The Year Ahead
Artificial Intelligence in 2019: 15 Predictions for the Social Impact of AI
Industry experts give their predictions for how AI will impact life and society in the coming year
Regulators must respond to AI now
As AI is applied in a growing number of areas, there are legitimate concerns about possible unintended consequences. The immediate concern is that the scramble to amass the data needed to train AI systems is infringing on people’s privacy.
The General Data Protection Regulation was a step in the right direction, giving EU citizens, at least, more control over their data (and prompting some internet companies to extend similar rights to all users globally). The EU will further clarify and tighten the rules in 2019 with its ePrivacy Regulation.
Critics will argue that such rules hamper innovation and strengthen the internet giants, which can afford the costs of regulatory compliance in a way that startups cannot. They have a point. But Europe’s approach seems preferable to America’s more hands-off stance. China, meanwhile, seems happy to allow its internet giants to gather as much personal data as they like, provided the government is granted access.
Given how widely applicable AI is—like electricity or the internet, it can be applied in almost any field—the answer is not to create a specific set of laws for it, or a dedicated regulatory body akin to America’s Food and Drug Administration. Rather, existing rules on privacy, discrimination, vehicle safety and so on must be adapted to take AI into account.
Tom Standage, deputy editor, The World in 2019
Life-saving AI on the way
As Healthcare technology trends like AI and Telemedicine continue to mature, we will start to see them converge into holistic data driven smart platforms that accelerate the delivery and precision of medical care.
Artificial intelligence will be of major interest, both for investors and healthcare practitioners, as projects move from testing stage to real-world integration. Algorithms will evolve further, becoming faster and more accurate.
While currently, in most cases, AI is used within pilot projects and has yet to be deployed, more will be used in live scenarios. Only a few pharmaceutical companies have integrated AI-based solutions in their processes so far, but as data (the locomotive that pushes AI-based healthcare forward) develops, we will start to see the first deployments of potentially life-saving AI-based solutions.
Daniel Piekarz, SVP, Healthcare and Life Sciences at DataArt
2019 will see the democratisation of data science
2019 will be the year we’ll see the democratisation of data science – creating a profound and lasting impact on the way it is used around the world. This will be driven primarily by open source tools enabling more people to begin contributing valuable insight and analysis to data sets without having to get to grips with proprietary systems.
It will enable organisations to begin unlocking the power of their data through technology as they also benefit from accessing the widest possible pool of talent, no longer restricted to those who can use highly specialised software.
Kim Nilsson, founder and CEO at Pivigo
People will interact more with technology and less with computer screens
Remember the days when voice assistants were novel? Voice computing is permeating everything we do, from home assistants to hands-free driving, to scheduling your appointments in conversations with other people.
The days of keyboard and screen-only machine-human interactions are over. It’s not just voice; our tech is wearable, tactile and augmented. These human interactions present not just a new way of interacting with technology, but whole new streams of human data that can present new opportunities, such as diagnosing neurological conditions from voice patterns. Enterprises will need to tap into this data to dramatically improve their digital services and customer care.
We’ll continue to see a rise in technology created to interact with humans not through a screen, taking personalisation and automation to whole new levels.
Eric Schrock, CTO at Delphix
Ethics to be a core focus of AI in 2019
Ethical concerns around the use of data and technology have risen sharply after the last year and will continue to do so. In particular, the speed at which AI is evolving is raising questions, highlighted by the recent announcement that Canada and France are joining together to establish a panel to police unethical uses of AI.
There has been a spotlight on the possible negative effects surrounding this technology rather than AI’s potential as a force for good. As with many technological advancements, it’s the mindset towards this technology that needs to be addressed, rather than the technology itself.
To tackle this, companies such as Microsoft and IBM are making ethical thinking a focus, creating courses that provide organisations with the latest insight into ethical development. As an increasing number of businesses create more ethical strategies, AI will be more confidently adopted, and developers will be empowered to break new ground
Zoe Cunningham, managing director, Softwire
AI for self-care to see growing support
2019 will see an increase in self-care tools. The coming year will see more digital and mobile tools launched (both AI and non-AI) that will encourage and enable self-care, helping ease the burden on the NHS.
Accenture’s recent consumer survey on digital health in England found that in the last two years, consumers have already become more active in managing their own health via mobile phones/internet (from 37 to 48%), social media (20 to 28%) and wearable technology (22 to 31%). And around half of those surveyed said they were open to using an AI doctor.
Dr Alex Yeates, medical director at Advanced
Ethical concerns to play a bigger role in AI development
In 2019 we can expect conversations around AI and tech ethics to intensify, especially when it comes to consumer data and privacy. We may also see the field widen its gaze to less mature technologies, like augmented reality.
Importantly, more companies will be trying to anticipate how their tech could negatively affect us in the future and making efforts to bake ethical principles into product development as standard. Those with new mass market products launching should expect to be scrutiniSed by the public, politicians, and the media. Those developing the next big AI hit should be thinking about future-proofing.
Fiona J McEvoy, founder at YouTheData.com
AI will become more accessible to those who are willing to share their data
The big players in this area, like Amazon, Google and Microsoft are now providing services that anyone can build into their applications – and this presents both good opportunities and bad news. Good because more ideas will come to fruition which will help AI progress. Bad because not everyone is conscientious or aware of the consequences of using AI in their solutions.
Plus, as AI capabilities become more powerful and widespread, there will be an expansion of security threats as it will be easier and cheaper to carry out cyber-attacks making many more businesses and organisations vulnerable.
We think that, in 2019, AI will progress in the decision-making and behavioural areas such as automated planning and prediction. This will be more prolific in China, where there are less restrictions on companies handling people’s data and privacy, and where there is a large pool of resources and expertise. For example, advances in the Sesame Credit system where citizens are scored on their trustworthiness based on data collected on their finances and daily activities.
As for big movements in AI in 2019, the leaps will likely come from Chinese research, whereas in the West we will see more companies embracing the current working pipelines within Amazon, Google and Microsoft. These developments will most likely take advantage of the benefits on offer in areas around conversational agents and analytics.
Mark Williams, CMO at People First
2019 will be the year users start getting rewarded for good data
In 2019, users will start getting rewards for good data that helps improve AI models. Online services like Facebook and Google collect our personal data on a daily basis, which is then transformed into large advertising revenues.
However, users are not receiving any benefits because these sites are free, and instead, the users become the product themselves as they continue to benefit these companies. To change this, users will get rewards starting with small upstarts and interesting projects using properties of cryptocurrencies to share user-data monetisation with users.
Even though not initially using AI methods, this is similar to what we hope to achieve with our own technologies; paying users for the quality of content they create. Eventually when the volume of this data hits a critical mass, we too hope to be able to use AI models to measure data and content quality.
Raj Unny, crypto expert at EQUIIS Technologies
Multiple technologies are converging to change the way we live
Today, there is not one single technology disruptor. Several technologies are converging to change the way we interact with technology and how we leverage data. Autonomous devices, smart cities and smart ecosystems are just some of the ways technology has shifted from us being consumers towards complementing our lives and lifestyles.
AI, predictive analytics, IoT, and Blockchain are all technologies that require strong data capture and use. Consequently, the way data is accessed will become more holistic to enable broader visibility and create cohesive ecosystems that support a convergence of data access and provide better operational and predictive capabilities.
Organisations can use analytics to access more diverse and complex data for both internal and external use. As analytics environments become more mature, the emphasis on strong data quality, master data management, and other data-related initiatives increase.
With the increasing use of autonomous vehicles and smart wearables (for personal use and within healthcare), broader ecosystems will be developed that will use AI and IoT to provide proactive insights into health and safety and become more tightly intertwined with our daily lives. By complementing analytics with broader technology adoption and embedded analytics use cases, organizations have a way to make sense of what is happening within their organization, their supplier network, with their customers, and to identify fresh opportunities.
Frank Vella, COO at Information Builders
The lines between mediums will blur
We all expect machine learning to continue to advance and revolutionise almost every aspect of our lives (whether we are aware of it or not).
Beyond this I think convergence will be the key trend for 2019. Currently both established and emergent mediums act in a somewhat isolated fashion. Voice computing, messaging, web, mobile, VR and AR are all somewhat separated from each other by artificial barriers at the moment.
We are already seeing signs of progress here - in hardware with devices like the Google Home Hub, Echo Show / Spot, Magic Leap One and in software with standardisation initiatives enabling, for example, increased native features for PWAs and cross browser and device AR implementations.
I would expect mediums to blur significantly in 2019, with communication between and within different mediums becoming much more seamless. The emergence of further voice powered devices with screens and mixed reality headsets should providing major impetus here. I would equally expect a plethora of innovative services to arise to enable creation in this newly convergent world.
The biggest impact for everyday people will be the growth of voice and screens. A combination of smart speakers with screens, digital assistants on mobile devices and data-informed recommendations will enable brands and retailers to reassure shoppers and create useful new brand experiences, whilst providing personalised and guided options for maximum impact.
Gordon Midwood, technical director at rehab
AI will drive digital advertising to new heights
AI will continue to augment digital advertising and empower marketers to make better decision with their ad spend. This year, we saw a huge growth in spending on digital ads, with £6.36bn invested in the first half of 2018 alone, and this will only continue to grow as more and more brands incorporate AI into their arsenal of digital advertising tools. We will see it being used more to ascertain whether the data gained from online channels is being utilised effectively; this is where AI will differentiate campaigns as it will enable marketers to decipher audience engagement and create personalised ads that truly resonate.
We also expect AI to all but eliminate most brand safety concerns in 2019 and mark the ‘safest’ year on record for brands. 2018 was a tough year when it came to brand safety; Cisco and Mars, for instance, removed their ads from YouTube due to safety concerns. However, with AI becoming increasingly sophisticated, it can help brands serve safer and more secure ads, and create a more transparent industry as a result.
And finally, AI will create a much more personalised advertising world. Personalisation is a term that has been cited in advertising for years, but until now, the capabilities have been limited to consumers’ previous preferences, purchases or searches. Now, thanks to AI, marketers can make real-time decisions on when to reach the right consumer, with the right content, at the right time and on the right platform. It’s exactly the kind of engagement consumers expect, and only AI can deliver it and it is something we envisage brands and advertisers will have to take advantage of in 2019.
Andrew Morsy, UK MD at Sizmek
Demand for explainable AI
Article 22 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) states that customers have a right to understand why a model has made the decisions it has about them.
Despite this, the immaturity of the AI industry overall is painfully evident when the conversation turns to the explainability of machine learning algorithms. Questions about the details of learned patterns in neural networks are usually answered with quizzical silence, even at the largest companies.
This situation is completely unacceptable for anyone who has to explain decisions taken by an AI model to a customer - “computer says no” simply won’t be enough in 2019. Hence, we can expect more transparency to be built into AI models.
Dr Scott Zoldi, chief analytics officer at FICO
Privacy concerns to spark rising conflict
2019 will see rising conflict between the privacy concerns of citizens and the goals of AI developers. There will be greater scrutiny on how personal data is processed within AI systems and a higher burden on AI developers to explain how algorithms work to both consumers and regulators.
The key catalysts for this conflict are the multiple parliamentary investigations into fake news that are placing the transparency of social media companies and their AI algorithms in the spotlight.
In countries such as UK, USA, Canada, India, Singapore and France the inadequacy of social media platforms' response to investigation have sparked calls for new ‘digital bills of rights’ which would strengthen property rights in personal information, biometrics and face images, with a focus on regulating AI at their cores. Many of these investigations are expected to escalate and conclude in 2019.
As societies confront the worst cases of AI misuse in 2019, AI developers must be prepared to explain and defend their data practices.
John Tsopanis, data and privacy director at Exonar
AI and ML to near full potential
In 2019 AI and ML will nearly reach its full potential by connecting and processing data faster over a global distribution of edge computing platforms. AI and ML insights have always been available, but possibly leveraged a bit slower than needed over cloud platforms or traditional data centres. Now we can move the compute and storage capabilities closer to where data is retrieved and processed, enabling companies, organisations and government agencies to make wiser and faster decisions.
We’re already seeing this in the way airlines build and service airplanes, government defense agencies respond to hackers and how personal assistants make recommendations for future online purchases. This year, thanks to AI and ML, someone will finally know if that special someone really wants a fruitcake or power washer.