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Government in the smart technology era

Artificial intelligence can help eliminate the mundane, manual work that complicates and slows down the operations of government agencies and departments.
Read time 5min 20sec

Artificial intelligence (AI) has advanced significantly in recent years, mainly due to advancements in processor power, data availability and the introduction of novel algorithmic approaches.

As a result of these breakthroughs, AI now has the potential to have a significant impact on our society and economic systems, making it a critical technology of the 21st century for individuals, businesses and governments alike.

Only in 2017 and 2018 did the vast majority of the world's major economies begin to properly contemplate their respective AI prospects. In the future, domination will be confined to a small number of countries with substantial financial resources, top-tier AI competence, and large governmental resources dedicated solely to achieving technological supremacy.

The countries with the highest levels of development can function as de facto custodians of AI by allocating large resources to the long-term enhancement of the technology. The world's best-known corporations, on the other hand, are expected to continue to develop and gain significance, providing them with a significant competitive advantage.

Global competition for more powerful autonomous weaponry, as well as an acceleration of the world's transition to potentially lethal new types of combat, will be fuelled by future AI advancements that benefit them most.

In the short-term, the majority of people are concerned about a shift in the economic paradigm away from antiquated industrial processes and fossil fuels toward technological advancements previously only seen in science fiction films, which is the most serious issue facing the world right now.

It will be difficult to make the transition from a culture dominated by tangible objects to one dominated by intangibles. The cyber world has already arrived, and virtual reality is not only a possibility, but is also something that many of us would like to directly experience in the near future. We are intrigued by this brilliant new world because of the countless possibilities it offers us to explore.

Highly-skilled workers such as surgeons, architects and computer programmers may soon be replaced by AI-powered robots. Individuals with high levels of adaptability, ingenuity and problem-solving abilities will stand to benefit the most from this development.

Many are concerned about the long-term survivability of democracy as a result of humanity's transition towards an artificially intelligent age.

In light of technological advancements, these and other major global phenomena, as well as the relationship between global patterns such as ageing, migration and climate change, must be thoroughly researched and investigated.

If you were asked to describe the current status of AI in a single word, "practical" could be a good place to start. Despite the public's fascination with, or apprehension about computers that can see, hear and speak, governments have grown increasingly optimistic about its real-world applications. It can help improve the environment, make public spaces safer, and eliminate the mundane, manual work that bogs down and slows the operations of government agencies and departments.

Because residents in many countries are already familiar with the use of AI in the business sector and have come to expect to be able to converse with a digital assistant, bot, or other intelligent services, governments must not fall behind in its adoption.

The Chinese government is unquestionably setting the bar extremely high when it comes to innovative forms of government. Big Data's new economic philosophy, on the other hand, differs from Soviet-style central planning in that it may allow planned economies to transform markets and, in some cases, leapfrog democratic institutions. When combined with Big Data, sensor technology and AI, a Chinese techno-utilitarianism could swiftly transcend participatory decision-making.

What would happen if other countries followed China's model? How would democracy fare in such an environment? Many people in the West are concerned that China will develop into a totalitarian digital autocracy in the same vein as Russia. We must consider what kinds of political frameworks are required to manage an AI-driven society, especially in light of the large amount of AI utilised in China.

Many are concerned about the long-term survivability of democracy as a result of humanity's transition towards an artificially intelligent age. Because of the increasing popularity of this developing technology, decision-making procedures in every business, particularly in the public sector, should consider it. Some government functions will be removed as a result of the digital revolution.

By enabling more individuals to participate in democracy through the development of new instruments for open governance and intelligent citizens, AI will support democracy.

Top-down decision-making and centralised systems seem to be entering the final phase of existence. Citizens' participation has typically been limited to voting and lobbying on behalf of specific interest groups. However, this is changing.

The creation of closed decision-making systems was motivated by this same rationale. In today's internet-dominated economy, tools that bridge algorithmic decision-making with new types of collaborative decision-making are critical to achieving success.

Even if the impacts of AI on world order are still being researched, it is possible to see a future in which money, wealth and power are considerably more concentrated than they are today. It is possible that resource-related conflicts may not only be waged in the future but that they will also have long-term ramifications for humanity's history. With AI in the driver's seat, the world's wealth and power may become more concentrated than they have ever been.

Governments and corporations cannot afford to put off crucial issues such as AI governance, legislation and the rule of law until it becomes financially viable to do so. In the same way, the world cannot afford to let nature run its course. After it is put in place, a successful multilateral system has the potential to have a considerable impact on the trajectory of global economic growth going forward.

International organisations must engage in more debate, resource allocation and action to construct and control our global AI future to be successful.

Johan Steyn

Smart automation, artificial intelligence thought leader and management consultant

Johan Steyn is a smart automation and artificial intelligence thought leader and management consultant. He is chairman of the Special Interest Group on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics with the IITPSA (Institute of Information Technology Professionals of South Africa). He writes in his personal capacity.

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