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AI, cybersecurity, and more: Five trends that could shape the future of tech in 2024

December 29, 2023 04:25 pm | Updated 04:25 pm IST

More than flashy new gadgets, 2024’s tech scene promises responsible AI, a purposeful metaverse, and a surge for a sustainable future

Representational image | Photo Credit: Pexels

There were no flying cars or robot butlers this year. 2023 was not a year of flashy tech breakthroughs. Instead, it was a year of quiet progress, strategic consolidation, and a recalibration of priorities. The dust has settled from the breathless anticipation of the past decade, and a nuanced picture of technological advancement has emerged. As we peer into the crystal ball of how the tech scene will be in 2024, we see fewer eye-catching gadgets, and we hope it will be more about building a better, more equitable world where responsible innovation takes centre stage.

AI ascendancy

Artificial Intelligence, the undisputed buzzword of our time, finally shed its skin of ‘potential’ and began delivering tangible results in 2023. From optimising factory floors to predicting patient outcomes, AI algorithms quietly infiltrated diverse industries, leaving a trail of transformed processes. But this progress was not without its growing pains. Concerns about ethical implications, biases in algorithms, and data privacy vulnerabilities fuelled heated debates, leading to the emergence of regulations like the European Union’s AI Act, aiming to safeguard against the potential misuse of this powerful technology.

2024 will see this cautious dance between progress and responsibility continue. Expect deeper integration of AI, not just as a bolt-on tool but woven into the fabric of entire workflows. However, this won’t happen without intense scrutiny. The focus will shift to explainable AI, mitigating bias, and ensuring data privacy. Expect stricter regulations and frameworks to emerge, guiding responsible development and deployment of AI solutions.

The ‘Sam Altman saga’ of 2023, with its debate between rapid commercialisation and long-term safety concerns, will likely reverberate throughout 2024. The question of who controls powerful AI tools – single entities or open-source communities – will remain an important issue.

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Metaverse musings

Once heralded as the next frontier of human interaction, the metaverse faced a reality check in 2023. While VR headset technology became increasingly sophisticated, user adoption remained largely niche. The metaverse’s elusive ‘killer app’ remained elusive, prompting questions about its long-term viability. However, glimmers of innovation shone through in education and training, where VR proved its potential to create transformative learning experiences.

2024 could be the year the metaverse starts finding its feet. 

Bloomberg Intelligence anticipates that the metaverse market will reach $800 billion by 2024. Meanwhile, the Analysis Group predicts that the global metaverse economy could surpass $3 trillion within ten years. The focus will shift towards real-world applications, with education and training likely leading the charge. Imagine students virtually stepping into historical simulations or dissecting virtual frogs in biology class. Expect collaborations between VR/AR companies and educational institutions to develop immersive learning platforms that redefine the classroom experience.

However, the success of the metaverse hinges on accessibility. Expect efforts to make VR/AR hardware and software more affordable and user-friendly, with open standards and cross-platform compatibility becoming crucial.

Digital fortress

As our reliance on digital infrastructure grows, so does the shadow of cybercrime. 2023 witnessed a rise in ransomware attacks, data breaches, and state-sponsored cyber warfare. According to Singapore-based cybersecurity firm Cyfirma, almost 68% of cyberattacks in the last three years were state-sponsored globally. The SolarWinds hack and the Log4j vulnerability served as stark reminders of the interconnectedness and vulnerability of our digital world. Governments and businesses scrambled to bolster cybersecurity defences with a renewed focus on data protection, threat intelligence, and robust resilience strategies. According to the 2023 India Threat Landscape Report by Cyfirma, India is the most targeted country globally, facing 13.7% of all cyberattacks.

Representational image | Photo Credit: AP

2024 will likely continue this trend, with cyber threats becoming increasingly sophisticated and targeted. Expect attackers to focus on exploiting vulnerabilities in emerging technologies like AI and the metaverse. Governments must collaborate internationally to develop effective cyber defence strategies and counterattacks. Businesses must invest in advanced security tools and employee training to stay ahead of evolving threats. The focus will shift towards proactive threat intelligence, real-time incident response, and building cyber resilience into the core of digital infrastructure.

Blockchain reboot

The cryptocurrency craze cooled considerably in 2023, with the fall of major exchanges and the unravelling of ambitious DeFi projects dampening the fever pitch. The Web3 narrative, promising a decentralised internet built on blockchain technology, lost its sheen. Nevertheless, blockchain itself found fertile ground in real-world applications beyond the financial realm. From tracking products in supply chains to securing digital identities, blockchain’s transparency and immutability proved valuable in diverse sectors.

Representational image | Photo Credit: istock.com

In 2024, expect a more tempered approach to cryptocurrency. Regulatory frameworks will likely be implemented to address concerns about market volatility, fraud, and money laundering. While the ‘get rich quick’ mentality might fade, blockchain technology itself will continue to find niche applications across industries. Think tamper-proof medical records, secure voting systems, and efficient cross-border transactions. The focus will shift towards building trusted and transparent blockchain ecosystems with real-world utility, driving innovation beyond the hype.

Sustainability redefined

With the climate crisis looming large, 2023 saw a dip in investment and innovation in climate tech. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), funding for climate tech startups decreased to levels last seen five years earlier. However, despite this temporary slowdown, the need for sustainable solutions remains stronger than ever. Green bonds gained traction, and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) considerations became central to investment decisions, reflecting a growing awareness of the need to invest in a planet-friendly future. The US government’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — a $369bn package of climate investments — is a notable example. India’s power ministry estimates that investments in renewable energy projects in India will experience a growth of over 83%, reaching approximately $16.5 billion next year. 

Climate activists protest against fossil fuels at Dubai’s Expo City during the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates | Photo Credit: Reuters

2024 will see climate tech resurgence, fuelled by necessity and opportunity. Advancements in renewable energy solutions like solar and wind power will make them even more cost-competitive. Carbon capture technologies, once relegated to the realm of science fiction, will start seeing real-world deployments, aimed at drawing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Green hydrogen, produced from renewable electricity, could emerge as a game-changer in clean transportation and industrial processes, especially in India. 

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