New years call for new…something. But since we’re still the same deep-diving, pinch-hitting, no-BS advisory firm you’ve come to love and trust, we asked experts in our network to join us in giving you something new instead: insights for the year ahead--our 2024 predictions. Everyone picked a word or phrase that they believe will define the year to come (or at least a few months of the ever-changing news cycle!). Read on to get the full take on everything from AI to black swan events, geopolitics to convertainment (conver-what??? parasocial relationships who???).
Finish the Job
Vice President, Evergreen Action
There are only a few months left for President Biden to cement his climate legacy; from clean power to clean cars and trucks, the clock is ticking on a better future. Naturally, focus is already shifting to what he can accomplish in his second term – but the foundation for that work depends on what he decides right now. His administration’s proposed carbon standards for the power sector and clean vehicle rules are hanging in the balance and must be finalized this spring. These proposals are his best shot to finally get a handle on emissions from the most polluting sectors of our economy, and to provide the clean power and transport needed by other sectors, from heavy industry to buildings, while leveraging Inflation Reduction Act dollars. Both climate science and political reality mean those rules must get done now. And we know general election voters support climate progress, so his political future depends on him running through the tape on his first term agenda and finishing the job.
President, Cascade Advisory
Exponential is going to be the word of 2024, used and misused with (exponentially) increasing frequency over the course of the year. Technology, particularly computing and artificial intelligence, is advancing at a nearly unfathomable rate. “Disruption” will become an obsolete concept as new developments will no longer appear as sudden bursts, instead flowing out in a continual and pervasive manner. Like a dam that has broken, the rush will be fast and fill any available space, even the places where it doesn’t belong. Pundits, academics, politicians, and laypeople alike will be using and overusing “exponential” to describe these developments as they try to reckon with the overwhelming speed of change, trying to put a word to the sense that things are possibly spinning out of control. This should also serve as a warning to policymakers, business executives, and community members alike: the traditional, linear method of addressing challenges is not adaptable to this new rate of technological change. If they don’t find new and unprecedented ways to lead in 2024 and beyond, they will begin falling behind, creating policies, products, and programs that are outdated before they’re ever implemented.
So Many Black Swans
Editor at Large, SEMAFOR
Black swans are supposed to be rare, but as Mohamed El-Erian has said many times, least likely events at the far ends of bell curve possibilities are increasingly becoming the norm. In other words, expect the unexpected. Plan for the worst. Turn biases on their heads, as this is the time where inertia or doing basically what you did yesterday won't work. And we have the oldest candidate for U.S. President running in 2024 against someone who has multiple significant indictments pending in courts. There were lots of black swans in the 1850s, and those times are back.
Principal & Head of Government Affairs and Public Policy, Cascade Advisory
The Inflation Reduction Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, mandatory climate and ESG reporting in California and Europe, phase-outs of the internal combustion engine, Russians in Ukraine, trouble in the Suez. (No, I’m not updating the lyrics to “We Didn’t Start the Fire”...this is about some very real pirates creating some very real issues.) There’s been a rise in developments over the past several years that have dramatically changed perceptions of politics and climate change in very short periods of time. We’ve always held to the maxim, “inertia tends to favor incumbents”, but it’s not clear if that’s true anymore. With half the world’s population poised to hold elections in 2024, the stickiness of new developments will be put to the test, as will the holding power of democratic institutions worldwide.
I think 2024 will be the year of resourcefulness. Companies and people have stabilized to a slightly new reality, understanding that the markets–and especially the environment for startups and raising VC funds–has changed significantly and for the foreseeable future. They’ve gone through the slump of questioning, the layoffs, the restructuring of budgets and priorities, and those that are still around are now stronger and more focused as a result. They also realize they can absolutely do GREAT things and accomplish lofty goals but, most importantly, they’ll have to be incredibly smart about how they go about doing so.
Senior Technology Attorney
If you thought the AI rollercoaster would settle in 2024, I would tell you: stay buckled up. We are going to see fundamental questions around AI usage flood the court system, with the Supreme Court likely to weigh in. In parallel there will be a continued push by the White House and regulators to find a way to understand these innovations and put in real guardrails. Expect increased inefficiencies as companies leveraging AI adjust to this slew of guidance in 2024…and strong legal counsel will be imperative. However, it won't be all turbulent waters, as we are also going to start seeing what is truly below the tip of the AI iceberg. While largely a marketing buzz word in 2023, AI will be implemented in existing infrastructures across all industries at scale this year. This will drive extreme efficiencies, revenue, and growth. 2024 will truly be the year of inefficient efficiencies driven by AI.
Executive Editor, The Conversationalist
Less stark than “minimalism,” and slightly sexier than “decluttering,” I believe “culling” is coming for us in 2024. I already felt rumbles of it last year: ads counterintuitively arguing for pared down beauty routines while hawking skincare products; friends donating unused possessions en masse, and rethinking relationships of all kinds—personal and professional—that had become unhealthy, perfunctory, sour, listless. Perhaps it’s a response to capitalist burnout, mixed with the rise of therapy-speak-self-care, which urges us to be mindful about what and who we surround ourselves with. But culling, to me, feels intentional; a conscious choice to remove that which no longer serves you, to allow space for something else that might, even if that something is nothing. We are all exhausted. To cull is to decide what’s worthy of your exhaustion; to be selective about what you keep and what you send to slaughter. If we approach it from a place of kindness (to ourselves, and otherwise), and sustainability (to ourselves, and otherwise), culling can be empowering. But as with all things, it can turn to shit pretty fast if we don’t. May we all experience the former version of it in the year ahead.
Project Lead, U.S. Forest and Wood Products Sector Inclusion Council
My defining word for 2024 is welcome. Yep, welcome. It might sound strange, but the word welcome encapsulates what it means to be ready to receive, learn from, and adjust to whatever life and the world throws our way. This is certain to be a year of rapid change and prospective difficulty. Wars abound around the globe. In the United States, we're coming up on another presidential election. If the past few years have taught us anything, it's that even with the very best plans in place, we're certain to encounter obstacles we don't see coming. Welcoming the good times teaches us gratitude and celebration. Welcoming the challenging times cultivates resilience and determination. Life is full of shadow and light, terror and beauty, sorrow and joy. We miss out on what it means to be alive when we try to avoid the hard parts of being human. So may we experience the fullness of our humanity as we work and lead this year, practicing welcome, come what may.
Conver-what? Conversation + Entertainment = Convertainment, of course. I first heard the term when I was trying to buy tickets to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's comedy tour. They described the event as "an evening of jokes, stories and convertainment." (The phrase was apparently so convincing I did not get the tickets - they sold out in seconds!)
Marketers have used the term edutainment (education + entertainment) for years as a way to describe a content type that garners good engagement because you're creating an enjoyable learning experience. Now, in a year of AI-generated content, hearing and learning from real people’s expertise and experience is what will stop the scroll and create a personable impact that drives audiences to action. Parasocial relationships with creators and celebrities are convertainment. Listening to a podcast episode with two friends chatting or even a subject matter expert discussion can be convertainment. Personality-led convertainment content done well makes audiences feel included, immersed, and part of the conversation.