3 Government and technology predictions for 2024

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The new year is almost upon us, and that means that it’s time for experts, technologists and columnists to try and predict some of the biggest upcoming trends for government and technology in 2024. What might make those predictions a bit more difficult this year is the fact that many technologies are moving ahead at warp speed. Changes that used to slowly shift into place over many years in some cases can now happen in weeks, or even almost overnight.

That said, I am fortunate enough to get to frequently talk with some of the leading experts in various evolving technology fields, as well as government officials who are setting long-term growth policies and strategies for both federal agencies and state and local governments. With a lot of those recent conversations in mind, I will do my best to predict some of the biggest trends for the coming year.

Prediction 1: Generative artificial intelligence will change the world in 2024

As impressive as 2023 was for the development of AI, and specifically generative AI, all of that will pale in comparison to what happens next. Unlike other emerging technologies like quantum computing that are taking years to develop, generative AI burst onto the scene and hit the ground running this year like almost no other technology ever has before.

And what a year AI has had in 2023. Not only did the general public get full and free access to some of the most powerful generative AI tools, but the technology was also used to accomplish things that were either seemingly impossible or which would have taken decades of research for humans alone to complete.

For example, Google’s DeepMind AI was recently tasked with solving an unsolvable math problem. Not only did the AI eventually solve the well-known but impossible mathematical task involving matrix multiplication, but it also produced a formula which will make future problem solving efforts possible — something human mathematicians were never able to do. The researchers working on the project know that the solution was not included in training data, so the AI must have somehow worked everything out on its own, thinking its way through that impossible problem.

AI was also able to help develop new antibiotics this year which may be able to better treat infections, a sure sign that more medical breakthroughs could be just around the corner. 

NOAA and NASA are working with AI to not only monitor potentially damaging solar storms, but to actually predict them before they happen. And robots driven by AI are even being thought of almost like real people in some cases, and getting more lifelike all the time. It seems like every week we learn of something new and incredible that has been accomplished using AI.

With all of that and more, it might seem like generative AI has a big climb to top the gains it made this year. But behind the scenes, generative AI faced a lot of headwinds in 2023, not the least of which was a serious shortage of the dedicated chips that generative AI needs to quickly process information. NVIDIA emerged as the frontrunner in this area with the introduction of its H100 chip, which has an astonishing 3.35 terabytes per second throughput capacity and 80GB of total memory. But there were not enough of them to go around. The chips were selling and being traded for over $25,000 a piece this year, with hundreds or thousands of them required to support most AI engines and projects. That locked a lot of smaller innovators out of the AI space and slowed the big players, as it could take them weeks or months to make changes to existing AI models without access to enough computing power.

To compensate, NVIDIA introduced the H200 dedicated AI chip, which is even more powerful than the original, and fully compatible so that H100s and H200s can exist side by side in the same data centers. And other companies are picking up the slack as well. Intel just announced a whole new line of chips dedicated for use with AI. Most experts believe that the AI chip shortage will evaporate by early next year.

That means smaller companies and even startups will be able to more easily work on AI projects, bringing fresh ideas and more innovation to bear in 2024. Already-established generative AI deployments will also gain traction as faster chips and more availability will drastically reduce the time needed to tune and improve those models.

All of that means that the genie for generative AI will not only be out of the bottle in 2024, but free of almost any technical constraints that might have previously limited its performance. As such, get ready for AI to potentially change the world, hopefully for the better, in the new year.

Prediction 2: Government and the military will further embrace and master 5G 

Perhaps not growing quite as quickly as AI, 5G wireless technology is nonetheless making serious inroads in government service. The military in particular is leading the charge into 5G, actively pursuing its 5G Strategy Implementation Plan for all of the services. 

In the past, many 5G networks were actually made up of software implementations running overtop of 4G networks. But that is changing fast. In 2024 we will see the rapid expansion of the US DOD Joint All Domain Command and Control program, which exists as a pure 5G network that combines applications and sensors from all military services in one unifying infrastructure.

The next step in 5G will happen for the military in 2024 with the deployment of Open Radio Access Networks. The use of O-RAN will allow the military to operate private and secure 5G networks that exist fully in the cloud.

The technology to allow for O-RAN as the next step in military 5G use already exists. There just needs to be more testing and verification regarding the security of the technology to ensure that the DOD can safely use it for any application. The Idaho National Laboratory’s Wireless Security Institute is working on that problem right now, and officials I talked with are confident that it will be ready for widespread use in 2024. That will not only allow the DOD to deploy secure 5G networks anywhere in the world, but also cement the military as the world’s leader in 5G innovation.

Prediction 3: Technology will make it harder than ever to secure the 2024 presidential election

I actually hope that I am wrong about my final prediction for 2024. There is a presidential election coming up next year, and it again looks to be an extremely contentious one. As such, being able to hold a secure and fair election is going to be more critical than ever — and likely quite a bit more difficult than ever before.

After the 2020 election, Nextgov/FCW talked with election security officials about their concerns. While everyone agreed that the core of the election — the voting machines, the counting process and the certification of winners — remained secure, problems started to become evident in peripheral areas with the rise in misinformation.

Most voting machines remain offline, with people required to head to designated areas or use physical media like the mail to cast their ballots. As such, I don’t think we will see any big attacks on voting machines or anything like that in 2024. But misinformation and manipulating people through social media and other platforms is going to be a huge problem. And if you want to know why, you only need to look at my first prediction.

In previous elections, those who wanted to propagate hoaxes or even do outright illegal things — like calling up voters and telling them some lie, such as sending them to the wrong polling place — had to do so by hand. And even then, 2020 was a bit of a mess when it came to misinformation. In 2024, those who want to try and manipulate or poison an election can task AI to help out — and the technology has proven surprisingly effective at those kinds of deceptive activities.

Not only can a generative AI easily churn out thousands of misinformation campaigns based on just enough true information to be believable, but it can also be tasked with posting that information on various sites and social media platforms. It can also be used to highly target the specific groups that someone wants to trick or manipulate. It requires a little bit of work on the front end, but then an attacker can simply sit back and let the AI continue their misinformation campaign right up until the election. 

Unfortunately, I predict that this is going to be a massive problem in 2024. We are going to literally be bombarded with misinformation at every turn leading up to the election. And buckle up now, because those efforts likely won’t wait until November. We will probably be barely into the new year before some of them get started. 

So there you have it, my top three predictions for technology and government in 2024. It’s been an amazing year writing this column for you all. I hope you got some great information from it, and were maybe even a little bit entertained by some of the more esoteric things I tried to cover. I’m certainly looking forward to more of that in 2024. Until then, I wish you all a happy holiday, and please have yourself a safe and fun New Year.

John Breeden II is an award-winning journalist and reviewer with over 20 years of experience covering technology. He is the CEO of the Tech Writers Bureau, a group that creates technological thought leadership content for organizations of all sizes. Twitter: @LabGuys