AI is everywhere, and the era of social media is over

Our tech experts take a look at what’s coming in tech for 2024.

By Shelly BrisbinJanuary 1, 2024 9:15 am,

Artificial intelligence, Twitter chaos and criticism for big tech companies all led the headlines in 2023. And according to those who follow tech, those issues, plus new technology called “spatial computing,” are likely to continue to be top of mind in the coming year.

Tech expert Omar Gallaga, and Texas Standard poducer/reporter Shelly Brisbin, agree that AI will continue to capture people’s attention and drive business decisions. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: “AI.” I guess that’s the term for 2023, especially thinking about the impact of tools like ChatGPT – from term papers to love letters, I guess they could pretty much handle it all, even doing some programing. Omar, how do you see AI evolving in 2024? What will folks be doing with it? 

Omar Gallaga: Well, if you write me a love letter with ChatGPT, I will be able to tell. 

You’ll recognize that, is that what you’re saying?  

Gallaga: I could tell. 

I just I think everyone in the tech industry and a lot of people outside of it are just obsessed with AI. I mean, that’s all we seem to be talking about these days. And I think that will certainly continue in 2024.

I predict we’re going to see people finding more uses for AI that goes beyond chatbot prompts and generating fake images. I think we’re going to see lots of areas of creativity – around video editing, around creating AI-generated music. I mean, we have a new Beatles song because of AI.

So I think people are going to find ways to clean up music, generate new music, and also areas like health care and robotics. I’ve been doing interviews with people in those industries lately for some stories and hearing lots of exciting things about how they think AI is going to change things and transform those industries.

So I think there’s going to be backlash from people who still think it’s moving too quickly and are afraid and feel that we’re just not ready for those implications of what AI can do. But that’s ongoing. I don’t think that’s going to change.  

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I feel like we’re asking the wrong questions when we’re talking about AI, because we’re sort of using an old model of moving from the analog world into the digital world. We’ve seen how media companies treat user data and that sort of thing, and how much access one company gives another company’s products on its platforms.

But something tells me that the rub, when it comes to AI, is way beyond that. It’s just that a lot of us just don’t know how to ask the relevant question. Shelly, do you know what I’m talking about?  

Shelly Brisbin: Well, I do, because I think the focus is so much on things like ChatGPT and generative AI, which is how consumers interact with it.

But I know my mailbox, and probably Omar’s, is full of emails from companies that are talking about how they’re going to leverage AI in whatever industry it is, whether it’s health care or construction or housing. And I think that is not even contemplated in terms of whether the government regulates it or whether we as individuals think about how it might be part of our lives.

And I think the companies have incredible financial incentives to maximize the way they use AI. And I don’t really think we’ve contemplated that from a regulatory point of view. I mean, as a consumer, we might interact with AI in health care settings or transportation settings or any number of places that we don’t expect it, and frankly, that we feel a little unable to control it or grok how it might impact us. 

Michael Minasi / KUT

A Cruise self-driving car travels to a passenger pickup on Aug. 10, 2023, in Austin.

Let’s shift gears, or we can let the robots do it for us. Self-driving cars seemed to come to a screeching halt late in 2023. What’s the back story there?  

Gallaga: We had a company called Cruise that have suspended operations. They were doing some self-driving in Austin and had planned to spread through other cities in Texas, and they had to kind of stop what they were doing because they just weren’t performing up to what they needed to. 

But they’re still happening. You know, we’re still seeing self-driving cars in other places. I just took my very first Uber ride in a Waymo in Phoenix recently, and I was impressed with the experience. I actually felt very safe in the car compared to how I would feel with a human driver. I think human drivers are terrible.

I am of the mind that that these cars will in general be safer than cars driven by humans. But whenever I talk about it or whenever I post anything about it, people I know recoil at the idea of giving up control of their vehicles. So yeah, I think that’s going to continue to be the ongoing debate: Do we trust – and AI is part of this – do we trust these self-driving cars more than we trust humans on the road? I don’t trust anybody on the road. I don’t trust myself on the road. 

I definitely hear you. Shelly, I know that you follow the Apple ecosystem quite a bit. What do you think of this $3,500 headset they plan to start selling this year?

Brisbin: The product Apple is coming out with is the Vision Pro, which is this augmented reality/virtual reality headset. Basically it’s supposed to put a computer on your head.

So whereas existing headsets let you play games and do all sorts of cool virtual reality things, this is really as, if not a replacement for your computer, a way for you to interact with a computer environment in an almost physical way with hand gestures, eye gaze, that allows you to move things just by looking at them. And the people who have seen it say it’s amazing.

But the cost of it and just the sheer inexplicability of the technology to people who haven’t seen it – this thing called spatial computing, which is a combination of AR and VR – I think is going to mean that’ll take a long while before it’s adopted or something that all of us are using. But if you have an iPhone 15 Pro today, you can take spatial computing images that will eventually be playable on the Vision Pro, and so you can essentially get a 3D effect. And so that’s Apple’s way of seeding that technology to people who may not be able to buy that headset.

And so I don’t think in 2024 everybody will be running around with these headsets. But I think in a couple of years on and beyond, spatial computing will be something that we have to talk about as another computing platform, whether we as individuals like the idea initially or whether we have some skepticism about it, it’s coming. 

Steve Zhang, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The upcoming Apple Vision Pro headset.

Texas Standard: I don’t know if you guys have heard, but, you know, the age of social media is over. At least so a lot of people were saying so, with the demise of Twitter or at least the transformation of Twitter into X, and there’s a lot of social media companies now in the middle of change. Does this idea that social media is now behind us ring true to either of you or is there something out there that will replace some of the social platforms that are transitioning right now? Omar, what do you think?  

Gallaga: Yeah, I think the era of social media as we knew it, where everybody was flocking to Twitter and Instagram and Facebook every day and spending hours, I think that part’s over. I think where people’s eyeballs are going are places like TikTok and social video, of course AI we’ve been talking about.

But I do think what’s going to happen in 2024 is either a major player is going to step in and take over one of these social networks the way Elon Musk took over Twitter. I think that will probably happen or there’ll be some consolidation and I think people are just going to keep moving away from it. I just don’t see these networks being as active.

I don’t see people using them as much. They’re losing some of their relevance and authority. So that whole spread to other networks like Threads and Mastodon, I don’t ever see any of those getting as big as what we saw in the past. 

What do you think, Shelly? 

Brisbin: Yeah, Twitter really functioned as a town square, especially for people in the news business or who followed the news, but for a lot of other communities as well. And I think without that town square, people have found other ways to amuse themselves and inform themselves.

So whatever these companies do, I feel like people have found that they can get by without this daily or hourly dose of social media hits, whether it comes from Twitter or Facebook or Mastodon, whatever your choices.

I think relationships with social media are really changing and also just what is possible to get out of it, because Twitter doesn’t function as either that town square or that daily newspaper or the hourly newspaper that it once did. So if that’s what you want from social media, it’s hard to find a place that really feels like what Twitter used to feel like. 

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