This module concludes the AI for Business course. Over the past six weeks, we’ve examined AI deployment in organisations, alongside requisite leadership and strategic considerations. It’s clear that successful AI implementation extends beyond mere technology to encompass a myriad of issues. The ethical dimension of AI is particularly crucial. Underlining this is the absolute necessity of people-centred change management.
Technological advancements are occurring at an unprecedented pace, granting more individuals access to both technology and knowledge than ever before, thereby promoting global equity. However, Turner (2023) [^1] highlights a gap, but one that appears to be rapidly closing with 86% of the world’s population own a smartphone.
SpaceX’s Starlink project enhances innovation in this area with plans for deploying 42,000 satellites aimed at increasing global broadband accessibility. As of July, 2023, SpaceX has 4519 satellites deployed in orbit (Pultarova & Howell 2023) [^2].
Today’s ubiquitous access to smartphones and internet-connectivity has drastically improved knowledge accessibility compared with two decades ago. This democratisation of information presents remarkable opportunities for education and personal growth. Rayaprolu (2023) [^3] quantified worldwide data storage as reaching approximately 118 zettabytes by 2020, but is predicted to increase to over 180 zettabytes by 2025. Such exponential data growth fuels AI development but also leads us towards an uncertain future that can be difficult to predict or even imagine.
The video below provides an interesting insight into the world of AI. It should be noted, however, that it is dated October 2018 and much has changed since then.
Hypotheses on an AI future
AI, once the preserve of science fiction, has now emerged as a prominent technology, particularly following the release of ChatGPT in November 2022. The future trajectory of AI is hotly debated; some perceive it as mankind’s destiny while others foresee catastrophe.
Ray Kurzweil’s 2005 book ‘The Singularity is Near’ posits that AI could evolve into an entity surpassing human intelligence. Although written over a decade ago, this concept remains relevant and challenging from our human perspective. Kurzweil also projected that by the 2030s, that nanotechnology could connect human brains to cloud computational power (Kurzweil 2005) [^6]. This would enable us to harness immense cognitive capabilities and access vast information reserves – even backing up our thoughts and memories. This technology already exists in experimental stages with Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs), being developed by Elon Musk’s company Neuralink amongst others.
Despite its current experimental status and seemingly futuristic nature, ongoing exploration suggests such technology may eventually be realised. However, there are contrasting views on AI’s implications for humanity. Stephen Hawking (Hawking et al. 2014) [^5] warned that while successful creation of AI might be monumental for humankind, it could also pose existential risks if not adequately controlled or ethically managed, concerns that are echoed widely today.
Public figures like Bill Gates and Elon Musk have similarly cautioned about the potential threats posed by unregulated AI development. Notably in 2023 an open letter calling for a six-month pause on AI developments was issued but failed to gain traction. National interests, sadly but understandably, prioritise maintaining competitive advantage because of potential military applications for AI. This scenario is raised in a TedX talk (video further down in this post) where AI dominance militarily is termed as a “winner take all” situation (Can we build AI without losing control over it? | Sam Harris 2016) [^7]
Considering the novelty and continual evolution of AI, the videos below provide a glimpse into potential future developments. There is a significant deficiency in rigorous academic exploration within this area at this time. Indeed, much of what lies ahead remains speculative.
The video by the Centre of Humane Technology (The A.I. Dilemma 2023) [^4] considers current AI technology and the existential risks it could pose to society. It highlights the need for restraint against a backdrop of speed to depolyment to maintain and build competitive advantage. Additionally, the video raises several ethical questions for consideration.
In the video below, Sam Harris discusses the importance of building guardrails around AI and ensuring we do not engage in an AI arms race.
Kurzweil (2005) [^5], previously mentioned in the notes, raises an intriguing point in this video below. He suggests that despite our extensive use of technology to date, none has caused us harm. Interestingly, he also mentions having ingested a computer for medical purposes, possibly foreshadowing future developments towards brain implant technologies.
Despite expressing warnings and speculation about AI in his book, Kurzweil does not appear overly apprehensive about AI’s potential to obliterate humanity in this video.
AI in business – the future
The array of AI applications currently on offer is staggering, with new ones surfacing daily. Undeniably, AI is transforming the way organisations conduct business; it enhances productivity and fortifies their competitive edge when used judiciously. One publication that tracks AI indicators is The AI Index 2023 Annual Report (Maslej et al. 2023) [^8] . This report, which runs to some 386 pages provides a wealth of information on the current developments in the field. Some interesting observation made by the authors is that, “
- Publishing pre-peer-reviewed papers on repositories of electronic preprints (such as arXiv and SSRN) has become a popular way for AI researchers to disseminate their work outside traditional avenues for publication. (Maslej et al. 2023 p. 40) [^8. ]
- Startups and large companies find themselves in a race to deploy and release generative models, and the technology is no longer controlled by a small group of actors (Maslej et al. 2023 p.128) [^8. ]
- The number of AI PhDs going into industry rather than academia has increased from 41% in 2011 to 65% in 2021.
- Interest and application of policy and governance in AI is increasing around the world.
Taking into account all information from this module and previous ones, it is evident that the progress of AI is rapidly increasing. Leaders, business managers and organisations must therefore familiarise themselves with the available AI technologies. They need to prepare for competition against these advancing technologies which could potentially undermine their own competitive advantage. Moreover, they will need to devise strategies to maintain their competitiveness in this rapidly evolving landscape.
Potential for disruption
AI is poised to create a landscape conducive to disruption by innovative entrepreneurs who can identify specific industries ripe for AI-driven transformation. We’ve already witnessed self-driving trucks eliminating the need for drivers, while drones have supplanted pilots in certain instances and are undoubtedly useful in military applications.
Moreover, the development of autonomous cars is underway, although significant progress may be hampered due to concerns about potential accidents. Ultimately, these opportunities are boundless and constrained only by businesses’ and organisations’ capacity to discern market entry points where they can capitalise on this technology.
The video below shows Elon Musk talking about his vision for robo-taxis. It should be noted that the video was made in April of 2019 and Musk states that Tesla will have a million robo-taxis on the road within the year. Obviously, that has not happened yet, but Musk has proved he is not one to give up easily.
The medical industry has already experienced significant disruption, with considerable opportunities arising in areas such as 3D printing of replacement body parts. The COVID pandemic has fostered a surge in telehealth services, enabling remote healthcare provision. Medical imaging technology is evolving rapidly and now allows comparison of live data with stored data to identify previously difficult to diagnose tumours and other irregularities. This technological advancement in the medical sector is having an overwhelmingly positive impact. With AI capable of quick diagnoses, doctors can focus more on patient treatment rather than time-consuming administrative tasks or lengthy analysis of x-ray images.
Where are we now?
As previously emphasised, the rapid emergence of new AI applications makes future predictions challenging. Nevertheless, we will examine current applications and their potential impact on diverse organisational sectors.
Informed decision making
AI’s influence on decision-making is noteworthy. Prior to AI’s expansion and vast data availability, managers often made decisions based on limited data. However, with the volume of data generated and processed by AI today, it has become easier to create accurate projections, simulations, graphs and other forms of information that simplify the decision-making process significantly. This assumes that the utilised data is reliable and trustworthy.
This process is known as Predictive Analysis and it proves useful in various industries for AI-assisted decision making.Anything from determining optimal hotel room prices to analysing bank transactions for fraud risk patterns or reviewing access attempts in cybersecurity.
AI can be instrumental and cost-efficient in lead generation, a significant business expense that directly affects profitability. Businesses collect data from various sources such as websites and e-commerce stores, then analyse this information to optimise customer acquisition and retention.
Social media activities also contribute significantly to lead generation. Users’ digital footprints on these platforms can be traced, enabling marketers to utilise targeted advertising algorithms. This approach not only reduces overall marketing costs but also focuses on potential markets rather than using a broad-based strategy (Matz & Kosinski 2019) [^9].
Chatbots have significantly evolved in customer support, exhibiting increasing power and efficiency. Recalling difficulties encountered with chatbots five years ago due to inconsistencies paints a stark contrast to the current situation where they can engage in comprehensive conversations, recognise languages, respond accurately and operate on vast data sets. This eliminates the expense and need for human intervention in inquiries. Pineda (2019) suggested that modern chatbots could handle 80% of customer support queries, however this claim is unsupported by references. It would be beneficial to ascertain their performance levels in 2023 but a search of the literature reveals no information other than to suggest that efficiency is improving.
Despite these advancements, interacting with chatbots can occasionally frustrate users who cannot access desired information or find themselves stuck in repetitive loops. However, as these technologies enhance their understanding of human speech patterns alongside sentiment and behavioural detection capabilities, such shortcomings are expected to decrease.
The ability to detect sentiment and emotion provides valuable insights into user engagement by flagging specific incidents that trigger frustration due to the bot’s inability to resolve issues. This could be especially useful for marketing departments identifying trends or problems with particular products and services or particular recurring questions.
The video below was also published in 2019 but it serves as a chilling reminder of the possibilities of AI foretold by a futurist. The presenter suggests that with Predictive AI, machines could possibly predict the date of our death. He also suggests that they will be able to predict our behaviour by synthesising incoming data from our surroundings.
This module has attempted to examine the future of AI. It should be apparent to the reader that not only is it difficult to predict, but also difficult to imagine. The potential of this technology will obviously reshape our entire society let alone business. Again however, it is worth reiterating the importance of ethics and human-centric approaches. We can only hope that this technology in reshaping the world will provide abundance to all and be as democratised as possible for the benefit of humankind.
[^1]: Turner, A 2023, ‘How Many People Have Smartphones Worldwide (Aug 2023)’, HOW MANY SMARTPHONES ARE IN THE WORLD? July, viewed 1 August 2023, https://www.bankmycell.com/blog/how-many-phones-are-in-the-world.
[^2]: Pultarova, T & Howell, E 2023, Starlink satellites: Everything you need to know about the controversial internet megaconstellation, Space.com, viewed 1 August 2023, https://www.space.com/spacex-starlink-satellites.html.
[^3]: Rayaprolu, A 2023, 25+ Impressive Big Data Statistics for 2023, Techjury, viewed 1 August 2023, https://techjury.net/blog/big-data-statistics/.
[^4]: The A.I. Dilemma 2023, viewed 1 August 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoVJKj8lcNQ.
[^5]: Hawking, S, Russell, S, Tegmark, M, & Wilczek, F 2014, Stephen Hawking: ’Are we taking Artificial Intelligence seriously, The Independent, viewed 1 August 2023, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/stephen-hawking-transcendence-looks-at-the-implications-of-artificial-intelligence-but-are-we-taking-ai-seriously-enough-9313474.html.
[^6]: Kurzweil, R 2005, The singularity is near: when humans transcend biology, Viking, New York.
[^7]: Can we build AI without losing control over it? | Sam Harris 2016, viewed 1 August 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nt3edWLgIg.
[^8]: Maslej, N, Fattorini, L, Brynjolfsson, E, Etchemendy, J, Ligett, K, Lyons, T, Manyika, J, Ngo, H, Niebles, JC, Parli, V, Shoham, Y, Wald, R, Clark, J, & Perrault, R 2023, AI Index Report 2023 – Artificial Intelligence Index, Institute for Human-Centered AI, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, viewed 1 August 2023, https://aiindex.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/HAI_AI-Index-Report_2023.pdf.
[^9]: Matz, S & Kosinski, M 2019, ‘Using Consumers’ Digital Footprints for More Persuasive Mass Communication’, NIM Marketing Intelligence Review November 1, Vol. 11, pp. 18–23.