With many of us still wrapping our heads around the huge AI boom of the last year that triggered the regulation race, as well as the rebranding of Twitter to X, and the Google antitrust case, it looks like 2024 is set to be another big year in the tech landscape, with no signs of the pace of change slowing down any time soon. We take a look at the developments that could be in store in 2024 in each of these areas, and provide our pick of some of the best books to read this year on the big tech trends and their implications.
Electoral disinformation set to rise
In 2024, over two billion voters will head to the polls in countries including the United States, India, and the United Kingdom. While the 50 countries holding elections this year may have previously navigated the election cycle in the age of social media, it is the first time many of them will experience an election impacted by the rapid development of artificial intelligence. It’s now easier than ever to create believable yet deceitful content that can manipulate individuals, damage economies, and fracture societies, and the World Economic Forum has named the issue of misinformation and disinformation as the most severe global risk of the next two years in its Global Risks Report 2024.
Another round in the ring for Musk and Zuckerberg
2024 marks a year in which the two tech titans will continue to go head-to-head to achieve dominance. The pair have already agreed to take part in a real-life cage match in the name of charity, and the social media CEOs will also be battling throughout the year for market supremacy. Unfortunately for Zuckerberg, Meta’s competitor to X, Threads, struggled to retain active daily users following its launch, despite starting out as the most rapidly-downloaded app. To add to Meta’s woes, the release of Threads in the EU was postponed until December 2023 amid regulatory uncertainty about how the app will use personal data.
The road has also been rocky for Musk’s X, with the value of the app reported to have fallen by an eyewatering 71% since his takeover. Increasing levels of hate speech and disinformation on X have concerned regulators, with the European Commission announcing an investigation into the platform for allegedly breaking EU law on disinformation, illegal content, and transparency. With the past year proving turbulent for both Musk and Zuckerberg, it will be fascinating to see which CEO achieves dominance during the coming year.
Back to the metaverse
Attention looks set to return to the metaverse in 2024. Enamoured by possibilities presented by the virtual- and augmented-reality future, Zuckerberg went as far as renaming Facebook to Meta back in October 2021. Fast-forward to 2024, and the metaverse has all but disappeared from zeitgeist conversations due to lacklustre general interest and its lacking interoperability, but that could change this year. Apple’s $3,500 Vision Pro headset is expected to launch on 2 February in the United States, promising to “seamlessly blend digital content with your physical space”, and bringing the potential to reignite interest in the metaverse in 2024.
What to read in 2024
Truth is stranger than fiction, and the digital landscape makes for some fascinating non-fiction reading material this year. Here is our pick of the best books to help you understand the context and intricacies of the biggest tech topics of 2024.
Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson (2023)
In this biography of one of the world’s most fascinating and controversial figures, Walter Isaacson charts Elon Musk’s journey from humble beginnings to become one of the wealthiest people on the planet. Musk seemingly has a finger in every pie, with involvement in electric vehicles, private space exploration, artificial intelligence, and now social media, and Isaacson paints an important portrait that captures his flaws and brilliance in equal measure.
To provide material for the book, Isaacson had unprecedented access to Musk for two years, attending his meetings and walking his factories with him, as well as spending hours interviewing him and his family, friends, co-workers, and adversaries.
Isaacson reveals how Musk, who experienced a troubled upbringing, became the risk-taking entrepreneur that we recognise today. He also explores the impact of Musk’s political views on the way he operates the X platform.
The Coming Wave by Mustafa Suleyman (2023)
When historians look back at 2023, the rapid development and mass adoption of artificial intelligence will be a key topic for discussion. In this fascinating read, Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of Google’s DeepMind, details how the AI revolution is only just beginning – and none of us are prepared.
Suleyman argues how both AI and synthetic biology threaten our very existence, claiming that we only have a narrow window within which to contain them before it’s too late. During his analysis, Suleyman points out how large language models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT are only the beginning of the unfolding AI revolution, predicting that AI will discover miracle drugs, diagnose rare diseases, run warehouses, optimise traffic, and design sustainable cities in the not-too-distant future.
Surprisingly, Suleyman’s fears are not primarily focused on super-intelligent AIs – he is more concerned with less advanced smart AIs and their potential to cause upheaval, including cyber-attacks and misinformation that aggravates political instability. As we have already seen in the Turkish, Slovak, and Bangladeshi elections, in which AI-created deepfakes played a part in impacting election results, Suleyman’s fears are already starting to be realised.
Doppelganger by Naomi Klein
In our chronically online world that is wrapped up in cancel culture and societal polarisation, Naomi Klein offers a memoir and political analysis of her experience of being constantly mistaken for Naomi Wolf. An author who was once a celebrated figure of Third-Wave Feminism, Wolf has since become known for her right-wing political opinions, especially those related to the anti-vaccination movement and other conspiracy theories.
Referring to Naomi Wolf as Other Naomi, Klein details how she obsessively followed Wolf’s rise in what she calls the “Mirror World” of wild conspiracies and right-wing paranoia, listening to her feature on Steve Bannon’s podcasts and in other media appearances, to understand the appeal of the Mirror World to those who inhabit it.
Brilliant cultural references to doppelgangers are peppered throughout the book, including a discussion of Charlie Chaplin’s iconic film The Great Dictator, as well as references to the theories of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. By using these well-chosen allegories for her amusing relationship with Other Naomi, Klein makes an important point about the very nature of polarisation.
In an excerpt from the book, Klein writes, “In stories about doubles, twins, and impostors, it is often the case that the doppelganger acts as an unwelcome kind of mirror, showing the protagonist an unflattering version of themselves”. She goes on to explore how in our current media ecosystem, ideas of the left, the right and the centre are pitted against each other to the point that we all feel polarised from each other, and equally trapped.