by Stella Oni
The technological landscape has drastically transformed since I wrote this piece in 2020, with the evolution of AI significantly accelerating.
Whether we like it or not, AI is already a part of our daily lives. As long as you have directly or indirectly used Chatbots, Cortana, Alexa, Google Assistant and services like Amazon, you have entered the world of AI. Once we add in the Internet of Things (IoT) and Blockchain, then the circle completes.
We know that lockdown cannot last forever. As I write, it is being lifted with restrictions in many countries worldwide, although Covid-19 is still raging. A vaccine is about a year to eighteen months away.
We know that life will never be the same again, post-COVID-19. We have had more deaths in the last few weeks than most of us have seen in a lifetime. Even wars have stood a standstill as we fight a vicious, terrifying, and invisible enemy.
Without getting into sentimentality, not one of us knows the time of day. Anything can destroy us, even with the advance in science. We know that people live longer, but see how Covid-19 decimated the elderly population in Italy.
“The coronavirus pandemic has wiped £54bn from the wealth of Britain’s super-rich in the past two months, the new Sunday Times Rich List reveals today”Sunday Times Rich List 2020
The above is typical of what has happened to the monumentally wealthy with huge businesses worldwide. Retail, aviation, entertainment, hospitality, manufacturing — the list is endless — rely on human intervention, interaction/contact.
In the future, these industries and governments will do everything they can to speed up automation.
The economic impact might have been less because computers can’t get sick. For example, the safest way to operate a business post-COVID in retail is much less staff and efficient AI-assisted self-service.
Fiat has never been the best form of currency, and financial institutions have been moving away from it for years with cards and electronic transactions.
Handling cash at a time of Covid-19 is now seen as hazardous. For example, my local supermarket encourages contactless payment to protect their frontline staff from touching money.
So, what part do these technologies play? They are disrupting systems. Let us quickly look at each one to understand what they are and their developments.
AI — Artificial Intelligence
AI, explained, is teaching programs to see patterns by feeding them with big data. It has become sophisticated through advanced research, and machines now have layers of learning that no human can match. They are also becoming better and better at predicting human behaviour.
In practical terms and all around us, we have and will accept AI in speech and facial recognition within our supply chains, issuing us loans and driverless cars.
“The most near-term impact from a technology standpoint is autonomous cars … That will happen much faster than people realise, which will be convenient. But there are many people whose jobs are to drive. In fact, I think it might be the single largest employer of people … Driving in various forms. So we need to figure out new roles for what those people do, but it will be very disruptive and very quick.”Elon Musk
Giants Taking over — AI Startups
Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple have been gobbling up AI startups like Whales to Planktons.
Google acquired the UK startup DeepMind for $500 million in 2004. DeepMind created the AI program AlphaGo in 2015 that beat South Korean GO Champion Lee Sedol and reduced him to tears.
GO is a Chinese board game over 3,000 years old and requires in-depth strategic thinking.
Sedol retired in November 2019 and is quoted as saying that the AI system is “an entity that cannot be defeated”.
Amazon has a robotic arm that manufactures automated warehouse technologies. Apple acquired Laser-like for natural language searches and will use it to enhance Siri. The list is endless.
Anything that crunches data will be affected — the law profession, accounting, medicine, manufacturing, insurance, radiology, etc.
The countries leading in AI are Silicon Valley, the USA, and China’s version, in Zhongguancun, based in Beijing, China.
“AI — Potential contribution to the global economy by 2030 is 15.7 Trillion dollars”PwC’s Global Artificial Intelligence Study: Exploiting the AI Revolution.
A decentralized ledger distributed on databases around the world. The principle of Blockchain is that our transactions are not controlled by a single source, like, say, a bank, but instead on an electronic ledger that is distributed on computer systems.
Transactions could be digital currencies like Bitcoin, digital assets, and documentation. In its simplest terms, the operations are in blocks chained together. Blockchain is transparent, trusted, and secure. Once a transaction is confirmed within the league, it cannot be altered and is regarded as immutable.
Bitcoin , created by the unknown Satoshi Nakamoto, is the first digital currency on a blockchain. There are now hundreds of coins in circulation.
Ethereum was created by Russian-Canadian programmer Vitalink Buterin whom I admire!
It is a blockchain that is built for smart contracts.
What Is a Smart Contract?
“A smart contract is a piece of computer code capable of monitoring, executing and enforcing an agreement”Freshfields.com.
It takes out the middle man as it runs on Blockchain. Thousands of developers are building on Ethereum because the platform allows applications to be made on it. These are called dapps — decentralized applications.
Dapps will speed up blockchain adoption as it removes technicality and will enable users to make their transactions straightforwardly.
It will look like how we use our various apps now, but these would be on a blockchain. Many financial institutions have collaborated to create their private Blockchain and digital currencies.
In the future, Governments might move to digital currencies to eradicate FIAT, but the problem of mass adoption remains. There will have to be accessible infrastructures in places for this to work.
Blockchain will significantly impact digital identity (about 65.6 million people are without status worldwide because of wars and other disasters), and 1.7 billion people remain unbanked and have no access to any financial institutions.
“As blockchain becomes the shared infrastructure for more and more people to collaborate, participate in global marketplaces, access essential services, and protect their data and assets, it is the responsibility of the larger tech community and governments around the world to make sure this technology reaches the vulnerable populations who need it and stand to benefit from it the most.”BCIS Joe Lubin — Co-founder, Ethereum
There are small advances in some areas of Africa. I will provide more use cases of this in Another article.
Internet of Things(IoT)
IoT was a term created by Tech Pioneer Kevin Ashton in 1999 to refer to the connection of the internet to our material world through sensors and cheap computing. It is automation in its purest form.
Major corporations like Uber, Tesla, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and many others already use IoT. Many industries will benefit from IoT, including supply chains.
The promise is that 25 billion devices will be connected by 2025, but the infrastructure needs to match this.
Amazon acquired the startup Eero, a home WiFi system that extends maximum coverage in a building.
They released the first product, Eero, that enables voice deactivation of WiFi for any device in a building. Google Nest also does the same through google assistant. It can run tests or pause WiFi. All of these technologies have their issues.
Impact of AI, IoT, and Blockchain
AI will likely create mass unemployment that will impact all career spectrums, from manual to white-collar. Humans would have to learn new creative skills instead.
“Unless we learn how to prepare for, and avoid, the potential risks, AI could be the worst event in the history of our civilization. It brings dangers, like powerful autonomous weapons, or new ways for the few to oppress the many. It could bring great disruption to our economy.”Stephen Hawkins
A blockchain cannot be hacked due to its very nature. Still, digital currencies and other documentation stored outside of it could be hacked from their storage, including digital wallets.
AI will strengthen industries and make only 1% of the population super-rich and powerful. But from which country?
China might be the leading country for AI technology, but that comes with vast wealth and power. How does that sit with the rest of the world?
Governments are likely to try and create strict regulations to ensure that the new mega powerful do not take over the running of the world through these systems.
IoT’s most significant issue is privacy. It requires copious data to do what it needs to but would this invade our private lives. Most important of all is mass adoption.
There is a requirement for infrastructure including 5g technology, qualified engineers, bold investors, government support for most of these to happen.
Might Covid-19 then be the tipping point for all of the things to forge forward faster.
Only time will tell.