Wiser! #107: Predictions, forecasts, guesses, call them what you will. They're just a bit of fun with a tinge of seriousness in the annual game of "who's got it right this year?" In other news, the US Army go AR, TikTok and Meta take a bashing, SBF pleads NG and ChatGPT dominates.
w/Wiser! #107 - Friday 6th January 2023
It's that time of year for predictions and I've written my top 10. I actually wrote eleven, but ChatGPT suggested ten is a better SEO headline.
In tech news, it's largely been dominated by AI and the impact of ChatGPT. This isn't going away and will dominate for most of 2023. Which I'm sure Musk is very happy about as attention shift to the disruptive impact of generative AI across many sectors.
The other big story that caught my eye is about the US army finally deploying Microsoft Hololens augmented reality headsets. I first wrote about the $21 billion deal in April 2021 when Wiser! was only 9 issues old. The neat thing for Microsoft is that they're being paid to develop the tech whereas Meta are spending shareholders money to do much the same.
As always, this week's issue is packed with as many links, stories and insights that I can cram into an email. I hope you enjoy. (And remember to support this free newsletter by checking out the ads. It costs you nothing and means alot to us.)
P.s. Remember: Insight and Information Gives You Leverage!
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Top 10 Tech Economy Predictions for 2023
The one thing that I can predict with 100% certainty is that I won't get them 100% right. But that's not the point, which is that this is the time of year for reflection. To stop for a moment to think about what's happening and consider what's to come.
That is the point of this newsletter, after all.
So, in the annual tradition of fortune tellers and social media influencers, here are my top 10 predictions for the tech economy in the year ahead.
- 2023 will be a pivotal year for AI and its role in the future of humanity
- NFTs will endure and mature as a means for consumer brands to build customer engagement
- The gap between Bitcoin and the rest of crypto will become a chasm
- Adoption of DeFi will continue to grow amongst the world’s unbanked
- TikTok won’t be banned in the US but the anti-China rhetoric will continue
- 2023 will see an accelerated move towards a "splinternet"
- Musk will exit Twitter empty handed
- In a post-Twitter world, Social Media will become fragmented and factionalised
- Meta will pivot from virtual to augmented reality
- Space is getting closer as investment increases and the missions go further
The 11th prediction is that "the US Supreme Court is about to change Social Media for ever."
To read more about each prediction and my thinking behind each one them, paying subscribers can access the premium article here (or click the button below).
Whats happening in BigTech
Microsoft’s Hololens augmented reality headsets go into action
I first wrote about this in issue #9 of Wiser! early in 2021. Finally, after a few delays, the US Army are to start using Microsoft HoloLens AR devices across its missions in 2023.
Ten thousand augmented reality headsets are expected to be deployed across the US military as part of the delayed Microsoft IVAS project. The headset is designed to give American soldiers visual superpowers like those found in computer games.
Through the headset, soldiers can see the positions of friends and enemies in their field of view and recognise outlines, access a virtual 3D map of the area of operations, and see through smoke. Other features including being able to launch a micro-drone and control it via the headset, and monitor their health via biometric trackers. The Hololens AR headset also has night vision capability (of course it does!).
Here’s The Thing: When it was announced, this was a $21 billion big deal for Microsoft. Not because of the price tag, the budget has been pegged back since then, but because Microsoft is being paid to develop technology and know-how that it will be able to use again in its consumer version of the headsets. This is a significant advantage compared to say, Meta, who are spending c$10 billion of its own profits every year developing similiar technologies.
In other BigTech news
- Apple's market cap fell below $2 trillion for first time since March 2021. This comes after concerns that demand for the iPhone is softening. Apple told suppliers to make fewer components for some of its products because of lower demand.
- Meanwhile, further speculation about Apple's mixed-reality headset from The Information says the much-anticipated wearable will feature a physical dial for switching to a view of the real-world, a waist-mounted battery pack, small motors to automatically adjust its lenses, and more.
- Meta has acquired European smart glasses developer Luxexcel to boost its augmented reality capability for an undisclosed sum.
- Tesla stock continues to tumble after they reported fewer new vehicle deliveries than expected. Tesla has lost 65% of its value from a year ago, meaning that Elon Musk is no longer the world’s richest.
What's happening in Social Media
Will TikTok be banned in the US?
The US House of Representatives has ordered all staff and lawmakers to delete TikTok from their gov-issued phones, citing “security issues. Separately, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr told the Indian daily Economic Times that a TikTok ban is a “natural next step in our efforts to secure communication networks.” The app had 200m+ users in India before it was banned in 2020.
Having said that, I still don't see a TikTok ban in the US happening (see my predictions above).
Meanwhile, TikTok-owner ByteDance has cut hundreds of jobs in China. And in a blogpost, TikTok says it is getting better are AI content moderation. They said that in the last 30 days the company has “prevented teen accounts from viewing over 1 million overtly sexually suggestive videos.”
Meta get wacked with another hefty EU fine
Earlier this week, Meta were fined over $400 million by EU regulators for forcing users to accept targeted ads. The fines mark the conclusion of two lengthy investigations into Meta by the EU. The Data Protection Commissioner said that Meta must bring its data processing operations into compliance within three months.
Meta are going to appeal and have come out fighting, saying there was a lack of clarity over the rules and this does not mean the end of personalised ads.
Here's The Thing: Before GDPR came into force in 2018, Facebook assumed a user had consented to receive personalised, aka targetted, ads. After GDPR, instead of asking every user to opt in, Facebook changed their terms to make personalised, aka targeted, ads a "contractual necessity."
This is what the Irish DPC, in behalf of the EU, has ruled is unlawful. Expect Meta to push back hard buit I don't fancy their chances. It's not about the money, (so far, Meta has received about $1.4 billion in fines by the EU), but the principle.
Meta has already taken a massive hit from Apple's privacy changes that get in the way of personalised, aka targetting, ads. This latest blow, coupled with the impending decision on how Meta stores EU data in the USA, could see Meta set up a completely seperate instance of the social network (see my predicition about the splinternet.)
In other Social Media news
- Over 200 million email address of Twitter users have been leaked. The hack is from 2021, it wasn'0t Elon's fault.
- Elon Musk has cut services to reduce Twitter to a bare-bones operation, and employees are under a “zero-based budgeting” mandate to justify any spending.
- Twitter hasn’t been paying its office bills in San Francisco. So far, it’s failed to pay $136,250 in rent.
- The Los Angeles Times has suggested that Twitter will invest in exclusive comedy content as a way to jump-start its subscription plan.
- Mastodon growth shows signs of slowing down.
What's happening in the Metaverse
- Beijing has plans to build a local “virtual people” industry worth over $7 billion by 2025. Virtual influencers have gained traction recently, and 45% of advertisers have considered sponsoring a virtual influencer’s performance. (What are virtual humans?)
- Over $2 billion of investment went across 216 metaverse funding deals in 2022, according to the Nasdaq.
- Fashion brand H&M have launched a Metaverse inspired digital collection as a means to connect with customers wherever they are in the world. See Brand Strategies for more brands like H&M.
- Magic Leap's CEO said consumer augmented reality is about five years away. Magic Leap is seeing commercial success with its enterprise augmented reality headset, but it will take years to get electronics shrunk down into a glasses-like form factor that consumers will want to use. (See my prediction about Meta pivoting to AR.)
- Alibaba’s Taobao is about to launch a Metaverse live-streaming shopping channel, building on previous online shopping initiatives in virtual reality.
What's happening in Web3
🎂 It was Bitcoin's birthday this week
Bitcoin turned fourteen years old on the 3rd January, and it's time the adolscent started thinking about standing on their own 21 million feet. Like any teenager talking to their career counsellor, they're asked "what do you want to be when you grow up?"
In Bitcoin's case, we're about 17 months away from the next halvening, the moment when it becomes doubly difficult to create new Bitcoin. The previous halvenings have been watershed moments, with supply being cut in half and demand skyrocketing.
As for the career choice, it looks like Bitcoin's destiny is already set, as a store of value. It's easier to move than gold and less costly to do so than fiat. But, IMHO, it also has a future in payments. It's just not been realised yet, but it will.
For now, happy birthday, Bitcoin. 🎂
The story that dominated crypto at the end of 2022 was the collapse and subsequent unravelling of FTX. It exposed how easy it is for chancers to hide behind a veneer of bullshit and bravado to baffle the best of brains.
TBH, I'm not really that interested in what happens to Bankman-Fried and his crew, but I include the updates because it is the biggest story at a time when I see the crypto space fragmenting into two distinct halves: Bitcoin and the rest. This story belongs in "the rest."
Anyhow, the latest is that the former CEO, Bankman-Fried (SBF) has pleaded not guilty to fraud and other financial crimes this week. He denied moving funds (customer's money) linked to the collapsed exchange's sister firm, Alameda Research. As the can of worms opens up, FTX creditors based outside the US asked to have their names withheld during bankruptcy proceedings, and the Bahamas Securities Commission confirmed that it is holding $3.5 billion worth of FTX's assets.
In other Web3 news
- Under its G20 presidency, India has said it will prioritise the development of a global framework for the regulation of crypto, stablecoins and DeFi.
- Pudgy Penguins NFTs break all-time highs over the holiday season. Don’t laugh, hear me out. This is a brand you should keep an eye on. The point is that this is a use-case for connecting physical goods with digital ownership via NFTs. This is the same model that global brands like Diesel, Nike, Starbucks and Porsche are testing out.
- Binance users can now purchase cryptocurrencies using both Apple Pay and Google Pay
- Standard Chartered forecast that the value of Bitcoin will decline to $5k.
Blockchain in Finance
Look beyond the headlines of failed crypto projects, scams, and fraudsters, and you'll see technologies that will endure. One of them is blockchain.
- In this video, the CEO of Mastercard, Michael Miebach, talks about blockchain and their plans to invest in the tech.
- Last October, JPMorgan partnered with banks and agencies in Singapore and Japan to conduct international money transfers on a blockchain. The experiment created blockchain equivalents of traditional assets like Japanese yen, Singaporean dollars, and bonds from both countries. This process is referred to as tokenisation, and since the experiment was successful, it could lay the foundation for a new way for traditional financial entities to migrate their processes to the blockchain. (Thanks to Dave McColl for writing this piece.)
What's happening in Technology
It's all about ChatGPT, blah, blah, blah
It's all about AI at the mo. The latest news is that Microsoft is preparing to add OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot to its Bing search engine in a bid to lure users from rival Google.
Here's The Thing: The AI tool will answer questions in words (that give you the answer you're looking for) not links (which you have to search yourself). Microsoft hopes this will give users smarter, more useful answers, to their queries, thereby drawing them away from Google. There should be no surprise about this story as Microsoft and OpenAI have history together. In 2019, Microsoft invested $1 billion in OpenAI, the developers of ChatGPT.
Meanwhile, according to the NYT, Google has taken the response to ChatGPT seriously. In December, they issued an internal “code red”, alerting that AI chatbots could replace search engines as people’s primary gateway to the internet.
- In other ChatGPT news, Elon Musk tweeted that OpenAI had access to Twitter’s database, presumably to train its models on the vast amount of text generated by the platform’s users.
- ChatGPT has been banned on Chinese social media WeChat. The conversational AI is banned on Chinese internet but had been popping up as mini-programs on the WeChat super app. Now it seems that this is no longer the case.
In other Technology news...
- Dutch startup Fectar has developed an app that helps Ukrainian children, among others, learn to recognise mines using virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) tech.
- Since early 2020, more than 35 companies have committed approx $200 billion toward American chip manufacturing projects across 16 states, as the US moves to repatriate computer chip production.
- This is interesting: In the US there's a startup called Praxis. They want to build a new city with it's own laws as though it was the 51st state in the USA. Their purpose is to "lead humanity into a supercharged and tech-fuelled future". They just published their master plan. Is this Madness? Or like Neom in the middle east, a vision for tomorrow's world?
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🎙 Big Tech Little Tech
My co-host Shaun never has much to do over Christmas. He's finished making presents for the world and Santa's little helpers don't start making again until the New Year. But never one to sit around with his feet up, Shaun has rebranded the podcast.
Using Santa's favourite colour, the Big Tech Little Tech podcast has a fresh new look. I love it...what do you think?
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Wiser! is a weekly newsletter that makes sense of what's happening and what's coming next in the tech economy. From disruptive technologies, like blockchain, crypto and artificial intelligence, to emerging trends, like Web3 and the Metaverse. Plus there's a big focus on BigTech and the impact of social media.
The purpose of Wiser! is simple, to help you stay interesting, informed and one step ahead of your competition. Using easy and engaging language, I make sense of it all so that you don't have too.
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