The fourth industrial revolution is ushering in a new technology-driven world where machines not only do but think
It has been one of the tech buzz-phrases of the last couple of years, rivalling blockchain and virtual reality for business seminar ubiquity, but artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly moving from intriguing possibility to tangible, measurable deployment.
According to a study by PwC, the adoption of AI solutions will increase the UAE’s GDP by $96bn by 2030. By 2035, says that other consulting giant Accenture, the finance ($37bn), healthcare ($22bn), and transport and storage ($19bn) sectors will see the biggest growth – and they’re all vital cogs in the UAE’s economic machine.
It’s a message that has been clearly understood by the UAE authorities. In October 2017, the country became the first in the world to have a dedicated Minister of AI when then 27-year-old Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama was given the responsibility of driving forward the UAE 2031 AI strategy, a project that aims to make the government more efficient and streamlined by developing AI technologies.
We’re already seeing insurance services, data analysis and traffic management solutions harnessing the power of machine learning principles in the country, while seminars discuss how machines will soon deliver basic diagnostics in the healthcare sector and customer interaction at banks, leisure facilities and government departments.
We’re already seeing insurance services, data analysis and traffic management solutions harnessing the power of machine learning”
Just last month, the UAE and India signed a bilateral Artificial Intelligence Bridge agreement to help governments, technology start-ups, academia and industry associations unearth $20bn of those aforementioned benefits over the next decade.
“How a country chooses to embrace artificial intelligence will have a tremendous impact on its ability to innovate and prosper,” noted Al Olama. “Data and processing will be a catalyst for innovation and business growth, and serve as the backbone of a more effective and efficient service delivery system.”
Firstly, though, a definition of terms. Artificial intelligence isn’t yet independent, autonomous “thinking” by computers, says Vitalii Duk, data scientist at Dubai-based e-commerce platform Dubizzle.
“Most of the current successful breakthroughs are just complex mathematical models trained to perform only one specific task well,” he says. “Typically, when most people refer to AI, it is usually meaning a particular machine learning algorithm which was created at the intersection of computer science, mathematics and statistics, allowing computers to learn complex patterns based on provided data.
“Where artificial neural networks are supposedly created as an approximate model of a human’s brain,” he continues, “they are still based on very naive assumptions of how our brain works, creating a lot of limitations.”
Bottom line, then, this technology remains for now a computer task that, like all computer tasks, is designed to eliminate a lot of cumbersome, inefficient human processes and replace them with sophisticated software that can sift data sets with infinitesimal variables quickly and intelligently.
The exploration phase, now some 20 years down the line, is giving way to adoption, with the benefits – and maybe the downsides – beginning to be realised. Arabian Business looks at some of the most conspicuous example from the UAE.