Life in the following thirty years will likely become almost alien to today's observer, similar to how we view life in the 1940s and 1950s.
This will be particularly evident as we get closer to the half-century mark. As technology continues to progress by leaps and bounds, radical advances in quantum computing will add a new dimension to our ability to create and solve. This period will become a golden era in the advancement of all things technological – the ever-accelerating development of AI will compound the pace at which we invent.
Like all technologies, AI will be created with a singular purpose: to aid humanity. Naysayers and Hollywood moviegoers need not fear the rise of the machines. On the contrary, self-aware robots and programs will become instrumental in our quest to resolve society's mega-challenges like climate change, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and diseases, aging populations and many more. And if you think your iPhone is cutting-edge, think about the possibilities of AI-powered consumer devices; gone will be the days of fat-fingered typos and lost GPS signals.
By 2030, increasingly useful applications of AI will translate into meaningful social and economic changes. One such outcome, for example, will be much lower costs of traditional goods and services, which will effectively narrow socioeconomic disparities worldwide, as AI eliminates imperfections in supply chains and enhances overall productivity.
Likewise, AI could have a profound impact on low-income communities via vastly improved oversight of resources like food and water, education and healthcare accessibility, and dissemination of social services.
As a standalone industry possibly worth USD 100 billion by 2030 and USD 500 billion by 2050, the investments made today will likely bear tremendous fruit in the decades ahead. The UBS long-term investment themes of robotics and automation, digital data and e-commerce would directly benefit from such high rates of consistent growth.
The days of artificial narrow intelligence (ANI) will be all but forgotten as artificial general intelligence (AGI) becomes the industry standard across all sectors. Notwithstanding handmade artisanal crafts that will be increasingly valued by anti-futurists, sectors and companies incapable of incorporating AI into the heart of their business models will likely become extinct - not so different to companies made defunct by the Internet and the mass adoption of smartphones.
Software is at the center of this revolution, and the market's margins will expand as it grows in prominence and importance.
There will also be tremendous demand for automation hardware, such as robots, from emerging markets and several industries, which should lead to sustainable growth. We have highlighted three sectors below – transportation, healthcare and retail - that we think will be shaped amongst the most by AI.
Towards self-driving vehicles and flying vessels
The transportation industry is already facing the bounty and pitfalls of new technology.
Protests have erupted across the world in response to the popularity of ride hailing apps, which they blame for lost clientele and unfair competition. And as self-driving vehicles become the norm in the not-so-distant future, professional taxi and truck drivers will be gradually phased out. The inevitable redundancies and resulting public backlash could obstruct progress. But we believe this area, above all, will be radically reshaped by AI for the betterment of society.
Smart cars will be safer (thanks to blind spot monitoring and automated lane changing), faster (streamlined navigation and cruise control) and more fuel-efficient (advances in electric technology). They will allow people to own fewer cars, easily share rides and live further away from commercial districts, helping to thin out rapidly condensing city centers. Public transportation systems will also be immeasurably improved; bus, train and subway patterns will be managed by a central database where algorithms determine the fastest routes. And the maintenance of public vehicles will be automated and delays, if any, will be minimal.
With people owning fewer cars and in favor of public transport, carbon emissions will likely fall sharply. And in the later stages of this period, unmanned flying drones - as on-demand personal vehicles (less likely) and delivery vessels (more likely) - will increasingly occupy the skies.
AI diagnosis tools and treatment recommendations
The adoption of AI in healthcare could improve the quality of life for millions and could save lives that otherwise wouldn't be possible.
The key hurdles will be gaining the trust of the medical community and overcoming regulatory barriers. For the nations that succeed in this undertaking, the knock-on effect of having a superior, AI-driven healthcare system can promote healthier and wealthier societies; but for those that don't, sub-standard medical quality will inhibit the long-term economic and societal value afforded to healthy populations.
Medical analytics will ultimately transform healthcare delivery as billions of clinical records and images are analyzed and fed into AI algorithms. These programs, supported by mobile health applications that yield real-time data, will provide diagnosis and treatment recommendations customized to the patient's medical history. This should greatly reduce the element of human error in medical treatment in general. If surgery is needed, intelligent automation will be able to conduct increasingly complex operations as the technology develops. Already, robotic systems are playing a vital role in helping in the field of orthopedics, an area set to boom in the coming years.
Diagnosing illness will be another pivotal area. Through AI diagnosis tools, doctors will have the ability to quickly identify unknown and rare diseases, which otherwise would have required a specialist, and match them with the necessary treatment method. After central healthcare systems are implemented, AI processes will be able to comb through the massive trove of data to find the ideal solution in a matter of seconds.
Virtual experiences and smart wardrobes
The retail industry has had a tenuous relationship with the fourth industrial revolution.
E-commerce has been a huge boon to the industry, giving brands instant access to spendthrift consumers. And digital channels, combined with analytics, have created a new form of targeted advertising, providing companies with unparalleled influence and insights into our spending habits. But all of this has come at the expense of traditionally brick and mortar shops that have been unable to adapt to the new business environment.
The industry's adoption of AI will further exacerbate this trend, leading e-commerce giants to even greater profits and brick and mortars to their inevitable end. For the digital-savvy players, AI will help smaller outfits compete with the bigger players in many ways as analytics, digital marketplaces and social media disrupt long-held brand monopolies. Shoppers should expect even smarter ads, automated and verification-less payment solutions, and a much more tailored and virtual experience as front-end staff are replaced by smart wardrobes.
The cases outlined above are but a snippet of the full value that AI is expected to create across industries, governments and all types of organizations.
Sectors like security, education, entertainment, elderly care, agriculture, etc. will also experience extreme change, much of which will be positive. But change is never easy, especially when it interrupts your way of life.
The two biggest concerns about AI's eventual rise are related to employment and control.
Even in this thirty-year blitzkrieg of progress, humans will continue to wield ultimate control as writers of the source code and job losses will be minimized by those created, with more tasks being replaced than entire fields. Nonetheless, protests will likely intensify in the most affected industries – transportation in particular – and governments will be under pressure to preserve labor markets through regulation, thereby impeding technological advancement.
Public discourse will also likely turn towards privacy as AI scripts increasingly pull user data to shape newfound consumer solutions in various sectors, and law enforcement agencies turn to AI for surveillance. Companies, governments and individuals will also need to beef up their security infrastructure as hackers and crime syndicates twist AI's prowess to their own advantage.
AI will grant handlers incredible power, and the public policy debate over regulating authority will not be smooth as different interest groups vie for control. However, over the years, organizations and governments will find common ground on the best way to regulate and ensure a fair marketplace and an environment conducive for development.
As 2050 approaches, so will a momentous milestone: the succession into artificial super intelligence (ASI). When this will be achieved is uncertain, if at all possible, but in the next chapter we attempt to describe life with singularity – when Earth's status quo has a new entrant.
- Life in the following thirty years will likely become alien to today's observers.
- Software is at the center of the revolution, with the market’s margins expanding and growing in prominence.
- Three sectors positively affected by this change:
- The transportation sector
- The healthcare sector
- The retail sector
- As 2050 approaches, so will a momentous milestone: the succession into artificial super intelligence (ASI).