The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has ushered the world into uncharted territory, raising questions and sparking imaginations. Amy Webb, a futurist known for her expertise in emerging technologies, is at the forefront of understanding how AI will reshape business and society. As the Founder and CEO of the Future Today Institute, she employs both quantitative and qualitative modeling to predict the impact of AI, from transformative possibilities to ominous concerns. We recently caught up with her during the SXSW conference in Sydney, where she shared her insights on AI’s multifaceted role.
AI’s Impact on Worker Productivity:
AI has the potential to significantly boost productivity, especially in cognitive tasks involving reading, sorting, and tagging. Sectors like professional services, law firms, and investment banks can benefit from AI, which reduces the time and effort required for these activities and can uncover patterns that humans might miss. However, the human element remains crucial. Interestingly, humans have a natural inclination to conserve energy, which poses a question about whether AI might inadvertently cater to our inherent laziness, raising implications for the future of productivity.
AI and the Job Market:
The fear of AI taking over jobs is a prevalent concern, but Webb poses a counter-question: What would it take for this fear to become reality? In many industries, such as plumbing, there is already a significant shortage of workers. For AI to replace a knowledge worker, these workers must be involved in training AI systems. Webb cites an example of medical students earning money for training AI systems, but acknowledges it’s just a small part of the puzzle. Rather than focusing solely on job displacement, the emphasis should be on how business models need to evolve in response to AI’s integration.
C-Suite Executives and AI:
High-level executives are increasingly interested in AI, but many are looking for fundamental discussions. To engage in more nuanced conversations, they must embrace uncertainty and think beyond short-term gains. It’s not just about reducing costs; the real potential lies in fostering top-line growth, creating new revenue streams, and enhancing relationships.
AI’s Multifaceted Nature:
Webb anticipates the evolution of AI into a “multimodal” system, one that can perform multiple tasks simultaneously, employing various forms of logic, reasoning, and analysis. This multi-dimensional AI can tackle complex challenges and support leaders in making informed decisions by considering contextual information.
The Ownership and Monetization of AI Data:
One pressing concern is the ownership and monetization of data used to train AI systems. Once data is utilized for AI training, questions arise about data ownership, ethics, and trust. When your data is incorporated into AI systems, it becomes challenging to reclaim it.
Amy Webb’s insights underscore the intricate interplay between AI and various aspects of our lives. The path forward involves not just the integration of AI but also a holistic approach to rethinking business models, ethics, and the relationship between humans and technology.