Telecoms & IT

AI & Robotics

The rise of AI and robotics has the potential to change the world—but will it be for better or worse?

As science, commerce, and industry begin to package AI and robotics more effectively to sell to a wary-but-intrigued public, we can only make vague assumptions about where the journey might end.

Complex problems require complex solutions, or so goes the popular adage. Almost every generation is falsely lulled into believing it is at the apex of human achievement, later pulled back into reality by the latest advancement. There is no better example than Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the US Patent Office, who, in 1889, declared that, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Then, in 1903, the first plane took flight. The internet later thrust the post-war generations into a new reality, beginning in the mid 1990s with first commercial availability, and more so when it found its way into the workplace. Indeed, what often starts as a curiosity can transform the way we live. Enter AI and, arguably, its more corporeal bedmate: robotics.

AI has been at the fringes of the average human consciousness for decades, finding its way into popular science fiction since the concept was first floated by early pioneers including Alan Turing. And, naturally, it is often paired with robotics; how else would insidious AI overthrow the shackles of human oppression?

It is ChatGPT, an AI chatbot, developed by US AI laboratory OpenAI, that is peaking curiosity at present, sparking fears of a not-too-distant robot uprising should human-besting intelligence one day gain physical form. But there are plenty who believe in the power of AI and robotics to change the way we live and work for the better.

With the development of sophisticated algorithms, machines can, even now, perform tasks that once required human intervention. From autonomous vehicles to voice assistants, we are witnessing the transformative power of this technology develop in real time.

One other area where robotics and AI are making a significant impact is healthcare. Medical robots can perform complex procedures with greater precision than some shaky-handed doctors, reducing the risk of errors and complications. Additionally, AI-powered diagnostic tools are enabling physicians to make more accurate diagnoses and provide better treatment options to their patients.

Education is another area where robotics and AI are changing the game. With the introduction of intelligent tutoring systems, personalized learning experiences are becoming more accessible to students. These systems can adapt to a student’s learning style and pace, ensuring that they receive the support they need to succeed.

Sustainability is also an area where robotics and AI can make a significant impact. With the help of autonomous drones and robots, we can monitor and maintain our environment more efficiently. Additionally, AI-powered energy management systems can help us optimize our energy usage and reduce our carbon footprint.

One would be forgiven for thinking that the majority of discussions surrounding AI are playing out in Silicon Valley or Tokyo labs, but globalization, aided by the rise of the internet only 30 years ago, has democratized access to new technology, allowing scientists, thinkers, and business people in more diverse places to get in on the action.

Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative Institute (FII) is one such organization that recognizes the potential of robotics and AI to transform the world, and is actively discussing it. Indeed, it formed a large part of discussions at its recent FII 6 conference, held on October 2022 in Riyadh. In the aftermath, FII published the Atlas of Humanity, a “book with unique maps where Riyadh is the center for world’s most pressing issues.” Indeed, the document even delves into issues of the singularity, a particularly Roddenberry-esque concept that imagines the confluence of robotics and AI having transformative, even deadly consequences for the human race as we know it. The FII later published Powering Up: A Revolution In Robotics And Artificial Intelligence, which further delved into the potential effects of AI and robotics on society.

And so, as science, commerce, and industry begin to package AI and robotics more effectively to sell to the wary, yet intrigued public, we can make but only vague assumptions about where the journey might end. But at least the whole world is talking about it.