The standout technology of 2023 – our writers speak

AI, quantum computing, data center issues and bizarrre Red Hat behavior. Which would you regard as the most important tech story in 2023?
24 December 2023

2023 has been a big year for technology. What will 2024 hold?

• Technology in 2023 has been revolutionary.
• Among the technology that has changed the world in 2023, AI (LLMs) have been a significant standout.
• The drive towards aplying generative AI in every industry has meant a great focus on data center questions.

As the 2023 calendar draws to its end, it’s time for our annual write-up of the technology events and trends on which we’ve focused this year.

Each of the writers in the Hybrid News stable has their particular specialisms and interests, so our round-up of the big trends in tech in 2023 is best served by giving each a voice here on the pages of Tech HQ.

Content moderation in 2023

Tony Fyler writes:

You never know what you’ve got, or what you’ve had, until either it’s gone or it’s under threat.

That’s content moderation in 2023.

The rules of decent society, carried over onto social media networks, have always presumed there would be agreed rules of engagement, and enough humans to adequately police that engagement.

But with the coming of Elon Musk to then-Twitter, just as with the coming of Donald Trump to the White House, those rules began to fray. Musk fired a vast majority of his content moderation team on arriving at Twitter, both in an attempt to cut costs at the legendarily unprofitable platform and as part of a campaign to extend “free” speech into areas that seek to de-legitimize the ideas of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Meta followed suit in terms of cutting staff from its content management and fact-checking teams across 2023, raising serious fears for the impartiality of social media reporting of key events like the 2024 Presidential election.

As the fundamental role of social media shifts from pure entertainment to including more journalistic functions, the role of content moderation will become ever more important – without it, active disinformation, or the equivalence of facts and lies, replaces an informed democracy.

Technology in 2023 continues to throw up challenges.

X continues to challenge content moderation assumptions.

Quantum computing technology goes mainstream in 2023

Aaron Raj writes:

Quantum computing is still a relatively expensive piece of technology for most organizations. While the industry is still being developed, investments have been pouring in for quantum computing research, with more organizations now experimenting with potential use cases.

IBM, in particular, has been at the forefront of quantum computing research and development in 2023. The IBM Quantum Network has seen tremendous progress among its members. The Cleveland Clinic and IBM unveiled the first deployment of an onsite private sector quantum computer in the US, which will be dedicated to healthcare research.

IBM also unveiled the Quantum Heron, the first in a new series of utility-scale quantum processors. The 133 qubit processor offers five times improvement over the previous best records set by IBM Eagle.

Apart from IBM, several other quantum computing companies have also recorded milestones in 2023. Among them is IonQ, a quantum computing company offering a fully managed quantum computing service with AWS. There is also Horizon Quantum Computing, a Singaporean-based company building software development tools to unlock the potential of quantum computing hardware. The company raised a significant investment earlier this year and has established an engineering center in Europe.

Perhaps the biggest take away from quantum computing in 2023 will be the implementation of post-quantum cryptography to unify and drive efforts to address the threats posed by quantum computing. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will publish in 2024 the guidelines required to ensure a fluid migration to the new post-quantum cryptographic standard.

Large language models loom large in 2023

James Tyrrell writes:

Many people would pick AI as the technlogy of 2023, but those in the know would dig a bit deeper and recognize large language models (LLMs) as the real heroes of the story. Throughout the, the impact of LLMs has been remarkable.

Enterprise software providers have integrated natural language search into their products so that users can query business data as if they were talking to a knowledgeable colleague. And we have LLMs to thank for that breakthrough. Whether LLMs can push the cost of intelligence (close) to zero, as OpenAI’s Sam Altman has forecast, remains to be seen. But billion parameter models capable of next-word prediction are certainly clever (and know how to stack a book, nine eggs, a laptop, a bottle, and a nail on top of each other, should you ever be faced with a complex and life-questioning stacking dilemma).

One of the most beautiful things about LLMs is that they can be trained on unlabelled data. You just have to mask a word in a sentence and have the algorithm find the most likely candidate – tuning the model weights as you go.

Such unsupervised learning has allowed LLMs to vacuum up virtually all of the text on the internet in every published language. We now have multilingual business avatars which are only too happy to meet and greet customers 24/7 and virtual agents that can handle common contact center voice calls with ease. What’s more, compression techniques such as dynamic sparsity allow models to run at the edge and put LLMs in your pocket.

Smartphone chips and augmented reality processors are being designed with neural engines to help us query the world as we go about our daily lives. That’s great news for remote maintenance, and LLMs have an abundance of productivity plus points – many more of which are sure to play out in 2024. The statistical magic that LLMs bring to the table shines bright – at least in most directions. Having LLMs fill in the gaps in human thought could turn out to be a double-edged sword, though. And the jury is out on whether AI is good or bad news for jobs – technology writers included!

The technology of 2023 could eventually put commentators out of business.

Will write wurdz for cash… the future of content creation?

2023: the year in data centers

Fiona Jackson writes:

Love it or hate it, AI (or LLMs – thanks, James) was the hot topic of the last year – as confirmed by the Collins Dictionary. The visibility that ChatGPT brought the technology resulted in consumers demanding that products and services should match its level of intelligence. Naturally, this demand has been passed on to product and service providers – and then to the data centers that support them. It’s no longer just research departments and specialized industries that need to have AI workloads hosted, and data center operators have been scrambling to keep up.

Across the world, racks are being densified, new direct-to-chip cooling solutions are being built, and energy-efficient strategies are being implemented to handle the increased computational requirements. TechHQ visited Iceland in October to check out whether their claims of sustainable data solutions were true, and even with the naturally cold temperatures making direct air cooling a viable option, it turns out many are investigating more efficient liquid cooling alternatives to future-proof themselves against further demand. In five years’ time, 2023 will be looked back on as a turning point in data solution visibility.

From the public’s perspective, they will go from faraway, almost mythological facilities that enable ‘the cloud’ to familiar infrastructure, built into skyscrapers, supermarkets, or architecturally impressive buildings that draw the eye. But their new presence in society will not just be physical: as discussions about AI, data handling, and technological infrastructure will permeate everyday conversations, concerns regarding sustainability, ethics, and the societal impact of these advancements will become public discourse, fostering a deeper understanding of the pivotal role these data solutions play.

The year of ubiquitous AI

Muhammad Zulhusni writes:

In 2023, AI firmly established itself as a staple in our daily lives, initiating an era where it’s no longer a futuristic concept but a tangible, integral reality. This year marked a shift from AI being a source of curiosity and entertainment to becoming a critical tool across various domains.

The emergence of “prompt whisperers” exemplified the evolving interaction with AI, guiding users in creating effective prompts and blending AI services for enhanced outputs. AI’s influence was profoundly felt in the workplace, making headlines for winning photography competitions and excelling in academic exams. ChatGPT’s user base reached 100 million by February, a testament to its widespread acceptance.

Other significant developments included the launch of Google’s chatbot Bard, Microsoft incorporating AI into Bing, and Snapchat’s introduction of MyAI. GPT-4’s release in March further advanced AI capabilities, particularly in document analysis.

Major corporations like Coca-Cola and Levi’s leveraged AI for advertising and creating virtual models. The year also saw culturally impactful moments, such as the viral image of the Pope in a Balenciaga jacket and calls for a pause in AI development. Amazon integrated AI into its offerings, while Japan made notable rulings on AI training and copyright. In the US, screenwriters went on strike over AI-generated scripts and actors, highlighting the growing influence and controversy surrounding AI.

AI’s rapid advancement in 2023 has significant implications for the future, particularly in reshaping job markets, education, and policy-making. It’s driving crucial conversations around ethics, privacy, and data security, prompting new regulations and standards. The democratization of AI tools is sparking innovation across industries, fostering an environment of rapid technological progress.

Five years from now, 2023 will be seen as the beginning of the AI revolution, setting the stage for AI to be an integral, ethically integrated part of our lives, revolutionizing our interactions with technology and society.

2023, a year of fading Red Hat

In 2023, technology giant Red Hat lost its mind. Or its soul.

In 2023, technology giant Red Hat lost its mind. Or its soul.

Joe Green writes:

2023 saw Red Hat’s crown slip out from under the brim of the company’s fedora. For years the poster child of how an open source company could make real money, Red Hat suddenly decided to annoy and negatively impact the community of developers, admins, and IT professionals who – let’s be honest – make sure a sizeable chunk of the world’s computers keep doing their thing.

Early in the year, the byte-for-byte copy of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CentOS, was canned with little notice, and more recently, the company decided the (previously open source) source code for RHEL was to be placed behind what amounted to a paywall.

Many commentators placed the blame on the perceived ‘bad guy,’ namely IBM, who’s owned the Linux outfit since 2019. But regardless of where the decisions came from, the imperative behind the moves was commercial – a short-term maximizing of profits at the expense of long-term continuity, goodwill, and the collectivist ethos on which Red Hat and the internet were built.

There are significant parallels in the myopic mindset between Red Hat’s courses of action and those of all human activity with regard to the accelerating climate disaster we are living in. Despite the cost of failure being higher in 30 years by a huge factor, both we and Red Hat/IBM choose short-termism, indolence, and profiteering over positive and collective action to assure a future.

The year 2023 in technology roundup illustration

“2023 Happy New Year Taiwan Kaohsiung 高流幸福式元旦煙火” by 黃昱峰 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Did 2023 kick off the era of quantum utility?