SCU THOUGHT LEADER PREDICTIONS FOR 2023
Gazing into the crystal ball of 2023 brings to mind the Yogi Berra quote, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
Yet who among us isn’t curious about new year forecasts, based on facts or evidence, with plenty of room for informed guesses?
Each January, we consult a range of Santa Clara University faculty experts and contributors to our Illuminate Thought Leaders blog for their annual predictions.
When we asked them: “What innovative product, idea, trend, concept, or development are you most excited about, or intrigued by, in 2023?” here’s what they told us:
JO-ELLEN POZNER, Associate Professor, Management & Entrepreneurship
CURTAILING CULT CEOS: 2023 should be the year of corporate governance! Silicon Valley has coasted for nearly two decades, with few systemic disruptions or adverse economic conditions. Our ecosystem thrives on the cult of the founder, such that a charismatic founder who looks the part—charismatic, confident, a little slovenly, with a high-status advocate or two, and little to no experience—can raise huge amounts of capital with little formal oversight. We only need to look as far as the late 2022 news cycle to see examples of what can go wrong at firms like Theranos and FTX.
It is not just startups that suffer from inadequate corporate governance, though. One of the first things Elon Musk did to Twitter was to fire the board, eliminating checks and balances on his behavior. Major players like Alphabet and Meta have only recently begun to overhaul their boards of directors and give them real teeth.
Corporate governance is due for a correction, with more active boards of directors replacing complacency and lax organizational controls. Given the current economic outlook, with a potential recession looming and news-making layoffs at many tech firms, decision-making oversight has never been more important. Investors will start to demand it with louder voices, as should all the tech workers worried about losing their jobs when the tide turns. The venture capital community needs a governance overhaul if it is to stop making bad bets on the same losers. Just look at Adam Neumann, the disgraced founder of WeWork, who last year secured hundreds of millions in VC funding for a new business. Failing up has never been more profitable.
Better governance also requires the meaningful inclusion of more diverse voices. While initiatives like the Women’s and Black Corporate Board Readiness Programs run by SCU’s Silicon Valley Executive Center are moving the needle, we have far to go to meet the targets set by market leaders like NASDAQ (and honestly, we can be much more ambitious). Research shows that diverse teams make the best decisions and perform better than homogenous teams—inclusion simply makes business run better!
HERSH SHEFRIN, Professor of Finance
SCALING SEAWEED: Some of the most exciting ideas for addressing global warming involve using ocean-based technologies to remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere. A good example of a startup working to develop such a technology is U.K.-based Seafields. Sargassum grows quickly, captures carbon dioxide efficiently, serves as input for useful products, and takes the sequestered carbon dioxide with it when it sinks to the ocean depths.
From an investment perspective, Seafields has intriguing potential along three key dimensions. Those dimensions relate to permanent sequestration of carbon dioxide, scalability of the processes, and profit potential. Sargassum can be used to produce multiple useful products. As for scalability, sargassum can be grown in very large areas of the ocean that at the moment appear to be poor in nutrients. Impact investors, take note!
MAYA ACKERMAN, Assistant Professor, Computer Science and Engineering
AWAKENING GENERATIVE AI: 2023 will be the year of Generative Artificial Intelligence. Last year teased us with the likes of Stable Diffusion and ChatGPT, but Generative AI has existed in academia under the names “Computational Creativity” for decades. I am thrilled about the Generative AI awakening out in the real world. This year will see mass adoption of generative AI assistance across a wide range of industries, from creative domains such as art, music, and creative writing to marketing, design, and likely even a revamping of the search engine industry. This will have long term ramifications not only for businesses and creative individuals, but humanity as a whole, as we redefine what it means to create. This transformation doesn't come without its challenges. We’ll need to adapt to a world with much greater opportunities for misinformation and need to develop new ways to counter the biases found in generative systems trained on large volumes of often-biased human-made material.
KIRTHI KALYANAM, Professor and Executive Director, Retail Management Institute
DETECTING GENERATIVE AI: There is widespread concern in academia about the misuse of Generative Artificial Intelligence technology for creating student work, in the public polity around propaganda and misinformation, and in marketing around the use of these tools to generate content that misleads consumers. Counter to these doomsday predictions, I predict that we will see an explosion in technologies that detect Generative AI, that original content will become more valuable, and that branding of content will become an even more important business model. Afterall, as the physicists say, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Coming soon to a browser near you? An extension that can detect Generative AI in the content that you are reading.
ERIC GOLDMAN, Professor and Associate Dean for Research, School of Law
INTERNET AGE VERIFICATION: This year, we’ll see widespread deployment of technologies designed to determine internet users’ ages, sometimes called “age verification” or “age assurance.”
The process usually requires users to submit documents containing sensitive information (like a driver's license) or scan their face so artificial intelligence can estimate their age. In a misguided attempt to "protect children online," California lawmakers have required most websites to determine users’ ages. This creates significant privacy and security risks, and it ensures we’ll encounter annoying and time-consuming age checkpoints everywhere we try to go on the internet. Will age determination become a permanent internet feature? Developments in 2023 may be decisive.
JAMIE CHANG, Assistant Professor, Public Health
FORCED TREATMENT: Policy-wise, I predict that in 2023, there will be contentious debates on whether local governments should force mental health or substance use treatment on people who are homeless and suffering with these issues. This already occurs in New York City, and several counties in the Bay Area are considering it. Latent are deep, painful questions about human dignity. Under what circumstances can a human be restrained and medicated against their will? By whom, under what authority, and for how long? How can forced treatment be effective without housing?
On a lighter note, I also predict that in 2023, 90’s grunge and streetwear will be hot, so my students will be rocking the styles I wore back in high school. Also, the combo pizza is never coming back to Costco. Time to accept and move on.
PHIL KESTEN, Associate Professor, Physics
LOW-COST SOLAR CELLS: An exciting technological innovation is on the horizon, thanks in part to advances in physics: flexible, low-cost solar cells. Using a layer of perovskite—calcium titanium oxide, or CaTiO3—printed on a thin substrate, these photocells have already been shown to be powerful, and to work well in low light. Applications of perovskite photovoltaic technologies are expected to be broad, perhaps most notably in the Internet of Things devices that don’t require a hard-wired connection to a power source and will make it easy to connect everyday objects to the internet, enabling seamless communication between people and our electronic “things.”
HOORIA JAZAIERI, Assistant Professor, Management & Entrepreneurship
AGE OF AUSTERITY: Given that we will likely have several quarters of a recession in 2023, we will likely see a focus on austerity—tightening of the purse strings, requirements to be better custodians of funds, and needing to do more with less. While the COVID-19 pandemic taught us that we cannot afford to be lean in some areas such as medical or mental health, AI and machine learning will be leveraged to cut costs and improve efficiency. As a management scholar, I am intrigued to see the inevitable implications of this for people in organizations, organizational culture, and ultimately how organizations are structured in the future.
BRIAN PATRICK GREEN, Director of Technology Ethics, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics
NUKE ESCALATION: My prediction for 2023 is that nuclear weapons will remain a worrisome topic of conversation—as Russia keeps nuclear-saber-rattling at the West about the war in Ukraine, as North Korea keeps showing off its military prowess in an effort to remain relevant, as Iran remains intransigent in nuclear negotiations, and as China rapidly upgrades and expands its nuclear forces.
This is a prediction that I don't want to make, but the global situation means nuclear weapons are only going to become more relevant. I would rather that the world instead found a common cause in more ethical endeavors like environmental protection and space exploration, but too many leaders are bound by chains that lead to thinking too small, encumbered by notions of restoring past empires, and desire for esteem that they only know how to acquire through fear.