‘Your job isn’t safe from AI and the metaverse is an enormous waste of money’: five tech realities for 2023

 (Unsplash)
(Unsplash)

Scientists say there’s no such thing as proof, only evidence. Those who work in the hype-filled tech sector don’t always remember this.

We’ve been clinging on to some fallacies, which, in 2023, are about to be upended. Here’s my list of new truths for the coming twelve months.

1. Your job isn’t safe from AI

In recent years, artificial intelligence has pervaded our lives in a way that is almost impossible to detect. If Gmail finished one of your sentences today, if you ordered something from Amazon, or if you scrolled through Instagram and found a post that interested you – you’ve used AI.

There was a time when we thought that automation would threaten low-skilled jobs only, that time is over. This month AI researchers at OpenAI launched ChatGPT, a leading-edge chatbot that can churn out speeches, marketing copy and sophisticated prose. Information workers aren’t safe from automation. It’s no longer hard to imagine an AI scooping a Booker Prize.

2. Crypto won’t change the world

The spectacular collapse of FTX, a crypto exchange, has brought more attention to failings in the category – both in its proponents and in the limitations of the technology itself. In the UK, finance ministers are rolling up their sleeves to impose regulations on digital assets.

The Financial Conduct Authority will get more clout in monitoring how companies behave, trade and advertise. Crypto’s more free-wheeling tendencies will get reigned in – but the technology will become safer, more reliable and (as a result) more profitable.

3. But quantum computing probably will

Quantum computing is hard to understand, which is probably why it doesn’t get the hype it deserves. These machines use the laws of physics to unravel problems that are too large or complicated for today’s supercomputers. And they are coming.

In the short term, quantum computers will be capable of cracking the cryptographic ciphers used to keep valuable or sensitive data safe. This is worrying for corporations, consumers and governments (who would prefer things like launch codes stay encrypted). Criminals are already experimenting with store now decrypt later (SNDL) raids on digital assets. They pinch your encrypted data, then wait it out until the technology becomes available to decode it.

4. The metaverse will be an enormous waste of money

In November the European Commission’s foreign aid department threw a party in a metaverse platform it developed itself. The digital world the commission created cost €387,000. Five people showed up to the event. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Meta and the self-appointed poster boy for the idea, is sinking fortunes into developing the technology.

In 2022 his company lost over $9.4 billion – it will lose more in 2023. Brands that dive into metaverse campaigns should do so cautiously. Technology for its own sake is never a good idea – just ask the founders of SmartyPans, a frying pan that tells you what you are cooking.

5. The world will surpass its 1.5C warming target by the end of the century

In the wake of a muted COP27, the world is coming to terms with the above fact. Technologists, scientists and engineers must take note: innovations are coming to market which demonstrate that we have more ability to curb emissions than many first thought. For instance, Orca is a gigantic factory outside Reykjavik which sucks in air and cleanses it of CO2.

Climeworks, the company that created it says the facility can absorb 4,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. While this isn’t much (approximately the same emissions as 900 cars over a year), it provides a template for others to follow.

The predictions above represent a turning of the tide in how we think of technology - and digital brands more broadly. The hubristic heyday of the sector is giving rise to a era when evangelists are forced to become realists. If it isn’t a happy new year - at least it will be a more sensible one.