By Fady Kassatly, senior vice-president, Booz Allen Hamilton, MENA
As Artificial Intelligence (AI) becomes an increasingly pertinent topic of discussion in the public and private sector in the GCC region; organizations that are best positioned to succeed in an AI-enabled world are those that combine human strengths with machine intelligence.
Countries in the MENA region are investing in AI to transform their economies over the next few years. In the UAE, the launch of the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence in 2017 aims to promote government performance and create an innovative environment using machine intelligence. The strategy is the first of its kind in the region and was established to enhance government performance and efficiency in a number of fields, such as education, transportation, energy, space and technology.
As governments look to fulfil their AI vision, they must invest in a combination of human strengths, such as creativity, empathy, negotiation, along with those of machines, including collection and processing of data and precision, to improve the lives of citizens.
AI has tremendous power to shape the future of regional economies and enhance the quality of life for citizens. Regional leaders are leaving no stone unturned in the quest to combine machine intelligence with human ingenuity to achieve maximum potential and help business and governments gain competitive advantage.
- Leverage AI to complement the human experience
The human mind absorbs and understands more detail than we consciously know. But biases, politics, and wishful thinking sometimes distorts our views. Coupling our instincts with insights produced by machines enables us to see surprising possibilities we may have otherwise ignored. This includes everything, from enabling us to take a closer look at a job candidate whose university or school we had discounted to identifying a revenue driver we were not familiar with.
As the UAE harnesses AI to drive growth in many different sectors, combining machine intelligence with human intelligence will help build a more stable framework for the future. For example the banking sector is increasingly relying on the consumer-facing applications of AI, such as Emirates NBD’s virtual assistant EVA, to enhance offerings. But even with AI being used to improve customer service, human interaction would still be needed at various touchpoints. AI solutions can be leveraged to augment human interaction in banking and other sectors, but not fully replace it.
- Recognize that machine models can powerfully augment mental models
Machine models are outperforming mental models in a growing array of cognitive tasks. This was evident in the defeat of Ke Jie, the world champion in the extremely complex strategy game Go, at the hands of a machine learning program created by Google. Machines’ increasing precision and capability means we can now confidently use machine models to ingest and interpret data for a variety of business purposes, while taking a “trust but verify” approach. This is especially valuable in the healthcare sector, where AI is providing scalable and affordable disease screening solutions to help medical experts make accurate diagnoses in the UAE.
- To break through without experience, start by experimenting with AI
Many organizations are put off by AI technologies because they think the costs, talent, data requirements and risk of failure are too high. The reality is that in this rapidly-evolving space, even the biggest organizations are learning the ropes and making mistakes along the way. One can be cautious, but not experimenting at all could be even more detrimental. Identify one or a few narrow areas in your business where you can tolerate some risk and experiment before making a larger investment in AI. For example, AI is helping doctors accurately diagnose eye disease in 96 per cent of cases at the Dubai Diabetes Centre, thanks to a pilot AI project that was launched earlier this year. The trial AI program helped identify retinal damage caused by diabetes and was so successful that it is now a permanent addition to the centre and is helping doctors diagnose and treat more patients at an earlier stage.
- To be successful with AI, you need to work and share openly with the ecosystem
The development of artificial intelligence is a global phenomenon, bringing together academics, business leaders, and policymakers from around the world. The value of artificial intelligence goes beyond short-term returns and cost savings. This technology has the power to fundamentally change how our most important institutions make decisions. It also opens the possibility for us to address some of the world’s most pressing problems—from income inequality to disease and environmental crises. The biggest technology companies are working together and sharing openly to advance artificial intelligence through initiatives like OpenAI and The Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society. Transparency, sharing, and openness will enable organizations to learn and benefit from artificial intelligence more quickly, and to take on an important role in the next technological revolution. The UAE has signed a Bilateral Artificial Intelligence Bridge agreement with India that seeks to create economic benefits worth USD 20 billion during the next decade.
- AI will create a new kind of workforce, so be prepared to support your employees
There is no question that as artificial intelligence becomes more prevalent in business and society, some jobs as we know them today will eventually go away. But this should not cause a sense of doom and gloom. In fact, studies show that it often takes 7 to 10 years after a technology is created for it to be fully integrated in organizations—particularly technology as complex as artificial intelligence. Still, leaders must acknowledge this reality with their workforce, and begin to create strategies now on how to help affected employees develop the skills to transition to new roles. Ultimately, being honest and transparent about the future will help to build trust and buy-in with your employees, customers, and shareholders. In the UAE, the government has signed a number of agreements with global organizations to train its public sector employees on key skills needed in the AI age in addition to signing agreements to build labs where AI prototypes can be developed between the private and public sectors.