.Trendspotting and 2024 Predictions

2024 predictions are hard, and there’s always a big chance we’ll be wrong. But let’s have a bit of fun with it, and you can sound off in the comments on metrosiliconvalley.com and tell us how wrong (or right?) you think we are. Be sure to include predictions of your own. And we’ll be sure to check back in at the end of the year and see how we did.

In gazing at our crystal ball, it reminds us that there’s been an uptick in esoteric practices. Online searches yield pages of esoteric shops, spiritual healers, readings and woo-forward wellness centers that reflect the San Jose metropolitan area’s multiple perspectives and cultural diversity. 

For the past several years, outlets like CNN have pointed to the rise in paranormal interest in uncertain times. With the uncertainty that surely faces us in the coming year, expect to see meditation centers, botanicas and healers on the rise. Try to steer yourself towards trusted sources and stay away from anything smacking of “wellness grift.” Myself—I appreciate a good esoteric concept and a cool metaphysical shop—but am more likely to consult data instead of the Tarot for making decisions these days.

Nirvana Soul & Rock n’ Roll

The key theme for 2024 that came up over and over with this story is accountability.

 “When you love something, you hold it accountable,” said Be’Anka Ashaolu, co-owner of Nirvana Soul Coffee, the spot that is the coolest place to hang in the South Bay next year.

Be’Anka snagged me a snickerdoodle latte, making sure it was a tad less sweet than the standard—the way I like it—adjusted the music volume and exchanged banter with customers, while simultaneously telling me about their concept, the murals and the drinks, all on the busy Saturday before Christmas, without breaking a sweat. The latte was delicious.

She and her sister Jeronica Macey are the San Jose small business success story we need right now: lifelong residents of our Valley of Heart’s Delight and the first Black-owned coffee shop in San Jose. With Jeronica as CEO and the brain behind the coffee concoctions and Be’Anka as CMO, Nirvana Soul recently became a mini-franchise. Their flagship is in the same building that houses Original Joe’s downtown. A second location opened on Vallco Parkway in Cupertino and soon they will take over the cafe space in DTSJ’s MLK Library. 

They also have a house band, two open mics a week and a pop-up in the De Anza Hotel. They make many of their own coffee syrups and own the roaster, and someday Be’Anka envisions 30 stores. Be’Anka inspires: being around her for five minutes has me dreaming, too. She and Jeronica have become de facto mentors for the area’s small businesses and a catalyst for local connection. 

Nirvana Soul’s small business cohort—other great places to check out this year if you haven’t already, like Academic Coffee, Hula Bar and Kitchen and Head Space barbershop—trade tips and offer mutual support. On social media, people dreaming of starting small businesses reach out to the sisters “and we take every call,” said Be’Anka. “We didn’t know who to turn to when we were trying to open our business, and we didn’t have a lot of folks who were open to sharing all the things, and we decided early on—we’re not gatekeepers—if we’re gonna be successful, everyone should be successful.” 

The mindset that there is space for everyone—reflected in the design of the store, the diverse customers and fun music of Nirvana Soul—has paid off big time for Be’Anka and Jeronica. 

Honestly, this is exactly the zeitgeist we need in the South Bay. But in order for there to be more success stories like Nirvana Soul, there needs to be more institutional support.

We need a cultural shift that values small business,” Be’Anka said, envisioning a downtown where you could leave your apartment and have access to tons of restaurants and boutiques to buy cute outfits to wear there: “We don’t have that.” Yet.

The premise of their entire business model is real world connection and to encapsulate the fun, happy vibe the sisters felt when hanging out together, but in coffeeshop form. In order to keep the small business zeitgeist going, San Jose needs to address the big issues on the collective South Bay mind: housing and cost of living.

What About the Arts? 

For local arts predictions, I turned to author, musician, songwriter and former Metro Silicon Valley A & E editor, as well as guitarist for Shinobu, Mike Huguenor. The first thing he said was that “San Jose hip-hop is as vital as ever, and there are so many young people and up-and-coming people making hip-hop music in San Jose, and there’s very few people paying attention. They are in need of an audience. My prediction is that the artists will continue to put out great music—probably more inspired than ever—” his voice got a little wistful, “I just really long for there to be a place [for shows] and a body of work documenting their work.” Even though it’s a challenge to find places to book hip-hop shows, the community is very creative in finding ways to be heard, and Mike has every confidence that the community will “continue to create awesome music.” 

He also predicts a continuing love for rock sub-genres; “Ska and hard core went through total resurgences lately, both with San Jose as their epicenter.” Hard core really exploded due to a number of San Jose and Santa Cruz hard core bands, like Sunami, Gulch and Scowl

The success of hard core will create more energy for the underground rock scene, and for genres in general. For example, “punk music isn’t going anywhere,” Mike said, “because it’s the music of feeling.” 

The local hip hop and hardcore scenes need a room of their own. The Ritz, Art Boutiki are great, said Mike, but without a reliable all-ages, 250-person capacity room venue in town, “the young artists—the ones who are going to be revolutionizing the genre—don’t have a place to go, which has always been a problem with San Jose. Almost every city around the world of this size has an all-ages venue, community run, collectively run or government-owned. We are sorely missing a venue that is connecting young artists with touring musicians,” which creates relationships that allow the smaller acts to be openers for the bigger traveling acts and gives the newer smaller groups a wider audience. It is the creative secret sauce to a thriving underground music scene. Which in turn, draws more creative people who start businesses and make more experimental, innovative art that large tech corporations and local governments say that they value.

“There are people in the community who are fighting for such a thing but it will take the city actively choosing to incentivize making that happen. It’s going to take someone at the city to understand how important this is and that it is a glaring hole.” 

People here are hungry for real-world connection, which makes them go out more, and maybe want to return to their office instead of feeling forced. I predict that we will see a resurgence of live music, comedy, theater, flash-mob style entertainment that combines using the information-spreading power of the internet with the energy of in-person contact, as well as games and mobile user experiences that utilizes technology to encourage real-world connections (like a Pokémon GO for the 20s). 

Boutique coffee houses, pop-up restaurants, food trucks and supper clubs will grow in popularity, as will open mic nights and personal storytelling. 

The Bigger Zeitgeist

On a wider level, the cultural zeitgeist is finally trending away from giant franchises and back towards smaller, more connective stories. The big media outlets won’t realize this, and we will be subjected to additional less-than-inspiring Marvel movies that fewer of us will watch. 

Plus, the whole superhero thing isn’t hitting like it used to, and it’s time. Leaders betray. Heroes disappoint. Being your own hero is in. Accountability is the way. 

We will move away from “cancel culture,” towards a more nuanced accountability culture.

(To that end: how to apologize, in four acts: Director’s note: with sincerity. Say exactly what you are apologizing for, state why it was wrong, say the actual words “I’m sorry,” explain what will change and how your behavior will be different.)

We will continue to see these bumper stickers that say a version of “I bought this before Elon lost it” all over the Bay Area. They will become some sort of ironical, dystopian status symbol. There will be more apologetic Tesla owners, Teslas with “for sale” signs, beat-up Teslas, and my favorite, weird art car Teslas on the road, as Elon gyrates through his final spirals into Dante’s Inferno.

Other big issues for the South Bay are public safety, sustainability and climate action.

Tech 2024 Predictions

AI will be on everyone’s mind, in many ways, and then the excitement will fade.

In 2024, locals, along with the rest of the world, will get on the bandwagon to find uses for GPT and other large language models. That will peak by the first three months of 2024. 

The first half of next year will be mostly about understanding AI and understanding our feelings about AI, so that we can make wise decisions rather than feel swept along. This will take media literacy AND emotional intelligence. 

Un-ease with internet misinformation and augmented realities (not to mention stiff necks and sore asses) will drive more in-person connections. People will want to feel human. We will look to nature to slow down, move our bodies, be with our own thoughts and feelings, unplug from tech and interact with our pets and each other. Local Parks are always in style, always worth investing in and always worth protecting. Expect many, many trippy conversations on the nature of reality, what is alive, what is intelligence and even the big ones like what it means to be human. 

It’s a good time to start therapy, learn to be ok with our own social awkwardness and explore the trails.

Misinformation

Shouldn’t they have done more by now?

Because X (Twitter) and Facebook have not adequately addressed misinformation before Elon-gate and before AI hit the user market, expect social media to get flooded with uncredited, unexplained AI-generated shitpost memes, false quotes, rumors, deep fakes and misinformation. Just in time for an election year. Debunking and fact-checking will be a full-time gig for many content creators, but they’ll need financial support from users in order to keep up with the flood of misinformation sludge. 

We will turn to trusted sources for crowdfunded, investigative news or on-the-scene reports.

It’s a great time to support local media, like your friendly alt-weekly (ahem, ahem), public radio and public television. 

Old-fashioned canvassing—door-to-door, town halls, formal and informal discussions—will make a statistically significant difference in 2024 elections.

More Tech

Platformer’s Casey Newton predicted that the general belt-tightening in the valley around tech finances will mean there will be less money for smaller start-up ideas. 

I agree, but think smaller start-ups that use AI in medical, mental health and other wellness-adjacent applications to assist humans will get funding. Ethicists, philosophers and science communicators will be talking about this all year and beyond, and there will be a robust public debate.

Speaking of which, science communication careers will get big as we untangle AI ethics and vaccine misinformation, which will continue to be fought in the public health arena. In academics, there will be a refreshed interest in philosophy, and in the next one to five years science communication will be a new official academic major that is part of the science departments or the journalism school.

While tinkering with actual AI applications, end users will encounter current and future limits of AI. They will pick their favorite applications—mostly in productivity—and stick with it, kind of like how we behave around smartphone brands and operating systems. 

By this time next year, the sheen will have long worn off of AI art, as artists continue to make their voices heard on issues of intellectual property, and users tire of that as well. Mike Huguenor likened the effects of too much AI-generated art to the effects of substance abuse: something that at first you think will create connections that actually takes your attention away from the people around you.

After the WGA and SAG strikes, studios will proceed with more caution and scramble to regulate an industry that is up in the air. In the gap, indie movies and small-budget TV projects will capture our attention.

In general, the AI conversation will be had everywhere, but what is notable is that everywhere will include coffeehouses, bars and ale houses. My boldest prediction? The national AI debate along with the loneliness epidemic will spark a massive, worldwide desire to return to real-world interactions. Embodied storytelling and things that make us feel human will be necessary, grounding and at an all-time high. People will come to their senses and remember that this is supposed to be a tool that works with us, not a ubiquitous, mechanical overlord that will take everything from us.

It’s a good time to… go into intellectual property law, make your voice heard on the AI issue, start an in-person gathering, and if you’re an engineer at X, looking for backup jobs.

Cost of Living and Housing 2024 Predictions

As far as cost of living goes, we can’t address that issue without addressing our growing number of unhoused individuals, including children. Social service agencies, community organizations and grassroots organizers will need to lean into in-person connection to continue to afford life here. We need to make good on the state law to provide affordable housing to residents.

Housing will be all over the place. Well, the issue will be all over the place. There won’t be the inventory to provide housing all over. Voters will become restless and work with grassroots community organizations and nonprofits to demand accountability from the City. 

Innovation will continue to lead the day in housing the unhoused, with projects like Casitas de Esperanza, tiny homes that provide transitional housing to families, gaining traction.

On the NIMBY front—something will have to give and housing advocates would do well to brainstorm a rebrand for high density, affordable housing so that people in the neighborhood learn to better live together, communicate with each other, and see neighbors as neighbors, not nuisances.

I predict this will be a year of the people pushing harder on city and county government and forming community organizations to promote brick and mortar entrepreneurship and housing. It’s time.

It’s Easy Like X, Y, Z

…and sometimes boomer and alpha.

Sorry boomer, whatever GenXer and I totally understand how you feel right now millennials, but Gen Z is having a moment—and they deserve it. Whitney Houston—a boomer who missed Gen X by two years—sang “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way.” And like so many other brilliant and talented stars from her era who burned out early, she was right. 

The oldest Gen Zers will be 26 this year, and the youngest are entering tweendom. Sharp, witty, fast, savvy and nuanced, Gen Z will set the trends for all of us, and for once we would be wise to stop shaking our fists in the air (which as a dance move, is apparently cheugy now) and take note.

I, for one, welcome our new, based overlords. As the most culturally diverse, politically progressive and digitally nuanced generation on record, Gen Z style demands comfort, maximum ethics, practicality and showmanship.

Millennials, like those in our own youngward-trending city government—Domingo Candelas (the appointed councilman for whom I predict election by the voters), Peter Ortiz and Omar Torres, should feel supported in their own values and goals instead of pushed out. Gen Z has the digital savvy, bullshit detector and a weird mixture of calm and urgency that works well with any generation.

Older generations should provide the wisdom of perspective without talking down to them the way past elders did. They are the Young Sheldons of the generations—most likely way smarter than we are, but still in need of guidance and protection.

In order to make San Jose reach her full potential, we need all hands on deck, young and old. As the Bay Area and San Jose are progressive areas, boomers, xers and millennials will need to listen to youngsters, who are the most progressive generation. The combination of the wisdom of years and the digital wisdom of Gen Z will be an unstoppable force locally.

Health and Wellness

Look for innovation in healthcare delivery.

Expect to see new innovations and ways of providing healthcare coming out of tech while the politicians continue to kick the can down the road.

Mainstream religion (the majority of religious people in San Jose still identify as Catholic) isn’t dying, but will need to step it up in community care and social justice activism to engage the younger generations.

Community care? What’s that?

Community care is the practice of seeing your own well-being as connected to the well-being of the community in which you live. Grassroots community organizing, community-led organizations that focus on issues like housing, mental health, food insecurity, disaster response, history education, the arts and public health will gain traction as we learn to manage our health and needs for social distancing and mask use post-Covid. It’s a good time to find the diverse groups of people and community organizations that already exist and are doing the work, and join them. 

Mental Health 2024 Predictions

Healthscape or hellscape? 

After the historic Kaiser strike in 2022 ended, access to mental health care at all levels of the socioeconomic scale still remains tricky. Dangerously long wait times for psychiatry, psychotherapy and case management services for the insured and uninsured will contribute to more disasters that could have been averted with a more robust infrastructure. Meanwhile, overworked, often under-compensated clinicians continue to become more overwhelmed and wiped out. 

By the end of the year, community organizers will have had enough and will call for major reforms. At the top end of the economic ladder, those with access to ketamine will encounter a mixed bag—the enormous potential for the drug to reduce suicidality and treatment-resistant depression will be celebrated, while those who should not have been prescribed ketamine due to addiction issues or lack of fit will be vocal, causing more regulatory action. In response to slow access to care, community care for those lucky enough to be connected, will grow.

But first, the fentanyl crisis

Public health officials, law enforcement and hospital staff will continue to sound the alarm on the fentanyl crisis in 2024, and the combination of rising deaths and very public cases like Baby Phoenix’s tragic and preventable death will bring the general public’s head out of the sand. The emphasis will move away from prevention (think, frying eggs and “this is your brain on drugs” commercials) to harm reduction.

A huge reckoning is coming to San Jose in the wake of the tragic death of Baby Phoenix, including a much needed re-assessment and re-vamping of the Child Protective Services, Child Court and Foster Care systems. City and school district programs geared to this will change the game, and institutions and businesses will stock narcan and fentanyl test strips, which I believe should be made available to kids.

What parents need to know: if you are born between 1965-1995, throw out everything you learned about drug prevention in your school years. Forget the egg frying and “this is your brain on drugs.” Forget “Just Say No.” Forget “it’s ok for them to try things.” Fentanyl will come for the people you love and it doesn’t give a shit about you or what you think you know.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate now entering the country from multiple points, along with pill stampers and other materials used to process the drug. People at multiple points across the globe are mixing fentanyl with just about any drug that can be made illegally and put into powder or pill form. It is extremely easy to consume a fatal dose this way. So you really do have to throw out everything you know about drug prevention, including making the assumption “my kid wouldn’t do fentanyl,” and realize that if your kid tries cocaine, meth, heroin or even MDMA, just one time, however you feel about these drugs, they could be inadvertently and unintentionally ingesting a fatal dose of fentanyl. Transparency, harm reduction and communication are key. It’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Speaking of harm reduction, expect to see more legal, regulated cannabis use (and more regulations). This year, a new California law goes into effect that one cannot be discriminated against in employment for consuming cannabis in their non-work time. Will this lead to relaxed laws for San Jose, who has some of the strictest cannabis laws in the state? 

Culture and Style Trends

Slang

Gen Z will still dominate the slang landscape, except Generation X and millennials will hang onto our generational slang like our bowling shirts and skinny jeans. 

Coffee 

“Gen Z are iced drink drinkers,” according to Nirvana Soul’s Be’Anka. Also, there will be more demand for single-origin, unique limited edition blends.

Literature

San Jose has a huge number of speculative fiction authors who will continue to put out great genre fiction.

Hair

Again, Gen Z sets the tone for hair in the new year. Young Latino SJ boys and men have lined up at the barber for the cut that took 2023 by storm: The Edgar, but it’s a haircut we have seen before on Black men as a fade with boxed edges. On white dudes it’s a Caesar. It’s a trend that men can personalize, and we are going to see a lot of iterations. Another thing we have been seeing and will keep seeing is boy perms, as the omnipresent pressure to be attractive will not really let up on women and girls so much as clamp down on men and boys. 

Long, straight hair and curled ends will continue to be popular, but I think we are going to see more girls of Latina and South Asian ancestry mix it up and experiment with shorter lengths. Folks who don’t want to mess with length will go for pops or washes of color. Pantone’s color of the year is kind of a peachy, apricotty, almond-mom-adjacent look. White women will start to get tired of the MLM Mom and #BossBabe looks of massive cascades of highlighted hair too, and we will start seeing a bit of a grunge shag revival. 

My own stylist Bobby Urzua tells me not to focus on hair trends: “With the internet and socials we have micro-trends now, which is a very fast cycle that only the wealthiest can keep up with, so normal people have more freedom to do what they like. But honestly, what’s in? Ponytails. Barrettes. No-fuss, put it up and go. People got shit to do.” 

Clothes

“I am so happy that flared jeans are coming back again,” confessed Be’Anka (same) “and when we all started wearing skinny jeans I was like, ‘why are we doing this?’” (SAME!) 

Gen Z is embracing a ’90s revival—currently the crop tops and comfy flares are making a comeback, and I’m guessing we will see some darker makeup and light hair dyed dark, for a gothy vibe. I’m going to sound old as hell, but I need to warn the youths: for the love of everything sacred, don’t overpluck your eyebrows. That shit does not grow back.

Makeup

The cool thing about modern makeup is that it feels optional. Bold colors and metallics will be big next year, and a stroll through the isles at your favorite beauty supply store confirms this. 

Gardens

What up, Zone 9? Anybody else still producing full-on tomatoes, or is that just me? Little pops of greenery against a minimalist white wall are all over Instagram feeds—namely those of performance artist accounts. They make for a cute background. Edible gardens, front yard revamps and sustainable yards will get even more popular to fire safeguard homes and conserve water.

Won’t somebody think of the sportsball? 

Because I am pathetically inadequate to commentate on the playing of sportsball, I turned to Adrian Cavlan, self-professed American Football fanatic and the music director for the 49ers for 15 years. His company still does the in-game music for them at Levi’s Stadium.

Here’s his prediction: 

Our 49ers make it to the Super Bowl and face Baltimore again, but this time, the kid’s combination of brains and moxie finally delivers #6 to The Faithful… and you can print that!”

Again, I don’t know what the puck I’m talking about when it comes to hockey, so I turned to Adrian’s business partner, Raffi Nalvarian: “The Sharks are in a rebuild mode at this point. They’re a fun and young team to watch but you have to be OK with the tougher nights when things aren’t going well. We are seeing young and up-and-coming talent and I do have high hopes for William Eklund.  

Coach Quinn is the right coach to develop our young players. Give them two years. :)”  

Parenting

The biggest parenting trend in 2024 is going to be around the parents themselves. Culture is moving quickly and the ways Gen Xers and millennials were parented might already be a bad fit for today’s kids—the alphas, zalphas and Gen Zs. We are going to go back and forth and back and forth and turn ourselves into pretzels figuring out what the right limits to set for technology are. I know when I tell my kid to stop using her phone, that’s when she reveals that she’s been using it all day to create some amazing art. 

We are going to need to pause, reflect and self-regulate to parent in these chaotic times. 

And it’s undeniable that young kids are facile with tech, and in controlled doses, that can be a good thing. Find any kid on Roblox and they will be better at Metaversing than Zuckerberg.

As our family optometrist points out, kids are having more eye problems because they are using “close vision” too much (ie, looking at small screens). Make sure they get at least an hour of “far vision” ie, being outside and looking out at distances on the horizon. 

As pediatricians point out, kids need frequent exercise. Pretty much any limit we need to set with kids is also a limit we need to set with ourselves. Self care, hydration, sleep, alone time, thinking time, exercise—they aren’t magic cures, but they will never go out of style. 

And Last But Not Least

Local Politics

Matt Mahan will be elected to the second term of his 10-year mayorship, thanks to a change in the city charter that moved mayoral elections to presidential election years. Though the local labor council and its allies spent heavily on the ballot measure to switch years in hopes of electing one of its own, their efforts instead gave centrist Mahan the incumbency path to become the city’s only three-term popularly elected mayor. 

Congressional candidate Sam Liccardo will show up at San Jose City Hall with proof of insurance for owning a handgun, but will be sent away because the city has no clear procedures in place to administer the program. It will later be revealed to be a publicity stunt because Liccardo does not actually own a handgun.

In a redux of the fake Vietnamese mailer that helped Xavier Campos in his first race against Magdalena Carrasco, Supervisor Cindy Chavez will be linked to payments to Sacramento-based Vietnamese-American anti-communists who have been showing up at political events of Madison Nguyen, who’s running against Chavez staffer Betty Duong to succeed the supervisor.

Former city councilman Larry Pegram’s campaign to fight Critical Race Theory and Comprehensive Sexuality Education in schools will suffer a setback when he is caught having bathroom sex with a misgendered mixed-race sexbot developed by a secret Elon Musk startup.

Supervisor Joe Simitian will develop laryngitis due to an unprecedented number of campaign debates for the 16th District congressional race. The inability to speak will correlate to a 5 percent bump in the polls that will temporarily make him the front runner.

Council candidate Michael Mulcahy will be targeted by hit mailers claiming he is “overqualified” and therefore unfit for public office. His fundraising will additionally be hampered by the failure of the usual suspects and special interests to contribute to his campaign because he is too wealthy to be easily corrupted. 

Assemblyman Evan Low will be elected to Congress as the Asian American community’s second member of the LGBTQ community, though George Santos will throw that achievement into dispute by claiming to be of Asian descent.

Former Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne, who resigned amidst allegations of falsified research, will team up with ex-SJSU president Mary Papazian and ex-U. Penn president Liz Magill to form a consulting firm specializing in executive recruitment screening services for universities and crisis communications for embattled executives in the higher education field.

The biggie

Tech journalist Kara Swisher boldly predicted on the Pivot podcast that Joe Biden will win the 2024 election. She said that the American people have had it with He Who Shall Not Be Named

“The more that you see of Uncle Crazy, the less you’re going to like what you see and [it will] remind you of bad times.” Even though Troll-de-mort is polling high now, ”people will bite the bullet and vote for Biden.”  

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