Artificial intelligence experts speaking at thein Singapore on Tuesday expressed optimism about the future of AI, despite some worries the fast-growing technology could make dramatic changes in business and society.
“I believe the current evolution of generative AI is a massive acceleration of a very long-term pattern of leveraging technology as a toolset,” Eduardo Saverin, cofounder and co-CEO of Singapore-based venture capital firm B Capital, said on a panel at the Forbes Global CEO Conference. “Where this potentially starts arriving into a phase change is this idea that through time, computers can effectively program themselves…we’re very early in that evolution, or that phase change, and it’s incredibly exciting.”
The Facebook (now Meta) cofounder, who topped this year’s Singapore’s 50 Richest list with a net worth of $16 billion, added, “What’s empowering about [AI technology] is that it’s driving in some ways a realism to the idea that the world can be personalized down to the level of one.”
This includes tailored content, such as the idea of a hyper-personalized social media newsfeed—one of Meta’s “key evolutions” during the company’s early days, Saverin notes—that allows users to scroll through relevant content based on their interests.
The other panelists were Meng Ru Kuok, group CEO and founder of Caldecott Music Group, Antoine Blondeau, cofounder and managing Partner of Alpha Intelligence Capital, and Rohan Narayana Murty, founder and CTO of Soroco.
In creative fields like the music industry, AI-driven developments are providing people the opportunity “to do things that they couldn’t do before, and do them at scale, and potentially autonomously,” said Kuok, who is also founder of music production app BandLab.
“Music has actually been using algorithms and AI and innovations and technology for a long time, whether it’s a transition from the recording studio, all the way to personal computing,” said Kuok. “Even as an operator, the speed and the unexpected nature of the technology shift has changed even all the old perspectives on the opportunity at hand.”
Still, developments are threatened by bad actors who may use AI tools to “create recursive, autonomous things” that introduce risks, added Kuok, citing concerns such as fraud related to music streaming. “I’m less worried about the computer, I’m worried more about the human,” he said. “That’s something for us to really think about, from safeguards…historically, it’s been humans who have been the problem as well as the solution.”
“Everything that is consumer-facing is going to be incredibly enhanced,” noted Blondeau, who worked on the project that became Apple’s voice assistant, Siri. These consumer-facing fields include healthcare and education, which he predicts AI will augment over the next few years. He raised the possibility of AI-powered drug discovery that could potentially identify variants of diseases before they emerge, or cures to debilitating conditions like cancer. “I always say that AI will save us before it kills us,” he said.
“AI will make us feel longer, it will make us hyper-productive…this is the hope, and it’s a massive hope,” Blondeau added. “The fear is that we’ll end up in a video game, right? We’ll have nothing much to do, and the machines will have to do the hard work.”
To Murty, some of the concerns surrounding AI may involve its integration of systems that emulate the way humans think. “I don’t think [AI] is cognition, and I think there’s a lot of confusion around this,” he said. AI operates “as a black box” to simulate certain parts of human cognition, but not its entirety. “When we start thinking about cognition, that’s the last refuge, or bastion of human difference in this world, it gets quite scary,” Murty added.
Yet “AI is the perfect tool” to unlock some of the problems with identifying areas of improvement within companies, leveraging data instead of questionnaires. “For the first time, we have an opportunity to affect every single organization, in terms of how they get work done, in terms of how they think,” Murty said. “The very question of how office work ought to be done differently or better is in some sense best answered by a machine, not a person.”
AI’s potential to outperform humans reflects how any rapid innovation brings a “potential for human displacement,” said Saverin, but AI can create a “win-win scenario” for both small and large businesses. “We are ultimately humans, and we’re going to want to experience the world and digest the world in a human way,” he said.
“These [AI] technologies will make corporations efficient, profit centers more efficient…and there will be an infinite path of potential learning and enablement of what you can do as an individual, but how you earn money, and how you become an active participant in income generation in the world will evolve,” Saverin said. “We need to be very careful to enable that evolution to go in the right direction.”
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