Insights The Year in Tech and Predictions for 2024

Glancing in the rear-view mirror of technology, 2023 undoubtedly belongs to Generative AI. A year in which we have seen artificial intelligence, for so long the preserve of science fiction or Hollywood, break through and capture the imagination of the world. Whether through the launch of ChatGPT 4 and Dall-E 3 by OpenAI; Bard by Google; or Stable Audio, Stable Diffusion, Stable Video by StabilityAI, society has been captivated by the ability of technology seemingly to mimic human-like behaviours and create increasingly impressive output, based upon its ingestion and training on vast quantities of data and our human prompts.

As 2023 approaches its end, we are starting to assess and appraise our societal relationship with AI and frontier technologies more generally:

  • Laws and regulations are being promulgated in US, EU and UK (among other jurisdictions) to provide restraint on the development and deployment of AI, as well as the potential guard rails for those engaging with technology online;
  • The impact of technology on working patterns and behaviours of the creative industries is rising in prominence and was central to negotiations in the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio and Writers Guild of America strikes; and
  • Courts are now being asked to determine the basis of liability for those suffering losses, whether through the application of traditional intellectual property rights in AI or the imposition of fiduciary duties on tech developers of immutable protocols.

Gazing to the future, two key themes are likely to dominate the coming year in technology.

First, 2024 is likely to be an instrumental year in the way in which we seek to codify and/or regulate the behaviours of those optimising frontier tech, those adopting it within their business or those seeking to use it to disrupt existing markets, whether through legislation or judicial intervention.

Secondly, with eight out of ten of the most populous countries – and voters in countries representing more than half the global population – all going to the polls and with no fewer than thirty presidential elections, next year is being cited as the biggest election year in history. It is inconceivable that the impacts of technology will not be experienced in the political arena more widely in 2024, whether as part of the manifesto offering or – more worryingly – as a potential threat to democracy itself.

These key themes are reflected in our top 10 (human-driven) predictions for the coming year.

1. First AI legislation to hit the statute books

On 8 December 2023, the European Union reached a provisional basis for the regulation of the use of artificial intelligence, comprising a risk-based approach as to which activities are to be considered unacceptable and so prohibited; which are to be considered high-risk and so heavily regulated; and which are to be considered to be of limited risk and so subject only to transparency obligations. These will be voted on by the European Parliament in early 2024, with legislation taking effect from 2025.

The UK White Paper on AI, comprising a principles-based approach, is likely to commence its passage through the UK Parliament.

2. Technological game of cat and mouse?

Google released its latest product, Gemini, on 6 December 2023 and early indications are that it is able to outperform Bard and challenge ChatGPT 4. We can expect further products to be released during the year as the competitive environment for domination of AI products increases. Such products are likely to become increasingly tailored to specific sectors.

There are also early indications of a technological game of cat and mouse emerging, with developers of tools such as Nightshade seeking to exploit vulnerabilities in training methods, such that data assets can be ‘poisoned’ to corrupt the output from the AI, where appropriate consent to use proprietary material has not been obtained.

3. All rise

With class actions now being commenced in the US against all of the key players in the AI space, we can expect some judicial pronouncements about the scope and application of existing intellectual property law to AI.

4. Cyber threats to become more sophisticated

Asserting increased activity in relation to cyber-security threats barely counts as a prediction these days, given its inevitability and certainty. What does change, however, is the sophistication of the activity, the nature of the threat vectors and the obligations on those impacted by a cyber incident.

We can expect to see artificial intelligence playing an increased role in cyber-security threat in 2024, both from the perspective of threat intelligence (enabling the assessment and reporting of threats at speed) as well as its potential to be the source of the threat: we are already aware of threat actors seeking to use Generative AI to write malicious code.

We can also expect the current trend, which sees many regulators now requiring timely reporting of cyber events, over and above any required to the ICO, to gather pace in the coming 12 months.

5. Deep fakes and the electoral cycle

The biggest election year in history is likely to be met with the increased production and distribution of political content using various technologies. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not averse to using technology to get his political message across, having used holographic projection technology in 2014. Ten years on, we are likely to see technology being used to increase the circulation of deep fakes, whether to disrupt, influence or undermine legitimate political processes.

6. Mixed reality

2024 marks the release of Apple Vision Pro, which was released earlier this year in competition with Meta’s Quest 3. Quest has had a rocky start but shows promise and commentators believe that Vision Pro might have an even rougher ride, owing to its higher price point.

Although strides are being made to a point that we have mixed reality in headsets that look more like standard glasses, low levels of adoption are to be expected and the market for mixed reality is likely to continue to struggle. Replacement of monitors in the work place is still a few years away.

7. Remote gaming

Nintendo are likely to release their successor to the Nintendo Switch this year, but this could be one of the last under-powered and on-the-move all in one consoles ever made. As internet speed picks up and 5G reaches further in the corners of the globe, tethering/remote gaming consoles will become more prevalent during 2024.

8. Cryptoasset-specific regulatory developments

2023 saw a slew of blockchain-specific announcements. The UK announced plans to become a global crypto hub to attract investment to forge its own path in a world where crypto regulation remains territorially fragmented. The financial promotions regime was extended to promotions for qualifying cryptoassets, which now require approval by authorised persons or FCA registration. HMT plans to extend the financial services regulatory perimeter to fiat-backed stablecoins. With further announcements into 2024, the UK is seeking to walk the regulatory tightrope maintaining a principles-based regime promoting crypto-related investment and innovation while protecting against harms and market instability.

9. Blockchain-related law reforms

The Law Commission recommended that DLT-based crypto tokens are recognised as a third category of personal property under English common law and suggested targeted statutory amendments to promote certainty. The Court of Appeal is to decide whether blockchain developers of multi-billion dollar immutable protocols like Bitcoin owe fiduciary duties to digital asset owners.

These developments will accelerate into 2024 as DLT-driven decentralisation such as real-world asset tokenisation, wider adoption of decentralised finance and onchain privacy solutions, impacts and converges with more parts of the economy, stretching existing legal norms and forcing the evolution of new maxims.

10. Evolving digital infrastructure regulation

The proliferation of NGSO constellations and services are challenging traditional models, increasing choice for consumers who can now obtain direct-to-device services in previously unserviceable locations and low-latency solutions challenging mobile networks. Convergence between device/operating system providers and traditional telecommunications operators are seeing more operators considered as providing regulated electronic communications services. New spectrum licensing models such as the UK’s NGSO and UAS licences are being developed to balance the needs of spectrum users and manage interference and safety whilst fostering innovation and end user access to better services.

Security requirements have taken centre stage in a number of developments in 2023 and will continue into next year, including obligations to build resilience and reduce reliance on single supply-chain models. Ofcom’s stance on net neutrality is softening to reflect operators’ reality to manage and monetise their networks but any further concrete requirements on tech giants comprising the bulk of network demand will depend on political appetite.

Wiggin understands how clients adopt, optimise and disrupt technologies. We continuously monitor regulatory developments affecting operators and providers in our chosen sectors all over the world.

Get in touch if you’d like to have a further discussion about your technology related projects: we’d be delighted to assist.