesn't have too many ways out. Fidelity recently valued its stake in X at 71.5% less than when Elon Musk bought Twitter, putting the overall value somewhere around $12.5 billion. If even half accurate, selling isn't an option, and while bankruptcy or writing it off could still be on the table, they are hardly desirable options. So, this year, Musk needs to make the platform work. His main hopes will be on Xai, which is trained off X data, but the main output so far is Grok, and it's pretty shitty so far. He wants payments. And more videos. And basically, nothing of what we loved the platform for. For now, he needs advertisers to come back or for subscriptions to start driving revenue. Neither looks likely.
I wasn't sure whether to do a predictions post. After all, it's a losing battle. When you're right, everyone says it was an obvious call, and when you're wrong, they denounce you as an idiot. I'll save you the hassle — I'll bet most of these will be wrong, partly because I am an idiot but partly because the tech and business world is random, wild and weird. But, in the end, it's fun to plant your flag and see how long it stays there.
Here's to another mad (and maddening) year ahead.
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