Tech stories that will dominate 2023
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 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 emerged.
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, possibly including unparalleled amplification of propaganda and fake news stories, or letting loose a torrent of sophisticated cyberattacks, or 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 tend to do, 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 of data into software tools. And then we will perform 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 amorphous, perhaps subconscious, 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 in job interviews. This arms race has been building for some time, with deepfake technology as the immediate trigger, but this arms race will be dialed up several notches this year.
Monetization of free internet services
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 so far has been Twitter, which ungraciously tried to nickel-and-dime its users, then poked the developer community in the eye, and then took a few steps back amid widespread resentment. Such awkward moves will be taken by many vendors as they try to evolve from the overarching current model of advertising-supported services. Advertisers have been tightening their purse strings, and privacy measures have somewhat dented their ability to microtarget visitors. Therefore, advertising, while 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; for example, an update to your WordPress blog may no longer be pushed out automatically as a tweet.
Search and cloud become hip again
We have to go back a really long way to a time 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 that may bring in some disruption. For search, generative AI’s integration with search will lead to some pivotal choices. For example, if the result of my search is a paragraph of well-formed text, rather than 10 links that I have to click through, how will vendors serve us ads? Compounding matters, running search based on generative AI is much more expensive for search providers, so it 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 movement on the horizon toward the multi-cloud. Multi-cloud is the use of cloud services from more than one cloud vendor to create services that are portable across multiple cloud providers’ infrastructures. Seeing that this approach opens 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 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 leaps. As always, some developments will signal progress while a few will represent a backward step.
Saurabh Bagchi, PhD
Professor, Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Director, Army Research Lab, Assured Autonomy Innovation Institute (A212)
Faculty Director, ECE Corporate Partnerships
College of Engineering
Professor, Department of Computer Science (by courtesy)
College of Science