Prepare for the next internet cycle. AI is here for real, and no one’s truly ready.
As I write this, the internet is agog over ChatGPT. A class-action lawsuit is building momentum in the US over AI trained to code using open source repositories as its training ground. An entrepreneur is trying to get a patent in the name of an AI “inventor”. Stable Diffusion and its brethren are taking on our most creative art forms. And a deepfake Mark Zuckerburg is confessing online about how he uses Congress to get his way. The implications of all this are monumental.
Once upon a time, I wrote a proposal for submission to my tech employer’s budgeting team justifying why the engineering department (there were about a dozen of us) could benefit from having a desktop computer to share a new idea. As I remember it, we asked for a state-of-the-art Compaq portable with a text-only display that used a tangerine phosphor. I later owned both a Palm Pilot and an Apple Newton; ahead of their time but hinting at hand writing recognition and stylus interfaces to come. I’ve stood in the boardroom to explain why the cellular systems we were inventing would revolutionize communications. 2023 feels like one of those times when a shift in the wind signals a big change is approaching. I’ve been through it enough to see it coming.
2023 will also be a monumental year in how the online world is regulated, who the next winners and losers will be, and how the internet architecture will change for those coming online today. The Supreme Court and Congress will debate and define how free speech, content moderation and digital platform competition will evolve in the United States. The EU will implement the Digital Services and Digital Markets Acts, and in response companies like Apple, Google, Meta and others will re-invent their services and rearrange the ecosystems the developer community takes for granted today. Not all change is good, and some change is downright frightening. Prepare for something closer to the bad end of that spectrum in Europe.
For the most part, the regulations and policies we’ll soon face are already baked in. 2022 was the year to get active and make your voice heard on policy. The Developers Alliance was extremely active in the US, EU, UK, Australia and across Asia. We pushed for rational and measured change where we could, and did our best to amplify developer voices so that the politicians could weigh our insights. We won some and we lost some. Above all we learned, grew, and took the opportunity to re-invest in our team and to amplify our outreach to the developer community we support.
AI will be the most significant force driving new policy in 2023. We’re likely to see the first large scale AI-driven fraud as some deepfake or AI bot causes real world damage that can’t be ignored. Policy makers will react poorly when that happens, so the job falls to us to be prepared with practical answers when the questions finally come. We need to have critical conversations within our community on the implications of training the AI that will one day change how code is written, and by whom. We need to step up our efforts to rein in bad actors and detect and nullify the threats that emerge when no one can tell real from fake. We need to engage when politicians discuss who-can-do-what online, and on whose rules apply across a global internet. Developers need to step up, because 2023 will be the year that sets the tone for the decade to follow.
For those of you that have had enough with churn, violence and lockdowns, we hope that you’ll take what time you can to recharge and reflect during the holiday season ahead. Be mindful of your friends and colleagues that might be suffering their own churn, burnout or loss, and offer them a hand if you’re able. For while we’re a loose knit community, we’re a resilient and resourceful one – a community that my colleagues and I are proud to support in our own small way.
We look forward to working with you in the new year and to making new friends and taking on new challenges. From all of us at the Developers Alliance, we thank you for what you do and wish you and your loved ones well this holiday season.