Those who are not aligned to the technological advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) will slowly become obsolete in an “intelligent world”, says Dr. Anton Ravindran, author of a recently launched book, Will AI Dictate the Future (Marshall Cavendish, 2022).

“All advances in technology come with both challenges and benefits to society,” says Dr. Anton Ravindran, Founder of SmartLaw Pte Ltd and CEO of GICT Training Pte Ltd, and author of a new book, Will AI Dictate the Future (Marshall Cavendish, 2022). “The risk is for those who are not aligned to the technological advances in AI, as well as for economies whose workers are not AI-enabled, as they will slowly become obsolete in an “intelligent world”.

Here are excerpts from an interview with Dr. Anton Ravindran:

What prompted you to write this book? How did you get interested in AI as a domain?

In my mind, AI is probably the most profound and impactful technology in history.

The motivation to write on AI was formed because it is all around us today and there is raging debate and discourse about it! Again Covid boredom and being “grounded” added to this as well. 

There are many technical books on AI. However, the objective of this book was to cater for business leaders and the general public as many still find AI  somewhat intimidating due to a lack of understanding. This book aims to create awareness of AI and its impact on businesses and society.  It hopes to make the topic more palatable for business executives and the general public.

I wrote this book during the pandemic. A classic example of the profound impact on society, economy and humanity of AI is the development of vaccines for Covid 19. It is unprecedented in our human history to manufacture a vaccine in about a year. In the past, it used to take 10 years and nearly a billion dollars to bring a vaccine to the market with a success rate of only 10%.

Many common readers often get confused with terms such as AI, ML and DL? Is there any particular difference between them?

AI is a broad area of computer science (“umbrella technology”) that can make machines “think”. Machine Learning (ML) is a subset of AI and Deep Learning (DL) is a subset of ML.  ML leverages Big Data to learn and make predictions or decisions without being explicitly programmed to do so. DL is the next evolution of AI and is based on the principle of how the human-brain filters information, forms patterns and learns from experiences. Autonomous vehicles, robots, drones, text recognition, speech recognition, and facial recognition are technical solutions that leverage DL.

How are Asian businesses adopting AI as a tool? Or do you see any skepticism or roadblocks in this regard? 

AI is all around us today and it is an integral part of our lives. Many of the applications on our mobile devices are driven by AI. Most of our online activities including Google and social media platforms such as Facebook (renamed Meta now), Instagram and Twitter leverage AI and our online behaviour is being captured, processed and analysed using these technologies. AI has become pervasive in all industries including banking and finance, retail, manufacturing, and healthcare education. Robots are fast becoming common-place in restaurants, hospitals, hotels and factories.

With respect to your question on “skepticism”, it is human nature to be apprehensive of pioneering technologies and each industrial revolution. But each technological advance has helped human civilisation to flourish. They have led to the creation of newer and better opportunities and more innovation, resulting in better healthcare, higher living standards, more and better jobs and more wealth. AI is already creating new and more jobs and it requires retraining of the workforce. All advances in technology come with both challenges and benefits to society. The risk is for those who are not aligned to the technological advances in AI, as well as for economies whose workers are not AI-enabled, as they will slowly become obsolete in an “intelligent world”.

Are marketers in the APAC region using AI properly yet? We see some use cases as chatbots etc but beyond that do you see any major applications of AI in the domain of marketing?

AI in marketing is also growing rapidly including in areas such digital marketing and predictive analytics for consumer behaviour. Starbucks is one example for using its loyalty card and mobile app to collect and analyse customer data and send personalised marketing messages. Alibaba opened a physical “FashionAI” store in Hong Kong to streamline the fashion retail experience through AI. The stores are equipped with intelligent tags that detect when the item is touched and smart mirrors that display clothing information and suggest coordinating items.

According to a National Retail Federation survey, 80% of shoppers say retail technologies and innovations have enhanced their online buying experience, while 66% say the same about brick-and-mortar retail. According to Graphical Research published in Nov 2021,  Asia Pacific Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Retail Market size was valued at USD 500 million in 2020 and is set to observe 40% growth rate between 2021 and 2027.

There is still some debate regarding AI and ethics. What is your view on this?

As AI becomes an integral part of our products, services and even our lives, it has also raised fundamental questions about the “responsible” use of AI. This includes concerns about what risks they involve and how we protect, manage or even control them.

Not only AI is becoming pervasive and ubiquitous, but it is also becoming more intelligent, with the potential to match human intelligence. AI ethics is fast taking center stage as AI will coexist with humans in the office, on our roads as fellow or co-drivers, in our hospitals, factories and in our homes.

Ethics is about moral principles that govern our conduct and our behaviour, what is right and wrong. AI’s “behaviour” is driven by data and algorithms, and bias in AI can take different forms. But there are 3 widely accepted sources for AI biases 1) data bias 2) algorithm bias 3) human or cognitive bias.

Amongst them data bias is probably the biggest and often root cause of the three biases. On 20 August 2019, Apple launched Apple Card and ran into problems because of AI bias. Steve Wozinak tweeted saying that “it gave him 10 times the credit limit that his wife received”. He also stated that “we have no separate bank or credit card accounts or any separate assets”. This was obviously due to data bias or discrimination against female applicants which was inherent in the data sets.

Another concern is the misuse and abuse of AI. An area of growing misuse of AI is AI-generated synthetic media, also known colloquially as Deepfakes. It takes the name from Deep Learning as it is based on Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN).  The malicious deepfakes reared its ugly in 2017 and has been growing since then resulting in the creation of dangerous and insidious deepfake videos and images. These are being used to defame, fabricate evidence, defraud the public and undermine trust. On the other end of the spectrum, the same AI technology used for deepfakes can also  positively impact our lives and society. They are used in education, art, entertainment, movie production, creating voices for those who have lost, forensic research, creating avatars and even virtually trying our clothes.

Will AI Dictate the Future (Marshall Cavendish, 2022) is now available in leading bookstores/online stores in Singapore and globally.