Technology Predictions from the MBA'24J Cohort

Varun Sharma

As 2024 unfolds, we at INSEAD's MBA'24J cohort are not just witnessing a technological revolution but actively predicting its course. Armed with our studies, insights, and a zeal for innovation, we're excited to share our visions of a future where technology redefines the boundaries of possibility.

Embarking on the task of predicting the future is both an exciting and humbling experience. 

It requires a mix of insight, imagination, and a willingness to venture guesses about the unknown. As students, we're learning to balance our growing knowledge with the recognition of the unpredictable nature of our world.

In presenting our thoughts and predictions, we do so with a sense of curiosity and openness. We understand that these are not definitive answers but thoughtful explorations of what could be. They result from our discussions and the perspectives we've developed at INSEAD. 

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology and global trends, these predictions are stepping stones in our learning journey, offering a glimpse into the potential pathways the future might take.

Click on the links below to explore our predictions on the following topics: 

The Future of Digital Advertising in 2024

Written by Varun Sharma, MBA'24J

The world of digital advertising is ready for a paradigm shift, thanks to the deepening integration of AI. 

Google and Facebook, two of the titans in this arena, have already set the stage with the launch of Google's Performance Max and Facebook's Advantage+. These platforms are expected to refine and expand their AI-driven advertising offerings, leveraging machine learning algorithms to optimise ad targeting and campaign performance.

Despite its dominance in search ad spend, Google has yet to witness a significant increase in market share in recent years. However, this is likely to change in 2024. The company is expected to capitalise on evolving conversational, visual, and voice search trends. These technologies, driven by AI, alter how users interact with search engines and reshape ad delivery and effectiveness. 

This evolution will likely lead to increased fragmentation in search advertising.

Meta might face challenges as these new advertising models and shifting user privacy concerns impact its revenue streams. The increased emphasis on user privacy, particularly with Apple's proactive stance in the advertising market, could see a redistribution of ad spending away from Meta. 

Apple's entry into this space and its strong commitment to user privacy are expected to bring fresh dynamics to the advertising ecosystem and attract advertisers. I see a potential risk unless Facebook moves from its metaverse dream to AI.

Overall, 2024 is likely to be a year of significant change for digital advertising, marked by the increasing influence of AI and shifting market dynamics. Advertisers and platforms must adapt to these changes to stay competitive and relevant in this rapidly evolving landscape.


GenAI Grows Up

Written by Riley Crane, MBA'24J

In 2023, OpenAI’s ChatGPT captivated users and investors alike, offering a rare bright spot in an otherwise tough funding environment. The ensuing race to train ever more powerful large language models (LLMs) on ever larger data sets has sent Nvidia’s stock price to the moon, regulators into a tizzy, and Sam Altman packing … for a few days.

But chatbots aren’t the breakthrough use case we thought they were. 

From overwhelmingly simple interfaces to alarmingly frequent hallucinations, these new toys leave too much work to their users who are unsure how to prompt models for what they need and uncertain whether they can trust the response. And I thought ChatGPT would help me with my homework!

Without question, 2023 was generative AI’s year. But what comes next? In 2024, expect generative AI to get really boring. Erm, I mean, go enterprise.

Fashionably late adopters, large enterprises are big business - yet many haven’t spent a dime on generative AI. Firms from JPMorgan Chase to Spotify issued bans this year, citing data security concerns.

With regulations written and data concerns assuaged, these businesses will turn to applications built on LLMs’ APIs and using their own data in 2024. Back “under the hood”, these tools will deliver productivity gains and cost savings.

Out of the headlines and into the hands of enterprises, generative AI will finally start to live up to the hype.


How Intelligent Automation and Hyperautomation are Shaping the Future of Inventory and Customer Experience 

Written by Joanna Zhu, MBA'24J

According to Gartner, in 2024 top-tier retailers in North America and Europe will slash inventory carrying costs by 30% by placing their bets on intelligent automation. This new technology, blending cognitive smarts and hyper-automation, puts decision-making bots in the driver's seat, boosting scheduling precision, streamlining task management, and orchestrating end-to-end processes.

For luxury retailers hopping on the bandwagon, the benefits go beyond cost savings. 

Picture this: sales associates turn into savvy navigators armed with real-time info on product availability (both in-store and online) and upcoming releases. 

Add intimate knowledge about individual customer preferences; these associates redefine top-notch service, delivering a personalised experience. The key lies in slick merchandising and crystal-clear inventory management in a world where the supply chain is like a rollercoaster.

For fashion retailers, it's all about beefing up technical and logistical setups, ensuring speedy deliveries and hassle-free returns – a must in today's unpredictable global supply chain scene.


AI in 2024: Navigating the Middle Ground Between Visionary Futures and Practical Realities 

Written by Nils Wickman, MBA'24J

When discussing AI today, it's easy to get swept up in visions of a future brimming with unparalleled promise or impending doom. Yet, these polarised predictions seldom materialise as expected, often finding their truth somewhere in the middle ground. 

In any case, those far (although some argue not so far) predictions are probably better made by Sam Altman, Elon Musk, or our own professor, Theos Evgeniou. Instead, I think where a mere MBA student with a (worryingly) large curiosity for AI can add some reasonable clarity is within the immediate term.

And so, for 2024, I see four broader themes playing out. 

First, with the recent (albeit delayed) launch of the GPT store, it is clear that the LLMs a la GPT-4 and the usual suspects will end up in a tussle of who will become the “app store of AI”. On top of these foundational models, I suspect many applications will be released in the coming months. And among them, we might just glimpse future giants, reminiscent of how Instagram emerged from the App Store. 

This leads me to my second prediction: these applications' tangible impact and disruption will soon become a reality. Too many AI applications today, despite their cool factor, have not gone beyond an indifferent “eh” status in their practical applications. 

But, with these technologies now in the hands of eager entrepreneurs, fields like video, imagery, and audio are set to carve out their unique niches in areas where they can be more effective – personally, I’m waiting for more guitar solos to come out of a potential Prince-AI.

We’ll also see a surge of SLMs (Small Language Models) taking centre stage. 

Until now, the optimism surrounding large language models has been palpable, and rightfully so. Yet, with ground-breaking advancements from players like Mistral AI and Microsoft's Phi-2, we're beginning to see smaller models that pack a powerful punch. 

Despite their low parameter count, their continued rise will have huge implications for the democratisation of AI, enabling small businesses and individuals to develop specialised models for a range of tasks. These models are small enough for local intelligence in our laptops, iPhones, speakers, and security systems without internet access, offering a versatile alternative to larger, online-dependent models like OpenAI's ChatGPT – did I hear Jarvis?

I’m not sure they are all warranted, but I also foresee a rise in legal cases in 2024. The unfolding of misuse and abuse cases will be particularly intriguing to observe. These situations will lay the groundwork for assessing technology's role in facilitating malicious intents. 

However, I think what will be even more captivating to follow is the unfolding copyright lawsuits. These cases play a crucial role in data quality and models' training, so these lawsuits may significantly impact how we can gather and train them. 

I see a striking similarity between human intuition and creativity and how an LLM generates content. However, it is obvious that permissions and access need to be clear in the sourcing and use of data in models moving forward.

In short, it’ll be a fascinating year to continue to follow AI!


Digital Twins and Accelerating Safety in Manufacturing 

Written by Tanmay D, MBA'24J

In manufacturing, safety has only sometimes been a priority over profits. There have been sufficient empirical evidence emphasising how safety could actually promote profits. Whereas safety protocols and regulations were key aids in ensuring worker safety, today, digital technology is the next frontier. 

Central to this is the concept of a digital twin, defined by Gartner as “a digital representation of a real-world entity or system that mirrors a unique physical object, process, organisation, person or other abstraction.”

By creating a virtual, digital clone of the manufacturing setup, the organisation can recreate processes and gather data about the factory floor in real-time, thereby removing the necessity of having a person exposed to machinery. 

Especially in hazardous environments, digital twins can help simulate processes safely and identify potential risks beforehand.

In addition, digital twins, coupled with computer vision cameras, can identify faults and failures without human intervention. IOT via wearable devices could also allow operators to be tracked throughout the factory floor, track presence in any unrestricted areas, and provide alerts in cases of falls or changes in vitals.

As digital twin technology improves over time, manufacturing can become safer and much more efficient, ensuring that worker safety and profits can be prioritised equally.


Carbon Capture and Utilisation: A Double-Edged Sword in the Quest for Climate Neutrality

Written by Stefan Setzger, MBA'24J

As countries intensify efforts toward achieving net-zero emissions by 2040/2050, hard-to-abate industries such as steel or cement industries face significant challenges in reducing absolute Scope 1-3 emissions and encounter hurdles in contributing to national climate neutrality. 

Carbon capture and utilisation strategies (CCUS) emerge as a multifaceted solution. This technology intercepts CO2 emissions before release into the atmosphere, allowing storage or repurposing them into new products.

Advocates herald CCUS as a potential turning point in realistically meeting the Paris Agreement's ambitious target of keeping global warming below 1.5°C. This technology presents a promising avenue to mitigate emissions from industries traditionally resistant to straightforward decarbonization. 

However, critics caution that CCUS might inadvertently prolong reliance on fossil-based industries, delaying the fundamental shift towards renewable alternatives. Moreover, uncertainties linger regarding the geological limitations of carbon storage, notably the challenges associated with storing CO2 hundreds of meters below the surface.

The need for technological innovation to combat climate change remains indisputable. 

While CCUS holds promise in mitigating emissions from 'hard-to-abate' industries, its role as a definitive game-changer remains a matter of ongoing scrutiny. I remain intrigued by the potential of this technology and its role in shaping our collective response to the climate crisis.

As we start 2024, the horizon of technological advancements presents a future brimming with extraordinary potential. Rapid evolution in AI, digital advertising, intelligent automation, and environmental technologies are not just transformative but exciting.

We're witnessing a shift from theoretical marvels to practical, impactful applications in AI. 

The advancements in digital advertising, led by tech giants, promise a more intuitive and engaging consumer experience. AI is set to refine ad targeting and campaign performance, heralding a new era where digital interactions are more personalised and effective.

The retail sector's embrace of intelligent automation signifies a leap towards efficiency and precision. Imagine a world where every product, every transaction, and every customer interaction is enhanced by technology, making shopping experiences more seamless and enjoyable.

The manufacturing industry's adoption of digital twins is a testament to the marriage of safety and productivity, where technology optimises processes and safeguards human well-being.

The potential of technologies like CCUS in our fight against climate change is inspiring. These innovations offer hope in mitigating environmental impacts and moving towards a more sustainable future.

As we look towards 2024, it's hard not to be excited about the possibilities that these technological advancements hold. We're on the cusp of a world where technology solves complex problems and enriches everyday life, making it more connected, efficient, and sustainable. The future of tech in 2024 is not just promising; it's a canvas of endless possibilities waiting to be explored.