2023 by the Numbers
It’s the end of another year and, coincidentally, we’re finishing our second year of RIViR Reads. To wrap up 2023, let’s view it “by-the-numbers.” 2023 was a wild year filled with amazement, wonder, and upheaval. No sector escaped disruption this year. Interest rates couldn’t temper some economies while halting others. Undergraduate enrollment still on a downward slide. And new innovations rocked the technology sector.
After raising interest rates 3 times this year, the US Federal Reserve paused interest rate hikes after 11 times since 2022. The federal funds rate influences interest rates charged by banks to consumers and businesses. The funds rate impacts borrowing which has downstream implications for major purchases and hiring. Although the Fed’s rate increases have slowed borrowing, the US unemployment rate has remained at 3.7%. That’s roughly 6 million people in a nation with an employable population of 160 million. The employed are spending heavily this holiday season. The National Retail Federation is expecting Americans to spend $966 billion this Christmas season. A boost of 4% over last year.
Higher Education Still Waning
As the summer came to a close we reported on challenges facing the education system just as fall enrollment picked up. Now, the numbers are in. Undergraduate certificate program enrollment is actually up 9.9% over 2022 numbers. Graduate certificate programs have seen an increase of 5.7% for the same time period. Unfortunately, degree program enrollment continued its downward trend. 21,000 fewer undergrad students may seem insignificant, but it tallies up to nearly 100,000 fewer students enrolling in 4-year institutions since 2020. Companies have taken note. With the proliferation of computer programming certificates you can expect tech companies to relax the 4-year degree requirement. Apple, IBM, Google, and other technology companies have announced college degrees are no longer required to join their professional workforce. But, it’s not just tech companies relaxing degrees for applicants. Bank of America Financial Services, Hilton, and Costco are a few big names where professional certifications can gain entrance to well-heeled hallways. The combination of increasing expense and potential opportunities without the need for a traditional four-year degree may continue the undergraduate enrollment’s slide.
After Decades of Promise, Generative AI Cements Its Place in Technology
Modern artificial intelligence was born out of rules-based expert systems in the 1980s. It was during the 80s Information Age when Qlarant leapt ahead by bringing computing power to medical claims compliance. Fast-forward to 2023 and 18% of our workforce consists of data scientists and analysts. Right on time for OpenAI’s ChatGPT to break into the mainstream. ChatGPT arrived on the scene trained on over 1.5 billion parameters. The year will see three iterations of the underlying GPT technology gaining power each time. GPT-3 will clock in with 175 billion parameters in February. GPT-3.5 expanded the amount of text that could be prompted. GPT-4 arrived over the summer pre-trained on a staggering 1.7 trillion parameters. In October, OpenAI estimated 180 million users regularly task ChatGPT with work. ChatGPT’s popularity forced Google to release Bard earlier than they wanted and they’re still playing catchup. Facebook would later release its own model called LLaMa to open source. ChatGPT has brought AI mainstream. Rivers of pixels have been dedicated to prophesying the end of creativity or the rise of new human capability. Either way, AI has proven costly and is wearing and tearing on the environment. The University of Washington estimated ChatGPT consumes 1 gigawatt hour a day of energy. This output equals the consumption of 33,000 US households.
This has been a year of many data points, and this is only a snippet of the data world. Data is all around us and impacts our society in big and small ways. The key for all of us is to understand how data affects us and to harness it to make a better world. At Qlarant, we believe in AI+HI. That artificial intelligence with human intelligence and know-how make better opportunities. After 50 years in the business, we use AI+HI to serve our customers and community. It is in this spirit we wish you a Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year.