The roles of artificial intelligence are ever-growing. Image: iStock

In the year ahead, artificial intelligence (AI) is set to move into the mainstream as many new high-tech innovations are ready to make their debut. Creating a well-planned infrastructure for these high-tech products is essential for ensuring they have favorable outcomes and become major drivers of economic growth.

Expected to yield benefits in terms of labor productivity and time-saving, AI could drive up the world’s gross domestic product if it is strategically implemented in accordance with consumer demand.

Redefining the way we live in ways never thought possible, many AI applications, such as self-driving cars and facial or speech recognition, have already been introduced. Having reached the level of sophistication needed for widespread implementation, in the months ahead many more such technologies will be employed for public use. As it is a virtual step into the unknown, it is time to evaluate the prospective impacts of some of these applications.

First, AI can change the nature of social media, which has recently become effective at shaping opinions all over the world. Used to share information, news and views, social media platforms are already highly vulnerable to fake narratives and propaganda.

With the arrival of AI, social media can be further manipulated as it is possible to create fake visual material. Sophisticated deep-fakes can be used for lip-synching or face swaps. Yasmin Green, director of Jigsaw, an Alphabet company dealing with security, said, “Perhaps the most chilling realization about the rise of ‘deep-fakes’ is that they don’t need to be perfect to be effective. The world will confront a new falsified video deployed to deceive entire populations.”

At the same time, audio can also be created with the help of AI to make it indistinguishable from genuine speech.

These uses of AI are bound to have far-reaching repercussions. For example, their use could raise questions about the credibility of recorded evidence in legal cases.

Starting this year, this type of generative AI technology will be available for incorporation in new products.

Second, we are already familiar with facial recognition, which is used widely in smartphones, smart cameras and online media. Though it is highly useful for personalizing gadgets, it has reduced privacy, and stringent regulations are expected for this ubiquitous application of AI, which is being rolled out for use in healthcare, autonomous vehicles, law enforcement, and many new domains. It all depends on which country focuses on which aspect of AI. For example, facial recognition applications are most common in China, where many tech companies use them for providing services.

Speech recognition is the next big thing, and Amazon’s Alexa has already become popular for searching information on the Web or for use in “smart homes”

Third, speech recognition is the next big thing, and Amazon’s Alexa has already become popular for searching information on the Web or for use in “smart homes.” The latest television sets and home appliances can be controlled by voice now and it is projected that as many as 66.6 million Americans will be using voice-recognition technology in 2019. At the same time, it will be possible to give verbal instructions to computers, while they can also be taught to see with image recognition.

Fourth, with the smartphone, medical information has become easier to collect as well as access, and there are bound to be some privacy issues. According to a study by the University of  California, Berkeley, individuals can be identified by following their daily patterns on activity trackers in smartphones and smartwatches. Computers could be used for diagnosing diseases, analyzing data and verification, and this is only the beginning.

As Professor Patti Maes of the MIT Media Lab said, “We are already dependent on our mobile technologies for many of our everyday tasks and goals, but we will also soon rely on digital technologies for the optimal functioning of our bodies.”

Finally, 2019 will also see the results of 5G (fifth-generation wireless) technology, from autonomous cars to advanced robotics. The full-blown effects of AI will be evident for the first time, and it will be interesting to see how people take to smart homes, connected cars and other innovations in their day-to-day lives. Literally, the sky is the limit, as tiny satellites could be released into orbit to run telecommunications, such as the CubeSat, which measures just 10 by 10 by 11.35 centimeters and can be launched into space at a very low cost.

Another possibility for AI is its use in preventing and fighting off cyber threats and hackers, as it can pick up subtle indicators of any abnormal activity quite early.

However, there are some negative aspects already apparent, such as the legal complications that will arise in the event of a driverless car getting into an accident. If fatalities occur, the algorithm operator could face charges under “product liability” rules and not the owner of the car.

AI is a new frontier, and there are many legal and ethical implications related to its widespread use. Considering the pros and cons, there is a need for these technologies to be gradually released after researching and deliberating over the regulatory side before the proto-AI technologies of today can evolve into true AI super-intelligence.

Advancing rapidly since 2010, global AI investments have already increased by 60% and are expected to contribute a humongous $15.7 trillion by 2030.

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