2024 is about to dawn on the world. But in one of the most precient novels of the science fiction genre, it already has: Octavia Butler’s decades-old novel Parable of the Sower opens in Los Angeles in 2024.
Butler’s fictional world dealt with many of the social and environmental pressures that we’ll definitely be seeing a lot of in the real 2024. Climate change has boosted sea levels and increased droughts, increased privatization from greedy corporations is threatening schools, police forces are militarized, and a Presidential candidate is literally saying he’ll “make American great again.”
It’s hard to beat Butler’s entry when it comes to predicting what’s coming down the pike in the new year, and no one has really come close. Honorable mention goes to a 1995 episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine featuring a time-travelling social-commentary jaunt to 2024 San Francisco that deals with revolutionaries and homelessness encampments. A distant finalist is a grim tale by Harlan Ellison, A Boy and His Dog, which features a dystopian 2024 set among post-nuclear war mutated cannibals.
Things aren’t looking quite as bad for the real 2024, however. None of the dozens of industry experts and tech leaders that we’ve looked to for opinions about the future predicted a single incident of cannibalism.
Instead, we’ve got a bumper crop of AI related predictions, complete with a few warnings about the state of cybersecurity. Interestingly, however, many of these predictions aren’t about AI itself, but about how companies and people will change their habits in reaction to AI: Expect more corporate standardization, data analytics training, and predictive security measures in the new year as the “wow” factor surrounding AI finally wears off.
What’s to come…
AI Dominance Leads Directly to Cybersecurity Concerns
One big shift to expect in the AI conversation next year? Increased debates over the ethics of artificial intelligence and its impact on jobs held by humans. Zsuzsa Kecsmar, cofounder and chief strategy officer at global loyalty enterprise cloud platform Antavo, argues that “opportunities will open up for those who can harness and amplify AI’s potential.
One of those industries where AI shows potential is cybersecurity.
“The discussion around the safe and responsible use of AI will continue to be a focus and links closely to cybersecurity in 2024. Data usage and privacy compliance are just two examples of the cross section between AI and security and businesses will need to ensure that they are using the power of AI responsibly so as to not fall foul of breaches.” – Kecsmar
Generative AI tools like ChatGPT or Bard could become a “nightmare” if mismanaged, according to Grammarly’s Chief Information Security Officer Suha Can.
“Four credible threats will rightfully keep leaders on their toes: security vulnerabilities in large language models (LLM), privacy and copyright issues, risks of using immature LLM third-party providers, and the quality and accuracy of generated output.” – Can
In 2024, Can says we’ll see these types of risks earning headlines, and pushing companies to boost their in-house security teams with AI training. They may educate their entire employee bases on the subject just to be safe. This brings us to the next AI-related prediction: Businesses everywhere will soon realize that they need to get their AI house in order.
A “Great AI Reckoning” Spurs Companies to Create Unified AI Policies
Everyone’s checking out whether generative AI can make them better at their jobs. The problem is that everyone’s taking a piecemeal, haphazard, everyone-for-themselves approach. Most workers aren’t telling their bosses that they’re dabbling in AI, while most businesses aren’t sure how to best rely on the technology themselves.
Next year, businesses will realize that they need a standardized policy for addressing AI use within their workplace. Another Grammarly exec, Chief Revenue Officer and Head of Grammarly Business Matt Rosenberg, has the numbers on this problem, as well as the solution:
“Nearly 8 in 10 C-suite leaders say their companies are using AI, but most workers don’t know how they’re doing so. Meanwhile, employees are outpacing their employers by bringing their own AI tools to work; 80% of those using gen AI at work say their companies haven’t yet adopted it. All of this will come to a head, forcing companies to reconcile approaches and tools. Those who built a coordinated strategy from the start will have a major leg up—while those who failed to align their employees are headed for a costly mess they’ll spend months unraveling.” – Rosenberg
Keith Hartley, CEO of LevaData, has a very similar prediction, albeit with a new term. He says that 2024 will be “the year of the AI thud.” Shifting corporate mentalities, Hartley holds, will move companies away from blinding following the AI herd and towards deliberate, value-unlocking steps that can replace or improve upon previously ingrained processes.
It makes sense. Simple standardization can ensure that a business knows what its relationship to AI is, and can prevent mere hype from taking over.
But AI Can Lead the Charge Towards Predictive Cybersecurity, Too
Artificial intelligence giveth and artificial intelligence taketh away: Just as AI opens up greater security risks like data exposure or data privacy violations, it can also help shore up cybersecurity. Raymond Tembo, at digital transformation agency Comrax, argues that AI will help with predictive security concerns — not just the defensive tactics we’re more familar with.
“In 2024, we’ll witness a paradigm shift in how AI interfaces with cybersecurity. Traditional approaches focus on defense, but the surprising trend will be a proactive use of AI as a predictive ally. Cybersecurity will evolve from a reactive stance to anticipatory, leveraging AI’s ability to foresee potential threats and vulnerabilities. This counterintuitive shift will redefine our digital defense strategies, emphasizing prevention over recovery.” – Tembo
We’ll move towards predictive measures because cyber threats are getting so sophisticated so quickly, Tembo says. Finding and closing vulnerabilities before they’re exploited is the only way to stay a step ahead of bad actors.
Granted, AI can also help with defensive security responses, as Leonid Belkind, Co-founder and CTO at Torq, is quick to note.
“Security teams will lean even more on automation for rapid security triage, [which will] enable them to significantly close the gap in time between cybersecurity incidents and successful incident responses.” – Belkind
Granted, there’s a lot of work to do under the banner of integrating AI with cybersecurity: We can expect to see plenty of custom AI integrations, digging for diverse data streams, and large upfront investments before AI security can pay off. 2024 might be a long year.
Phishing Attacks Are Back With a Vengence
You may be asking yourself if phishing attacks ever really went away. According to GetApp’s 5th Annual Data Security Report, 2023 saw a surge in enterprise security, as companies finally fixed issues that had plagued them since the Covid-led retreat to remote work back in 2020. But that just means that hackers will be forced to pivot from technical vulnerabilities to human ones with a little extra social engineering. That means a lot more phishing attacks.
As Zach Capers, Manager of ResearchLab and Senior Security Analyst at GetApp, puts it, “cybercriminals will increase reliance on social engineering schemes that exploit employees rather than machines.”
“Moving into 2024, GetApp research finds the number one concern of IT security managers is advanced phishing attacks. And we’re not only talking about email phishing. SEO poisoning attacks are a rising phishing threat designed to lure victims to malicious lookalike websites by exploiting search engine algorithms.” – Capers
If you’re looking for a new software or online cloud service on the internet, Capers explains, you might fall for a bogus site and deliver your credentials to a cybercriminal. Employee training will be more important than ever as a first line of defense, although we’d also recommend doubling up with a great business VPN or password managing tool.
Data Analytics Training Becomes Key to AI Adaption
Don’t stop at phishing training for your workers, either. Megan Dixon, VP of Data Science at Assurance IQ, predicts that data and analytics training will become a core need for tech company employees in 2024. Once again, we have the rise of AI to thank.
“AI has significant potential to transform the roles of many knowledge workers, but there’s one problem: too few employees understand data and analytics to be able to use it effectively. Generative models are literally designed to generate data. More than ever, we need people to interpret the output and layer in the business context or adjustments of the raw outbound to ensure it’s appropriate.” – Dixon
A few points to harp on: How AI tools function, what types of information the tools can access, and what limits to expect from the technology. After all, you don’t want a lawyer asking ChatGPT to prepare legal briefs — something which happens more often than you might think.
Dixon cites one study that found 85% of employees think they need training to address how AI will impact them, while less than 15% actually receive that training.
“Companies need to be proactive here to not only quell anxiety, but to ensure they are best positioned to take advantage of the benefits of AI. Taking away some of the mystery and confusion through employee education is the first step.” – Dixon
Margaret Liliani, Vice President of Talent Solutions at UpWork, makes a similar claim about the near-future needs of workers in the wake of widespread AI adaption.
“While AI won’t replace your job, those who master it might. To remain successful and stay ahead in this increasingly automated world means upskilling and staying adaptive, or you risk falling behind. The AI revolution will herald an era of independent talent, where expertise and adaptability are the keys to success, and automation is used to propel workers to new heights.” – Liliani
We’re All Less Easily Impressed by AI Tools
The shock and awe of AI will wear off in 2024 in a major pendulum swing that tends to happen in the second year of many buzzy tech advancements, from NFTs to VR.
The evidence of this prediction for the future of tech lies with the “co-opting” of AI that we’ve already seen in 2023, Chief Product Officer at Crunchbase Megh Gautam explains. AI is a hot trend, so companies have repositioned their existing capabilities as AI, even when they’re not. The result is a muddling understanding of what the tech does, with a resulting focus on the “checkbox exercise” instead of an impact-driving change.
“In 2024, expect a clearer distinction between authentic AI applications and tech superficially marketed as AI. The real measure of AI’s success will lie in its ability to address customer challenges and tackle core business issues. Platforms and applications that excel in these areas will win the market while solving business problems in ways that were previously impossible.” – Gautam
Technology rationalization will increase, too, says Max Shier, CISO at Cybersecurity company Optiv. Economic concerns have reduced security budgets going into the new year, Shier says, pushing companies to reaccess and focus on core needs. Just what is “technology rationalization”? Here’s Shier’s definition:
“Technology rationalization entails reviewing what vendors and tools you currently use and then evaluating whether you are leveraging all capabilities of the tools you currently have, eliminating tools that you no longer need, and finding ways to integrate and optimize tools. Technology rationalization provides a way to strengthen your security posture without added budget.” – Shier
In other words, AI and cybersecurity in general will both see a renewed focus on getting results, with a lower tolerance granted to ostentatious or showy new tools.
Zero Trust Will be Further Solidified Across All Verticals
The “Zero Trust” approach refers to a security protocol that isn’t taking any chances. It removes any implicit trust of a digital interaction, and instead demands constant validation for bolstered security. It can be a pain, but it reduces the chances of technical hacks or social engineering. And in 2024, Max Shier argues, it’ll be bigger than ever.
“Organizations and vendors have had ample time to develop and implement architectures and products to meet Zero Trust principles now that they understand it just isn’t an industry buzz word – it’s a valid concept that works. Remote work will continue to be prevalent, and Zero Trust is instrumental in ensuring those remote workers are accessing services and resources in a secure manner. Zero Trust implementation is continuing to pick up across all verticals in 2024.” – Shier
We’ve long argued that remote work is here to stay, with companies that offer it even reporting higher revenues. That’s good news, but it makes Zero Trust principles even more important. Businesses will need to track all their devices, networks, data, and user profiles in order to stay secure.
The Experience Economy Takes Off
The experience economy first emerged as a term when applied to upwardly-mobile Gen Xers in the late 90s, but it has continued to grow and grow ever since, embraced by Millenials and, now, Gen Z. The term refers to an emphasis on selling memorable experiences, rather than simple products, and the CEO of one San Diego tech startup predicts that it’ll be bigger than ever in 2024.
Nick O’Brien is CEO of TeachMe.To, which connects local expert sports instructors with beginners looking to learn a new sport (options include pickleball, tennis, golf, and more). Technology, according to O’Brien, should be making our real lives better, not just keeping us online.
“As we all use more technology, we’re also starting to value real-life activities even more. We do a LOT online — and so we’re increasingly looking for ways to have fun and learn things away from screens. Technology, paradoxically, is helping with this. Now, there are apps and websites that make it easy for us to find events and classes near us.” – O’Brien
There’s no denying that escapism is popular these days, and more people than ever are hoping to ditch failing social media platforms, avoid 2024’s Parable of the Sower-style news of social and political turmoil, and breath the fresh air outdoors. We all need to touch grass — as you might say if you were the sort of person who spends too much time online.