Beyond the Tech: What Does An AI-Optimized Society Look Like?

by Nick Shah
January 11, 2024
AI Optimization

Are we going to be taking holidays on Mars by 2050? 

Or living in a cyber-dystopia run by sentient robots?  

Commentary on the ongoing AI boom has been extreme from the get-go. From doom and gloom prediction of the imminent collapse of human civilization to over-the-top fantasies of an impossibly bright AI utopia, I’ve read it all this last year.  

But the one thing I think is sorely lacking is a measured discourse on how we can expect our lives—personal and professional—to change, in the near future. Humanity may well be holidaying on the Moon in the 22nd century but that is far less exciting than the possibility that healthcare will become more affordable and accessible within the next decade.   

Putting sci-fi and long-term possibilities aside, what changes can we expect to see in how we work and learn? 

Before diving in, we need to acknowledge certain realities: 

1. AI Has Already Taken Over 

It’s a remarkable achievement for a brand when it becomes synonymous with a function it performs. Like the phrase “just Google it.” Or “I need a Xerox of these papers”- a common substitute for photocopying in parts of the world.  

This is exactly where the phrase “ChatGPT it” is headed.  

Though our understanding of AI’s impact is still evolving, and legislation is still under development, the fact is that AI is already a reality in our workplaces and subconscious. AI tools exist today and are being widely used. In IT, from cybersecurity to product development, AI has already changed the way we work. 

[Read more about how AI can transform the way we protect our systems here 

A good example would be in manufacturing. AI-driven robots, exemplified by companies like Philips, have significantly improved manufacturing processes. These robots, powered by machine learning algorithms, adapt to their environment and enhance efficiency, precision, and consistency in production operations.  

AI is already here. 

2. The Further Growth of AI is Inevitable 

Much of the debate surrounding powerful artificial intelligence today is a by-product of a society coming to terms with a once-in-a-generation technological revolution. As mentioned earlier, the debate tends to oscillate between its immense potential and its inherent risks. I am not suggesting that the impact of AI will not be far-reaching. We will have to grapple with the eco-social fallout of a tool that both enhances work and eliminates jobs. 

But once the hype dies down and we learn to cope with this fallout, the inevitable conclusion will be that AI is far too useful of a tool to put down. In logistics, another field that has long experimented with AI capabilities, efficiency gains of up to 30% have been observed in AI-enhanced “last-mile” deliveries. 

Artificial intelligence, both as an industry and a technology, will only grow and expand in scope in the coming years.  

[“AIs that can do what regular people can, across tasks, would transform the world as we know it.” Read more about the new developments set to take AI development to the next level here] 

 

AI at Work 

The biggest fear workers today have with AI, is its ability to automate large parts of certain jobs and minimize the need for human involvement. The biggest advantage employers have is the same. Herein lies the conundrum.  

As I mentioned earlier, AI is not going away. Its ability to enhance key parts of business operations is already making it an invaluable tool. An employer who is not investing in optimizing processes with AI is already falling behind. Certainly, we need carefully considered regulations to kick in and create a sustainable framework for AI development and implementation but that is not going to prevent some jobs from fading away in the next few years. 

As somebody who has worked in recruiting for over twenty-five years and has seen the rise of many game-changing technologies—the internet, mobile phones, and social media, to name a few—my advice to workers today is to upskill every chance you get. From online courses to certifications, there are several options available to professionals who want to upgrade their existing skills or acquire new ones. Employees need to research the impact AI will have on their jobs and either  

  1. Work on the skills that will allow them to make a lateral move into a less AI-impacted role 
  2. Add skills that will help them expand their current role beyond the ability to automate 
  3. Develop the technical skills to leverage AI tools to deliver increased value  

Something both employers and employees should keep in mind is that AI today will deliver better value by working in conjunction with human experts, rather than by supplanting them.  

 

AI in School 

As a father, I spend a lot of time thinking about the impact of AI on my children’s immediate future. The quality of education they’ll receive, their college experience, and the opportunities they’ll get after graduation. In some ways, the fallout from the AI boom is going to impact our kids a lot more than us. The integration of AI into various aspects of life, including education, healthcare, and everyday interactions, suggests profound implications for children’s development and future opportunities.    

Generative AI, for example, can customize learning materials to an unprecedented degree. It could generate textbooks, quizzes, and learning resources that are tailored not just to a student’s learning level, but also to their interests and future career paths. Platforms like Khan Academy use AI algorithms to adapt the curriculum based on individual student’s learning progress. This technology tailors educational content to the student’s pace and style, potentially revolutionizing the way students learn. 

Over the next decade, these students will be graduating into a world that has already experienced the AI revolution and working in jobs that don’t even exist right now. This means it’s going to be vital for our education system to incorporate AI into school curricula and provide students with adequate AI training to fully leverage these new roles.  

But despite the benefits, I also foresee challenges with children growing up with AI. Our kids already spend too much time in front of the screen. Add to this potential privacy concerns, the loss of human interaction, excessive dependence on AI assistants… The onus is going to be on parents and educators to provide guidance, set boundaries, and educate children about responsible and ethical AI use to combat these challenges. 

 

What does AI represent? The inevitable.  

Is the future utopian or dystopian? 

Is the future of healthcare, an app, connected to an automated dispensary and a drone delivery system? This means that patients are assured of fast and affordable healthcare, with increased access to treatment, quick delivery of necessary medication, and essential healthcare personnel free to focus on those who need the most care.  

On the other hand, you’ve just eliminated major jobs all along the supply chain. 

Is the future of education an AI-assisted classroom? Great! Maybe now our overworked and underpaid educators can spend more time addressing the unique needs of their students. But is AI in a classroom a gateway to misinformation and ethical conflicts?    

I don’t have a concrete answer to these questions. My best guess is that a post-AI future will have no perfect solutions or Armageddons. AI cannot make our problems disappear. Equally, no challenge AI throws up will be insurmountable.  

What I do know is that we need to be equally prepared for multiple eventualities and the time to start preparing was yesterday. So, get going now. 

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