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Are We Prepared for Our AI Future?

Are We Prepared for Our AI Future?

As ChatGPT and artificial intelligence continues to evolve and make headlines on the daily, many of us are questioning what an AI-powered future looks like, both personally and professionally, and, most importantly, are we prepared for it?

Futurist Sinead Bovell joined TVO’s The Agenda to explore the potential opportunities and challenges ahead in our tech-fueled future. Certified in AI ethics from MIT, Sinead is the founder of WAYE, a tech education platform; a strategic advisor on digital inclusion to the United Nations International Telecommunication Union; and a frequent contributor to WIRED.

As a futurist, Sinead said in her interview, she tracks data points, both qualitative and quantitative, to build forecasts and future scenarios, with a focus on emerging technologies. We pulled some of her key points from her interview with TVO below, which highlight her insights into how we can steer our future in the right direction and empower individuals, companies, and countries alike to reap the benefits of a smart world.

Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.

The Agenda: We’ve been hearing a lot about ChatGPT, but it still seems like an uncertain time for chat bots. What’s your take?

Sinead Bovell: I think chatbots are going to be the future of how we largely interface with the internet and with technology. What concerns me is that they aren’t actually intelligent. They don’t know what they’re saying. They may sound scholarly, but they could be providing us with complete nonsense.

When you have companies competing for first place or to be the first mover, it can get sloppy and AI is a serious technology. It’s not a joke to mess around with. So, in the instance where the Google chatbot, Bard, said something incorrect, if the content had more significance — if somebody was using that piece of information to make a critical decision — then that could have serious consequences.

TA: AI goes beyond a chatbot. Now there are tools out there that can mimic someone’s voice and create images. What are the concerns there?

SB: I think deep fakes present quite a critical geopolitical threat that we don’t really have a solution for at this point. And it’s not just about the risk of believing something that’s not true but the risk that we stop believing something that is true. We become so disoriented in a sea information that we lack a critical discourse and direction.

We have already started to see deep fakes being used in some geopolitical situations. We were able to detect them but it’s still very much a cat-mouse scenario. We don’t have an actual plan. So, I think deep fakes present quite an emerging threat and that they should be a part of tech education curriculum and discussion points — how do we spot them? And how do we know to even look for them in the first place?

TA: There has been more effort on AI regulation in recent years. What are your thoughts on this?

SB: When it comes to ChatGPT and the recent chat bots, some schools have leaned into just banning them outright. I think we’re moving in the wrong direction because the purpose of education is to prepare students for the economy of tomorrow, and that economy is going to be largely underscored by technologysuch as Chat GPT and other AI systems.

So, we really to need to be equipping kids with the skills to not only utilize these tools, but to utilize them safely. Right now, we’re banning an opportunity for the next generation to adopt these tools wisely and steer their future in the direction they want to go.

TA: Should all jurisdictions be following the EU’s lead with the “right to be forgotten” privacy law?

SB: Absolutely. I think data, for many reasons, could be a national security crisis. Having citizen data just open and accessible to not only different companies but different countries, is a big red flag.

And then, of course, for personal reasons you should have the right to be forgotten, or for a company not to make a statistical prediction as to what your next moves are going to be based on data they’ve been hording on you throughout your life. So, I think the EU is definitely moving in the right direction and that other countries would be wise to follow suit.

TA: What would you say are the upsides to the future of work?

SB: I think the pandemic showed us who we were incorrectly excluding from the workforce because we falsely assumed that everybody had to show up 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. So I think the future of work is going to be a lot more flexible. We’ve already been moving away from the days where you work for a single company for 10 years and that trend is going to continue as well.

The pandemic and technology showed us that flexibility can work and it prepared us for what more remote and transient kind of workplaces will look like.

TA: How are employers adjusting to it?

SB: It kind of depends on the company. I think we are adapting well but that we don’t fully realize what’s coming. When I say more remote work, what I’m really referring to is, in a future where smart machines learn new tricks every day, it will become much less likely that a company is going to hire for a full-time role if that role is going to radically change in the next year or two.

So, we’re going to see a rise of the gig economy across all jobs. We’ll see it across financial analysts, lawyers, physicians, teachers, etc. — we will all work in different roles for a few different companies at any one time. So, in terms of, “are we embracing it” or “are companies embracing that”, no, I don’t think we’re ready yet. But remote work has been helpful in kind of laying the foundation for how those systems and infrastructures could operate.

TA: How can we empower people to embrace technology and to leverage it?

SB: I think leaning into it — the best thing we can do about the future is prepare for it. New tech isn’t going to go away. Begin by recognizing how much you already use it. I don’t know about you, but I can’t get down the street without consulting Google maps.

We use AI all the time, whether it’s social media or you’re watching a streaming platform. This tells us that these tools aren’t as overwhelming as we might make them out to be. They’re actually very easy to use and it’s about leaning into it, and doing your best to try to understand it and keep up with the discourse.

At a more societal and federal level, we need to equip people with the resources they’re going to need to thrive in such a dynamic future.

Watch Sinead’s full interview on our AI future.

Sinead Bovell speaks to the future of work and our future with artificial intelligence in her eye-opening keynotes, grounded in the latest research, tech trends, and innovations. Contact us to learn more about Sinead and what she can bring to your next event.

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