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Will we have virtual girlfriends and AI public servants in 2023?

Commentary

To close out the year, we’ve asked our contributors and staff to make a prediction about 2023. You would think, after last year, that we’d have learned our lesson about making predictions, but we couldn’t resist. Feel free to save these if you want to embarrass us with them later.


Virtual love interests are closer than we think

By Chris Spoke

Have you watched the 2013 movie Her?

It features Joaquin Phoenix in a romantic relationship with an artificially intelligent virtual assistant personified through a female voice that he talks to day in and day out through a Bluetooth-like headset.

We’re going to see this technology and behaviour emerge in a big way before the end of the new year.

Two big data points inform this prediction.

First, OpenAI’s chatbot tool, ChatGPT, is already blowing minds with its ability to accurately and succinctly answer basic questions. It’s powered by a slightly enhanced third version of OpenAI’s Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) language model (GPT3). The next version, GPT4, is expected to be up to 500 times more powerful.

Second, an app called Replika already provides a relatively advanced version of this experience–that is, of a digital boyfriend or girlfriend. And get this: it has over 10 million users.

So:

Imagine an audio-based Replika.ai or competitor powered by GPT4 through a pair of Airpods.

That’s Her. She’s closer than you think.


Premiers will behave badly and no one will notice

By Livio Di Matteo

Five less-than-serious predictions for 2023:

1. With Canada’s premiers finding inspiration in the goblin-mode behaviour of their loyal subjects in the pandemic’s wake, many of them will accelerate their proclivity to behave badly on a number of fronts moving Canada into the worst constitutional crisis since 1926. However, in typically Canadian fashion, no one will really notice a difference.

2. Interest rates will rise once more in 2023 and inflation will finally begin to subside though it will not return to the 2 percent Bank of Canada target range. Inflation will settle at the 4-5 percent range as demographics and public attitudes move us into a “perpetual shortage” economy. Thus, interest rates are unlikely to go below 4 percent. However, on the bright side, the 4 percent rule for withdrawals in retirement will be easier to implement.

3. To the surprise of both the RCMP and Canada’s Security Services, a prominent international media organization will announce that Meghan Markle, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Tom Cruise slipped into the country together on a private jet and rented a cottage in Muskoka where they all went waterskiing. On their way back to Pearson International Airport they will be spotted shopping at an outlet store mall on the 400. Their visit will only come to light because they filled out the ArriveCan App. Netflix will make a limited series of the caper.

4. The Canada Revenue Agency will contract out its customer service and response functions to ChatGPT in a multimillion-dollar contract. After a noticeable improvement in service levels at CRA, ChatGPT will also be put in charge of Passport Canada and ultimately Global Affairs Canada.

5. The sun will rise, the sun will set. Governments will go and come. The young will find love, the seasons will change. The health care crisis will abate, the health care crisis will come again. The provincial premiers will meet again. Yet, Northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire will still be waiting for a match to light its flame.

Sir John A. will be back in the news and the Jays will win the World Series in 2023

Commentary

To close out the year, we’ve asked our contributors and staff to make a prediction about 2023. You would think, after last year, that we’d have learned our lesson about making predictions, but we couldn’t resist. Feel free to save these if you want to embarrass us with them later.


Sir John A. will be back in the news in 2023

By J.D.M. Stewart

The topic of history is always fertile ground for predictions. The subject is always with us, as it deserves to be. What will 2023 bring us from the past? 

1. Sir John A. Macdonald will once again be in the news—this time as Canadians revisit the Pacific Scandal, one of the most notorious in the history of the great Dominion. One hundred and fifty years ago, in 1873, Macdonald’s government was forced to resign because it accepted campaign donations from shipping magnate Sir Hugh Allan. The resulting election ushered in Canada’s first Liberal government under prime minister Alexander Mackenzie, but Macdonald would make a comeback in 1878 and govern uninterrupted until his death in 1891.

2. Another Canadian institution will be celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2023, the Toronto Argonauts football team. The Double Blue will defend its Grey Cup championship from the past season, but the prediction is that the sharp minds at  Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment will fail to capitalize on the charisma of its star linebacker Henoc Muamba and miss the moment to rekindle the city’s moribund affection for the once-dominant franchise. 

3. A final prediction for 2023 is that Library and Archives Canada, supposed leaders in the preservation and promotion of the country’s past, will continue to fail in this enterprise. Lacking in transparency, service, and leadership for Canada’s history, the past does not have a great future at LAC next year.


Someone has to say it: The Jays will win the World Series

By Jack Mitchell

The act of predicting glory for one’s favourite team is fraught with epistemological and ethical risks. Let’s say, for example, that I were to predict the Jays will win the World Series in 2023. Subjectively I want them to, of course; and objectively they have what it takes, since by signing Chris Bassitt we now have a super-strong rotation, complementing our terrific hitting and fielding. But if in fact they weren’t good enough, wouldn’t I picture them—to myself—as better than they were? Of course I would, and that would skew my prediction. Yet if they were indeed good enough, would I have the courage to admit it, defying the horror of jinx? I’d like to think I would. I know I would. In the end, all we have is the truth, and we must stand up for it, despite self-doubt, despite the personal cost. The Jays will win the World Series in 2023.


Wine producers will adjust to cash-strapped consumers

By Malcolm Jolley

The story of late 2022 has been that the post-pandemic party is over. Like the parents of teenagers who unexpectedly come home early from a weekend away, inflation and high interest rates barged into the living room, turned on the lights, and killed the stereo. So then, the story of 2023 must be the clean-up. But just as the hungover partygoer yearns on the morning after to return to normalcy, there may be some benefits to the arrival of more quiet times.

Locked up in our houses, and desperate to find pleasure in whatever was allowed, wine consumers were willing to be upsold, and the sweet spot of everyday retail fine wine seemed to rise quickly from $15 to $20 to $25 to $30 with every release of new wines. The old $19.95 middle went missing, and the selection of wines at that price point remained sparse as things opened up and the real party started.

That will change, as producers adjust to cash-strapped consumers over the next few months. In fact I see evidence on store shelves and email flyers from importers that it is already. Look out for better value from all over the wine-producing regions. Up comers will have to calibrate their premium labels and the famous terroirs will increase production of the second and third, more affordable, labels.

This prediction is, admittedly, walking a fine line between clairvoyance and wishful thinking. But if there’s an upside to whatever mess we’re heading into in 2023, it’s that we may console ourselves with better value wine.