AI, sustainability, banking and beyond: Designit experts share predictions for 2024

What’s in store for 2024? Designit experts are sharing the major moments and milestones that will define AI, sustainability, banking, and more in the coming year.

Miguel Sabel
Dr. Pardis Shafafi
Pablo Alaejos Perez

Miguel Sabel, Global Director of Strategy and Sustainability at Designit, predicts six major trends in the world of AI as we head into 2024.

1. The AI arms race will turn into guerrilla warfare

The intense competitive and even geo-political AI power struggle we witnessed throughout 2023 is set to persist into 2024. Through internal information leaks, we have gained insight into how industry-leading companies acknowledge the challenges of maintaining a sustainable competitive advantage solely through their AI models. This difficulty arises not just from the threat posed by rival corporations, but also due to the proliferation of open-source models.

In the realm of product and user experience, OpenAI has already pioneered the path for crowdsourced innovation with the rise of user-customised GPTs. A marketplace for these innovations is currently under construction, with the belief that the best GPTs will be crowdsourced by the community.

Crowdsourced innovation can be a way to achieve more diverse, contextualised, and problem-specific products. These innovators will enter a highly competitive space that counts investments by the billions, but why not be optimistic? After all, how many people knew about OpenAI at the end of 2022 when ChatGPT was released?

2. Regulation

In 2023, we witnessed a significant surge in government initiatives concerning AI: The US White House Executive Order, the UK AI Safety Summit, and the implementation of the EU’s AI Directive. The year also marked a notable increase in international cooperation, exemplified by the outcomes of the G7 Hiroshima AI Process, which resulted in 11 International Guiding Principles to govern AI.

However, these efforts have not been without criticism. Critics would argue that they are primarily driven by geopolitical power fights, heavily influenced by interested doomsayers, and perhaps insufficiently addressing the current harms to ordinary citizens.

Looking ahead to 2024, let’s take a different approach – viewing these constraints not as impediments, but as catalysts for creativity. This mirrors the impact of sustainability regulations, which, despite presenting challenges, have also served as incentives. If AI follows the same path as sustainability, 2024 will see a huge uplift in the development of new businesses and enriched experiences, and will likely see the groundwork for future competitive advantages being put into place.

3. Accelerated maturation

As the ‘magic dust’ begins to settle during 2024, generative AI, or GenAI, will be expected to reach the lofty expectations that have been laid upon it.

Researchers and the industry will need to address its fundamental limitations – fundamental because some are hygiene factors, and also because some seem to be inherent to GenAI’s current form. Issues such as copyright infringement, biases, hallucinations, and lack of traceability are prime examples.

Moreover, GenAI will be expected to start delivering on promises of billions of dollars in efficiency gains and the liberation of thousands of human hours for higher-value activities. That’s not a small feat to achieve.

I would like to see progress on these fronts in 2024, and I also advocate for the development of a critical perspective that collectively helps us set future expectations – one that shifts us from the ‘move fast and break things’ paradigm to a new ethos of ‘move fast and do better’.

4. Disappearing computing / Headless interaction

For years, technology has promised ubiquitous, transparent artificial intelligence dedicated to human augmentation. This concept, once confined to the realm of science fiction, has begun to materialise in the form of voice assistants, which have found a place in many homes with varying degrees of success. Upcoming products like Humane’s Ai Pin continue to fuel these expectations.

While technology is likely on the verge of making this possible, we have yet to witness a product based on headless interaction that truly meets these expectations. 2024 could be the year in which we do see significant progress, though – both in terms of user experience and, more fundamentally, in the creation of trust.

Firstly, we can observe how GenAI is defining new experience models. Its novelty requires new interaction paradigms – consider recent developments like co-pilot technology, spatial computing, or ephemeral apps, which were virtually unheard of not long ago. These advancements will bring us closer.

Perhaps even more crucially, Gen AI is amplifying existing concerns about responsible technology. This is not only a public concern but also a significant issue within the very companies that design and build these products. If we are to integrate an invisible agent into our lives, it is imperative that we trust it.

5. Adoption tensions as opportunities for innovation

We find ourselves amidst a significant hype cycle, but our exact position within the curve remains uncertain. Each new release stirs excitement, yet there’s growing concern about a potential bubble burst, especially when experts identify a specific decline in the quality of responses of AI tools like ChatGPT due to model changes.

In this fast-paced and uncertain environment, AI adoption is not uniform. It’s limited to a select group, primarily due to disparities in access to necessary tools, hardware, and a comprehensive understanding of its capabilities.

This tensioned adoption scenario is likely to persist, even as AI-enabled products and services become more integrated and commonplace. The relentless pace at which corporate products are released only reinforces this.

But there’s hope. Outsiders can bring change in 2024 by leapfrogging innovation, especially in areas or among groups that haven’t been part of this tech wave yet. We’ve seen before how this is the way to create new products, services, and experiences that quickly become the norm for everyone. That would be true disruption.

6. Expectations about the models

The GenAI explosion is being driven by surprising and unexpected models. If anything – prediction is futile, as trying to anticipate the next trick of these GenAI models is impossible. But there are some things we can expect.

Only recently, they have become more connected and able to handle near real-time data, and we expect this to extend in 2024. Data pollution or even malicious data injection might become a problem that will become increasingly hard to counter. The opportunities for innovation will expand too.

These safety issues are exacerbated by the fact that today, GenAI models are de facto black boxes which probably are impossible to decipher. We have hopes about this being challenged through the development of Explainable AI or XAI. The goal of XAI is to make the decision-making processes of AI and machine learning models more comprehensible, thereby enabling users to understand, trust, and effectively manage these technologies. How can this be mitigated with current AI technologies? Is it even possible?

Dr. Pardis Shafafi, Anthropologist and Global Responsible Business Lead at Designit, shares her top three predictions for 2024, from sustainability to social media and AI.

1. The beginning of the end for greenwashing

2024 will see consumers continue to vote with their wallets when it comes to ethical practices. But contrary to the sustainability consumer trends of a decade ago, these will be harder to mitigate with superficial marketing efforts. Why? Because the critics are not just the customers anymore, but the ones who are designing, making, marketing, and selling the products as well.

This could make the beginning of the end for greenwashing practices. 2024’s cohorts of designers, creators, and makers are going to have been trained in critical approaches to their disciplines, including Do No Harm, de-colonial approaches, and sustainable design. They will have a more human, environmental, and ethical approach to the world, meaning the products and services that are being released have responsibility at their core.

This could mark the end to the greenwashing chapter and finally encourage meaningful steps towards sustainability.

2. The year of reckoning for social media giants?

In Jennifer Egan’s ‘The Candy House’ (2022), the author compares the allure of handing out our personal data in exchange for the dopamine hit of accessing everyone else’s to the fate of Hansel and Gretel. The story, in many ways, echoes the relationship that we have with social media.

2024 will be a year of reckoning for our decades-long unfettered exchange of information with social media giants. As in Egan’s novel, we will see a rise in new ways of thinking about our data and interactions with social media, and there will be an increase in those who choose to live a life away from its trappings completely.

Our collective and generational awakening to a sense of data sanctity will have huge consequences that will ripple across industries and will question the inevitability of our digitised lives.

3. AI discussions will be introspective rather than dystopian

While 2023 saw dystopian narratives of future applications of artificial intelligence running wild on our feeds, 2024 will be when the narrative around AI will shift to a more everyday level. We will move away from ‘robots taking over the world’ takes, and instead ask questions like, “Is deferring to AI for everyday tasks worth the harm it does to the environment?”

Instead of the apocalypse, we will be observing the existing ways that these technologies are embedded into our lives (and how they have both benefited and harmed us) all while examining them through a sustainability and philosophical lens.

Lifestyle banking, super apps, and AI – Pablo Alaejos, Design Director at Designit, shares five predictions for the banking sector in 2024.

As 2023 draws to a close, the banking sector has once again seen a year of disruption, innovations, and shifts. So, what will 2024 have in store?

1. The rise of lifestyle banking

Banks are in a strong position to start winning customer loyalty by empowering consumers to seamlessly live the life they want. Many are already doing so, with the likes of Revolut offering a plethora of lifestyle perks through its Ultra Plan, while the partnership between AMEX and British Airways and its Avios points scheme has been a staple of the industry for some time.

2024 will see this go further, however, with access being offered to consumers outside of the traditional big spender and frequent flyer groups. Banks are going to be investing heavily in in-app functionality to allow customers to ‘live their best lives’, whether that’s integrating direct access to your favourite brands and services, providing insights on how your spending contributes to your carbon footprint, or helping you build credit as a teenager.

Next year is when banks are going to make life easier.

2. See you on the super-app?

Elon Musk might actually be onto something…hear me out. Long has the Tesla CEO been an advocate for the super-app, with the rebranding of Twitter to X being part of his masterplan to bring everything under one banner and to create a super-app.

Super-apps, a staple in Asia, will provide customers with non-banking services as part of a one-stop-shop platform, making day-to-day life that much more convenient – a welcome tonic to the cluttered nature of many of our smartphone's home screens. And Banks are already launching their own super-apps with Avo, by Ned Banks, giving their customers easy access to a variety of day-to-day essentials, e.g., banking services, healthcare, and entertainment, all in one place.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw more mainstream banks in 2024 using their legacy status to form partnerships with major brands to sit on these super-apps, giving their customers a frictionless experience.

3. AI will allow the most personalised experiences yet for customers

A one-size-fits-all approach hasn’t worked for some time, but the financial sector is still lagging behind when it comes to truly personalised experiences and products. Artificial intelligence, if used correctly, could be about to change all that. By leveraging the power of AI, banks can more intelligently price products and services within their mobile apps, increasing customer loyalty and reducing churn.

In a time where customer attention is the most valuable commodity, the winners of 2024 will be those that can offer a seamless ’life on demand’ banking experience from the tap of a button.

4. The return to the metaverse could be on the cards

Physical branches may be on the decline, but next year has the potential to be the year in which banks start investing again in digital real estate and opening branches in the metaverse. Some already have – HSBC has bought land on The Sandbox, and JP Morgan Chase has had a branch in the metaverse since 2022.

For the most part, the technology has received a lot of hype but has yet to deliver on its promise. However, this time could be different. The hardware to access these worlds is improving with the early 2024 launch of Apple’s Vision Pro headset set to introduce some much-needed quality improvements to these AR/VR experiences, raising app expectations among consumers that banks will need to meet. There is also the fact that early adopters have a better understanding of the capabilities, and therefore the limitations, of these digital worlds, meaning that their reentry is going to be more strategic.

Getting these banking metaverse experiences right will allow customers to ask representatives who were once solely part of the physical branch experience for help and advice in a way that caters to those who are more responsive to these digital landscapes.

5. Value-driven products will entice new banking customers

Recent research by the US Bank has shown that younger generations are willing to accept lower returns on their investments if it aligns with their values and beliefs. So, we are going to see the continued growth of ESG investments, which are projected to reach $33.9tn by 2026.

For banks, this means enabling customers to invest in companies that match their morals, beliefs, and values as well as their passions. Expect to see a rise in unique portfolios such as LGBTQIA+ led companies or ones that are entirely carbon neutral, as banks look to attract young customers who want to put their money in companies they believe in.

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