Preparing for AI in the Middle East

Estimates for the region peg the market at Dh1.2 trillion by 2030

This article by Xische Reports appeared in Khaleej Times on 19-April

 Image:  copyright HBR

Ancient quest

The ancients spoke of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Storytellers from China, the Middle East, and the Greco-Roman Empire wove tales of crafty heroes building autonomous machines imbued with human-like intelligence.

Mankind's quest for AI has driven development for millennia, from the abacus of Mesopotamia and the astronomical clocks of the Golden Age of Islam to the mechanical looms of the Industrial Revolution. 

The concept of AI as we know it today has been with us since 1953 when computer scientists and neuroscientists gathered at Dartmouth College to debate whether, "every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it." It was during these conferences that the term 'Artificial Intelligence' was coined.

Defining AI

AI does not refer to a specific software, algorithm, or product. Instead, it refers to the broad spectrum of machines capable of performing tasks or cognitive functions that otherwise only a person could do. Speech recognition, machine translation, fraud detection, market prediction, computer vision, robotics, and natural language processing are all forms of AI.

AI is the first technology that can simultaneously improve product quality and reduce costs. In some workplaces, AI can speed up task completion by up to 200 per cent. Cognitive computing technologies could unlock Dh4.4 trillion in projected market value by 2020. This is cause for both celebration and concern.

Estimates for the Middle East peg the AI market at Dh1.2 trillion by 2030. Closer to home, the UAE has taken the lead on nationwide governance of AI with the appointment of the world's first Minister of Artificial Intelligence. Yet despite the hype surrounding AI, few businesses and governments are considering customer perceptions around this new mode of engagement. Having deeper insights impacts the accuracy of deploying AI in consumer engagement.

Xische Reports has been investigating consumer perceptions of the technology, from the impact of AI on daily life, to AI applications most likely to stick, and whether society can collectively improve as a result of increased adoption of AI. Armed with this intelligence, business leaders and policymakers will be equipped to make informed decisions in their policies, investments, programmes, and projects to prepare organisations -- and in turn, nations -- for an AI-led future.

Governance

The promise for AI to benefit society is, no doubt, profound, but its potential threat is equally severe. Governments will need to work closely with the academic institutions and corporations at the forefront of this technology to develop a robust regulatory and compliance framework to protect individuals without stifling innovation. The approach taken by the UAE, with the announcement of a comprehensive strategy for AI in October 2017, will be an important benchmark as nations across the globe address pressing policy measures that cannot be left entirely to the private sector with the pace of AI availability. 

Those who are able to successfully balance with promise of AI with safeguards for humanity have a greater chance of emerging as leaders in our Augmented Intelligence future.

The AI in the Middle East report by Xische Reports in partnership with ArabNet BI will be released globally on April 30.

This article by Xische Reports appeared in Khaleej Times on 19-April