2024: the other side and the Prediction Consensus

Once in a while I send around an outlook for the year ahead. Here it is, sent Dec 31 2023::

Greetings from the other side — 

It feels like we all need it this year: the other side of New Year’s Eve. 

Many of the folks I speak with were beleaguered in 2023. There were lots of reasons: war, warming, politics. Often for lack of understanding between sides.

One special reason in my business — which is the work of new companies, venture capital, technology and our mission to extend the lives of people and planet — is that it was a really tough year for startups. 

But I think we are getting to the other side. 

You’ve already heard that the stock market ended up doing well, that inflation is OK, and jobs are strong, and that interest rates are going to go down. Public biotechs have been coming back, and bitcoin is up even more. 

Did you also hear that we probably crossed Peak Carbon in 2023, the year of the highest CO2 emissions? Even China, which is rolling out renewables faster than forecast. We might be on the downward side of the slope now. We just need to make it faster.

And medicine: the first gene therapies are now in use, a malaria vaccine exists, new antibiotics, even prosaic stuff like the US Medicare budget seems to have flattened. And GLP1s, eg Ozempic, are about to reconfigure the world while also tackling the top causes of mortality on the planet — cardiovascular stuff like heart attacks and strokes, where weight loss is a tremendous driver.

Of course AI is easily the most significant thing. 

There’s so much opportunity for innovation, investment and company building — I hope if you’re interested or part of it in some way, that you’ll hit me up so we can explore together.

The Prediction Consensus

Meanwhile, I went a bit further on all these predictions.  I read through 50 of the reports that strategists and companies put out, full of predictions for the year ahead. You’ve heard of them (“Peach Fuzz”), but you’d be amazed how many efforts at thought leadership come packaged up for analysis. It’s the investment banks, trend spotters, marketing firms, polling organizations, social media platforms and so forth. 

And here below is my score sheet of the themes that struck me.

// What got highlighted as a major theme in these reports? E.g., a whole chapter heading

  • Gen AI xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx <– from beauty to recipes to politics to finance, AI was big in nearly every report
  • Climate xxxxxxxxxx <– sustainability for products, or just risk
  • Mental health xxx <– even in fashion, it’s a theme
  • Ozempic xxx <– I think this is going to be so, so huge
  • Russia-Ukraine xx
  • Israel-Gaza xx <– oddly, the year-end forecasters mostly didn’t touch this one
  • Depopulation xx <– population is already shrinking in many countries
  • Pessimism x <– scary, the idea that global mood is just negative
  • US election x
  • AR/VR x <– even with Apple’s new glasses?
  • Blockchain x <– “winter”
  • Security x
  • User-generated x
  • Longevity x 
  • Doomscrolling zero <– remember the pandemic? TikTok is the opposite
  • Fasting zero
  • Zoom zero
  • Quantum zero <– forever just 5 years away…

// From the banks…they basically all said the same thing

  • Economy to improve, interest rates to go down
    • Slow recovery, no recession
    • US strong, China and EU slow

// Public affairs; here are some surprises

  • 67% of Indians and 63% of Mexicans expect their future to be better, vs. 48% China and 34% US (& 4% Japan) 
  • 75% of the world population (60% in the lowest country) believe we’re headed for an environmental disaster 
  • Skepticism about science ~40%  
  • Women are far less likely than men to say the Internet is good for society (34 v 47%, UK stat)

// Consumer trends that grabbed me

  • Fake/Artificial everything is changing how we see our own identity. As in, “I am actually fake”. 
  • More privacy. Perhaps an eternal back-and-forth.
  • Consumers feeling unloved by brands. Companies are raising prices and cutting perks.
  • Relatable > uber. E.g., normal people as influencers.
  • Joy and self-care as an avoidance behavior. Related to the mental health thing.
  • Shein, Temu – huge; TikTokShop… Ecommerce is in upheaval.
  • Carbon-negative > offsets. Even for stuff like strawberries.

// Tech-related pronouncements that surprised me 

  • Bing has gotten way more popular, +35% usage in the UK last year
  • Zoom shrank. Google Meet went from nowhere to half of zoom. Slack shrank. Also UK.
  • Backstage as the default developer portal for everything. 
  • DMs are the new email. I’ve noticed even business people are texting > old-fashioned email (or slack) 
  • Millennials will make B2B transact digitally. (More old-fashioned things fading, like PDF proposals from vendors.)

// Food trends that will turn up at the local grocery

  • Biocoating, waste reduction. Paper and foldable packaging.
  • Brain health as a diet thing. 
  • No/low-alcohol stuff.
  • Pre-mixed drinks. (The opposite of above.)
  • Water is valuable / Drink more water. This will continue to be commercialized.
  • Fermentation. Kimchi!
  • Protein-everything. Fewer carbs wherever possible will continue…

// Real estate: a few quick themes here

  • Interest rates & Construction costs <– it’s all about that
  • Office & Retail bad; Housing good <– where to be
  • London, Paris, Madrid in Europe – no change
  • Sun Belt cities in US – no change

// Health

AI for everything that scientists or doctors or patients do: discover new treatments, diagnose problems faster, get care more easily… This one is huge. It’s a big part of what we’re doing at LifeX, so I won’t go into it here — you’ll hear more from me later. 

All of the above interests me especially in my work, so if you want to get the sourcing on a tidbit or chitchat about one of the trends: I’m interested. Until then…

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