Welcome to the year of A-something

Wed Jan 31, 2024

And so we embark upon a shiny, fresh New Year!

Most years can be summed up thusly: similar to last year, but different from next year. But we are rarely propelled into the future by a sea change. The typical - and boring - emergence into the future is through all the tiny, iterative changes that add up over time. The answer to that classic riddle - What is always coming, but never arrives? - is “the future” (actually, the answer is “tomorrow”, but you get my drift).

Just a year ago, we were all worried about generative AI stealing our jobs. Now we are all walking around chatting with AI like it was our best friend and casually using it to do incredible things. Rather than being laid off by ChatGPT, we’re simply integrating it into our workflows as we would any new technology.

A toaster, after all, was only mind-blowing for a few weeks after we learned how much more convenient it was to make toast. Now it is another appliance. Another tool in our extensive Homo Sapiens toolkit.

Given how much more there is to explore with AI this year - Seamless text-to-video generation? Cool, cool. Robots that learn to do housework by observing humans? Heck, yeah - as the resident dishwasher, I want this so bad. And multimodal AI is set to take off, so perhaps 2024 will once again be the year of AI!

Wait, not so fast…

This month, Apple’s Vision Pro went on sale, and the plethora of reviews are already out. As always, I recommend The Verge and John Gruber’s takes, but take your pick. So then, 2024 will be the year of AR!

Except, it won’t be, for the same reason that the future hasn’t quite arrived yet. The Vision Pro is a first-gen product. It does not have a series of iterative changes under it’s belt. It’s essentially a prototype - expensive, heavy, with a short battery life.

Apple is going out of their way to position the Vision Pro as an AR device, when it is actually just a regular ‘ol VR headset. Look, VR headsets are nothing new. But this is, at least, an exceptionally great VR headset. The insane price reflects that, naturally.

In five to ten years, if Apple stays true to their playbook, they will have hammered the Vision Pro into a shiny jewel that every consumer on this planet will want to buy. Let’s have a longer discussion then. For now, let’s move on, like the monkeys with short attention spans that we are, to other A-somethings. Like Autonomy, Androids, and Algorithms.

So, 2024 is the year of A-something. We know that much at least. But I’m hoping there will be some nice surprises coming this year too. I’ll try my best to make the time to write about it. Sorry the post was so short this month, but I had a lot of deadlines for other people. A short post is better than no post, right?

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