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All in all, the year 2023 was a net positive for the technology landscape, although there were some interesting events along the way. Sam Altman was CEO of OpenAI and then he was not, only to become CEO again. Cryptocurrency wunderkind Sam Bankman-Fried was convicted of some shady goings-on at now-bankrupt exchange FTX. Microsoft, a reliable bellwether of the general state of tech, saw its stock soar from $220 per share at the start of 2023 to around $376 at year's end.
Now it's time to look forward to 2024, and so we offer five predictions about technology that we think will occur in the year to come:
- Artificial intelligence. AI will be able to fix and refactor code stored in repositories without any intervention on the part of a developer.
- Mojo. The Mojo programming language will find traction among enterprise developers as a Python alternative, particularly for AI and machine learning applications.
- Blockchain. Various industries will increasingly find mainstream uses for blockchain outside of cryptocurrency.
- Cloud IDEs. A significant number of corporate developers will work in browser-based integrated development environments (IDEs).
- Big Tech. Some parts of Big Tech will be broken up.
1. AI gets smarter, more accurate to meet the needs of programmers
Expect 2024 to bring further improvements in AI tools to find bugs, test code and adapt to newer technologies.
Artificial intelligence products such as ChatGPT, Google's Bard and GitHub's Copilot have made programmers' day-to-day work easier. For example, ChatGPT and Bard can show developers how to perform certain programming tasks that they might simply have forgotten how to do.
However, these AI tools still have a way to go. For example, as of this writing ChatGPT is unable to find the cause of simple bugs when provided only a URL to the code in the GitHub repository. (I tried.) Using AI to test code for complex use cases is hard as well. There's just too much reliance on domain-specific knowledge.
In addition, both ChatGPT and Bard have trouble keeping up with the most current technologies. Sometimes the answers an AI gives are wrong because it only knows about older versions of a technology. Developers still must check the suggestions and recommendations made by AI to make sure they are accurate.
That said, today's AI is by no means tomorrow's AI. AI tools are getting smarter at an astonishingly fast rate. As more developers start using AI in their day-to-day work and correct mistakes made by AI, its scope of understanding will increase. Developer input coupled with the ongoing maturation of AI technology will increase the power of AI.
At the least, we predict that by the end of 2024, AI tools such as ChatGPT, Bard and Copilot will be able to fix and optimize code in GitHub repositories automatically. There's also a good chance that AI will develop the smarts to be able to create reliable tests for complex use cases.
2. Python developers accelerate the adoption of Mojo
Make way in 2024 for a new programming language, Mojo, which promises the best of both Python and Java worlds.
In machine learning speed is paramount, not only for operational requirements but for a business's competitive advantage. Nobody wants to wait around while AI figures out the answer to a user's time-sensitive question.
Key to making things fast on the machine learning landscape is low-level languages. Compiled code is faster than interpreted code, hence the proliferation of languages such as C, C++, Go and Rust to power processing for machine learning applications. However, while interpreted languages are slower, they are helpful particularly in use cases involving data science and data analytics.
Probably the language used most in this regard is Python. However, Python is an interpreted language and slower than its compiled counterparts.
Fortunately, there is a technology that brings Pythonic code into the realm of compiled languages. The technology is Mojo, from a company called Modular. The man behind it is Chris Lattner, formerly senior director of Google's TensorFlow infrastructure.
The benefits are hard to ignore, the need is there and the community is growing. Expect to see a lot more developers honing their Mojo skills in 2024 to meet a growing business demand for the skill set.
3. Blockchain moves beyond cryptocurrency into mainstream use
In 2024, numerous industries will figure out how blockchain can do a lot more than just support currency and NFT speculation.
Blockchain started out as the engine that drove Bitcoin and became the foundation of other cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum, Avalanche and Solana. Early on, cryptocurrencies struggled to catch on as a way to make general purchases. It was hard to buy coffee and a pastry using Bitcoin.
However, the cryptocurrencies are convertible to a fiat currency such as U.S. dollars on a cryptocurrency exchange. As the various value of the cryptocurrencies increased and decreased against fiat currencies, many people bought cryptocurrencies as short-term investment instruments. As a result, blockchain became synonymous with cryptocurrency speculation.
However, the purpose of blockchain is not only to print cryptocurrency; that would be akin to saying the purpose of a printing press is only to print money. A printing press is capable of a lot more, and the same is true for blockchain.
Blockchain is a decentralized, consensus-driven technology in which data is stored immutably, in an identical manner among many computers. Once a piece of data is stored on the blockchain, it cannot be changed. Moreover, no computer is the sole source of truth for the data on the blockchain. If one computer on a blockchain network goes down, numerous other computers store the same data that can continue to provide service. These networks can be public or private, depending upon the specific blockchain network. Either way, though, blockchain networks are easy to audit.
This makes blockchain technology attractive in many ways.
Given its peer-to-peer, immutable nature, blockchain technology is well-suited to a variety of situations where openness counts, such as governmental operations and uses that require public verification of authenticity. Here are a few examples:
- Automotive startup Cario is working with state-level motor vehicle departments in the U.S. to put all motor vehicle titles on the blockchain to streamline title auditing and title transfer.
- Camera manufacturer Canon, in collaboration with news organization Reuters and academic research project Starling Lab, has developed a methodology that embeds verification data in digital images shot with certain Canon cameras and stores that data on the blockchain immutably to reduce the risk of visual misinformation.
- Supply chain management is another good blockchain example. The Home Depot uses IBM blockchain technology to manage inventory, while Golden State Foods uses IBM Food Trust technology to monitor food freshness. And Walmart Canada uses a blockchain-based application to manage freight invoices.
Blockchain is no longer just a novelty technology for cryptocurrency speculation. It's fast becoming part of the mainstream technology landscape.
4. Online IDE take the stage
In 2024, developers will take a big step outside the standalone desktop IDEs and embrace them in the browser.
This is already happening. Developers can run a copy of VS Code in a browser using Visual Studio Code for the Web. Remix, the IDE used to create smart contacts for the Ethereum Virtual Machine using the Solidity programming language, is browser-based. Developers can create smart contracts for the Solana blockchain using the browser-based Solana Playground IDE. There's even a tool called Online-IDE with which developers can code in a variety of languages such as Java, PHP, C, C++, Golang and Bash, to name a few.
These cloud IDEs are powerful. Many enable developers to work with code stored in GitHub. Some, such as Remix, integrate with ChatGPT to provide AI-based help to developers when debugging.
As the power of browser-based IDEs increases, so will developer adoption. Browser-based IDEs allow developers to become productive faster. Instead of taking a day to install and configure the IDE on a developer's machine, a new developer can open the IDE in a browser and access the code in an online repository such as GitHub or Bitbucket. Should a developer's machine go down, to get back up and running requires nothing more than getting a new machine with a browser already installed. In many situations programming can be done using nothing more than a Chromebook or tablet with a keyboard and mouse attached.
The benefits are hard to ignore. We predict 2024 will be the year online IDEs become the thing.
5. Federal Trade Commission gets serious about Google, Amazon, Meta
In 2024, Big Tech likely will be in the spotlight of industry watchers and government regulators, and breakups are not out of the question.
Such intervention is historically infrequent. In 1984, AT&T, which was born Bell Telephone in 1877 and wielded monopoly-like power over telephone service in America for over a century, was broken up by the U.S. Department of Justice into smaller "Baby Bells."
Almost 20 years later, in 2000 the U.S. government ordered Microsoft to separate operating systems and business applications into two separate divisions. At the time, a commanding majority of computers both at home and at business used the Windows operating system. The ruling was later overturned, but the company has continued to be under the watchful eye of government agencies on the lookout for questionable trade practices.
In 2023, antitrust behavior was a pressing concern among both business and government.
Epic Games filed suit against Google about the cut of game sales through Google's Play Store, arguing that Google Play's near monopoly power over game distribution made the amount Google charged to distribute the game unfair. A jury ruled in favor of Epic Games, but the award amount is yet to be determined. (Epic sued Apple with similar claims in 2020 but without a win; Apple recently agreed to allow third-party direct payments for apps sold in the App Store, but will impose a big commission to do so.)
Meanwhile, the U.S. government and 17 states are suing Amazon in a monopoly case that claims that Amazon promotes its own platform and services to the detriment of third parties selling their goods and services on Amazon. Roughly 40% of all online shopping is conducted on Amazon, according to various reports. One might not consider that volume a total monopoly, but it is significant enough to attract the attention of various government agencies.
While the outcomes of these lawsuits have been mixed, clearly Big Tech companies own a significant share of their markets, and their activities are being closely monitored. Given Amazon's growth in delivery services, there is good reason to think that competitors such as UPS and FedEx might sue Amazon should it go into the general delivery business to move products not sold on its website. Alternatively, the FTC could file a lawsuit should Meta or X, formerly known as Twitter, attempt to acquire a telecom company such as T-Mobile.
In short, Big Tech companies are increasingly trying to dominate their markets at the exclusion of others, and there's no reason to think they'll pull back in 2024. Various government and corporate parties will try to stop those efforts, possibly including breakups into smaller independent businesses.
So, there you have it, five tech predictions we think will come true in 2024.
To see how our predictions have fared, check us out at the end of 2024. Until then, peace on Earth, goodwill toward all and a happy new year to everyone.