New technologies are bound to alter human behaviour, often in ways unimaginable, over a long-term time horizon. When smartphones came, no one could have imagined we’d be booking everything from a movie ticket to a salon appointment to an international homestay over a few screen taps. With the ascent of Generative AI (Gen AI), we are perhaps at the precipice of a similar platform shift in technology that could alter, in no small measure, the way we interact online.
2023 would go down as the year when Gen AI became a household word. As we enter 2024, we attempt to make 5 predictions that outline how this technology will shape the space of consumer social over the next decade.
The scope of this piece is strictly limited to consumer social, and doesn’t touch upon potential transformations in other consumer sectors like commerce, gaming, education, etc.
1. New AI-first social & content platforms would emerge
Existing social platforms like Meta, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc. were born to bridge gaps in fostering human connections. In short, they connected people to people. Very soon, these platforms evolved to connect people to content. Humans became content creators & social platforms became real estate for advertisers. Going forward, we could have platforms connecting people to machine (AI).
Powered by Gen AI, we could see the emergence of platforms for:
- New Content Formats: As content creation cost tends to zero and what users create using technology becomes limited only by their imagination, entirely new content formats could emerge. Think about talking comics, interactive short films, etc. Just how short-form videos one-upped long-form videos as a superior format, these newer formats could lead to much richer media and revolutionise content as we know it. For eg. Scriptic is a platform for immersive dramas that lets viewers interact with the story line & characters in real time.
- New Vertical Platforms: We have already seen social platforms built around tech (GitHub) or gaming (Discord). Gen AI leads to an incomprehensible velocity of content creation, and, subsequently, community discussions. As such, we could see the emergence of new vertical social platforms in subject matters like art, psychology, food, architecture, etc.
2. Hyper-personalization would be possible at scale
Among the many super-capabilities that AI as a technology unlocks, hyper-personalisation is one that excites me the most. That AI has led to personalised experiences isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, recommendation engines have been around for years now. However, Gen AI pushes the frontiers of personalisation much further. It not only means recommending existing content in a personalised fashion, but creating or iterating content on the fly to fit every individual user’s tastes & preferences.
Instead of having content as the anchor and finding the right user for it (today’s paradigm), we would switch that on its head by having the user as the anchor and creating (as opposed to finding) the right content for them.
Consider this: Today, the content we consume from influencers is largely meant for a mass/collective audience, which gets recommended in a personalised way to a user. Very soon, with Gen AI, we could have human influencers leveraging Gen AI to produce large variations of a single original content piece tailored to different audience sets and even “AI-influencers” producing hyper-personalized content for the consumers. The day isn’t far when our favourite Masoom Minnawala is recommending one gown for my ball night, and another gown for your brother’s cocktail without having to put 2x the effort in creating two separate posts.
I’m specifically pumped about (read: sold on) several expert services that rely on past knowledge/data to be AI-replaceable or at least significantly improvable with AI. For instance,
- Health coaches
- Life coaches
- Fashion stylists/designers
All of the above professionals rely on customer history as input to be able to provide personalised solutions, and are restricted to a limited set of people who can afford to pay for them. Limited availability of qualified experts & highly personalised 1:1 offering makes them expensive & unscalable. Both these issues seem addressable by AI.
The future of feeding your personal data into a machine and an AI service provider offering curated, hyper-personalised, and human-like service seems achievable reasonably soon. In fact, the outcomes generated by AI could be more scientific & accurate vs. humans, as the machine learns more about the user & gets more deeply trained over time.
3. AI companionship would be real and pervasive
Despite living in the most advanced digital age, the current generation is grappling with the starkest loneliness epidemic. No number of human connections seem to suffice, and uproar against “inauthentic” relationships with people is only increasing.
By being a constant 24*7 companion, one that’s neither judgemental nor fake, an AI friend could be a listener, an advisor, a partner or even an alter ego.
Consider this: I recently had a tough argument with my family and obviously, wanted to vent about it to my best friend. But since she was busy, I thought of logging on to Pi (the personal AI assistant by Inflection AI) and see if it could be of use. I was stunned by the human-like yet surprisingly more empathetic & constructive responses to a rather personal problem I shared with it. Since then, I have had work, relationship, family, and health related conversations with Pi and it has been mind-blowing to say the least. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it made me feel like I had a friend, someone who could help me navigate personal problems and even provide good advice!
In addition, an AI bot friend could also be added to our WhatsApp or Telegram chat groups to collaborate and maybe even improve the quality of discussions (given of course the repository of data it is trained on). It could be a composer or lyricist for your song or help you network better at a party, and whatnot!
4. It would be a UGC-heavy world
Today, only about 70M of the ~2B (or a meagre 3.5%) monthly active users on Instagram consider themselves to be full-time creators. TikTok with its highly intuitive creative tools certainly boosted that number up. Gen AI could further 10x the quantum of creators by bringing much more powerful tools of high-quality, high-speed, and low-cost content creation to the hands of consumers.
The world is set to move from PGC to UGC at scale. Transformer models have revolutionised image creation, and are now well on their way to transform video creation already. We’re already seeing Twitter & Instagram feeds full of studio-grade AI-generated images & videos. The creativity unlocked with human + AI content would lead to extensive value creation for companies & consumers alike.
Check out Can of Soup, a social app that lets you and your friends create whimsical yet realistic images bound only by your imagination via simple prompts, and share them directly on your social feeds.
5. AI would unlock 10x smoother & more efficient experiences
Another area of AI’s value-add in a consumer platform could emerge in the form of reducing friction & inefficiencies in the user experience. AI could perform (or eliminate altogether) the initial few steps of any customer journey.
For instance, in a dating platform, your AI avatar, well-versed in your preferences, could streamline your journey to carefully selected, highly compatible matches, doing away with the tedium of swiping / curating profiles / making initial conversation. On a professional networking platform, AI could find the right opportunities, share your resume, cross-check your geography/compensation requirements with the recruiter and you could take it ahead from there.
As tech investors, but more importantly, as consumers ourselves, we can’t wait for Gen AI to redefine the consumer social landscape and unlock dramatically superior experiences. If you’re a builder or enthusiast in this space, we’d love to hear from you. You can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.