Artificial intelligence had a breakout year in 2023 as large language models leapt from research curiosity to the hottest consumer product around. Given current levels of hype, next year could be make or break for the technology.
When ChatGPT was released at the end of 2022, its wild success caught everyone by surprise, including its maker OpenAI. The chatbot became the fastest growing consumer product in history, reaching 100 million active users in just two months.
This set off an AI arms race between big tech companies and startups as everyone tried to catch OpenAI. Meanwhile, all kinds of more traditional businesses jumped on the generative AI bandwagon too. But it’s still early days, and despite real promise, the technology has its problems.
These AI models tend “hallucinate”—a nice way of saying they make things up—and it’s far from clear whether the quality of their outputs is good enough to create useful products. The fact they’ve been trained on mountains of data scraped from the internet has also raised a number of complex questions around privacy, bias, and copyright.
Nonetheless, the prevailing view is that the generative AI boom has just begun, and 2024 could be another banner year. Here we’ve gathered some of the most interesting predictions for where the technology could go next year.
One of the most consistent themes is that AI will become increasingly integrated into the world of work. Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Stanford Digital Economy Lab, predicts there will be mass adoption of AI tools by companies, leading to significant boosts in productivity. The impact will primarily be felt by white collar “knowledge workers,” he says, though he expects it to augment jobs rather than automate them entirely.
This will be enabled by the infusion of AI into many of the software tools these workers rely on day to day. “Expect to see generative AI integrated into enterprise software, giving more knowledge workers the tools they need to work with greater efficiency and make better decisions,” says Paul Silverglate, Deloitte’s US technology sector leader. “The way we work will be vastly different from this moment on.”
AI in the workplace will present particular challenges for managers, according to predictions from PwC, because they will not only have to learn how to use AI themselves, but also develop the ability to oversee teams where much of the work is done by AI-powered agents. “Few leaders today have both organizational and AI knowledge—and closing this gap will be critical,” the report says.
Another test for businesses will be the use of “shadow AI.” While companies may want to limit or control their employees’ use of these tools for privacy or security reasons, workers are likely to use unapproved tools if it makes their jobs easier. “Well-intentioned employees will continue to use generative AI tools to increase productivity,” says Jay Upchurch, chief information officer at SAS. “And CIOs will wrestle daily with how much to embrace these generative AI tools and what guardrails should be put in place to safeguard their organizations.”
It won’t just be the world of work that’s transformed by AI though. Anish Acharya, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, thinks the technology could finally make smooth voice interaction a reality. Voice assistants like Siri and Cortana have been at best a partial success, but generative AI could finally lead to apps with human-level conversational abilities, making the technology increasingly useful and leading to its further integration into our daily lives.
Generative AI won’t just make it easier to communicate with machines. Peter Norvig, distinguished education fellow at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI, thinks 2024 will see the rise of AI-powered agents that can operate autonomously on your behalf, connecting to other services to make reservations or plan a trip without you having to directly intervene.
And most people will end up using AI tools without even realizing it, according to a report from Forrester, as companies combine the technology with existing offerings. From Adobe Photoshop’s ability to add and remove visual elements in response to simple text prompts to Google’s AI-enhanced search results or LinkedIn’s automatically generated post content, the technology is creeping into all aspects of our digital lives.
As well as penetrating more deeply into everyday life, the underlying technology is likely to further advance. Sara Hooker, head of research lab Cohere For AI, says 2024 will see major improvements in model efficiency, allowing AI to run on more modest hardware. There will also be a big push towards multi-modality rather than building models designed to deal with just language or images. “Models will become more akin to our human intelligence—able to process multiple sensory inputs at once,” Hooker told Turing Post.
Efforts to make AI more efficient might be critical next year. The Forrester report points out that this year’s AI boom has pushed production of specialized AI chips like GPUs to its limits. Shortages are likely to persist into 2024, which could hamper the ambitions of many companies. “Expect a pragmatic approach to AI, driven by availability, silicon economics, and sustainability,” the report says. These forces will pressure companies to pursue applications with the clearest ROI.
Others are more downbeat. CCS Insight predicts the generative AI sector will get a “cold shower” as companies grasp the cost and complexity involved in building out the technology, particularly given regulatory uncertainty and other risks. “We are big advocates for AI,” chief analyst Ben Wood told CNBC. “But for many organizations, many developers, it’s just going to become too expensive.”
TechCrunch also predicts some of the bolder claims made by the technology’s boosters are likely to come unstuck in 2024. “Expect a considerable customer withdrawal from AI tools as the benefits fail to justify the costs and risks,” writes TechCrunch’s Devin Coldewey. “While capabilities will continue to grow and advance, 2023’s products will not all survive by a long shot, and there will be a round of consolidation as the wobblier riders of the wave fall and are consumed.”
It’s ultimately hard to guess where AI goes in 2024. No one would have predicted this year’s explosive progress before ChatGPT’s release, and it’s possible the billions that have been pumped into research in the past year bring another breakthrough in 2024. Either way, it seems inevitable that AI will become an ever-present feature in all our lives from here on out.