Tomorrow's World

What is the future of AI?

by FESPA Staff | 19/12/2023
 What is the future of AI?

What will artificial intelligence (AI) look like in 20 years’ time? There are two views: one positive and one deeply pessimistic.

If you are an optimist, you will probably think about the exciting possibilities for your business, allowing just-in-time, on-demand, mass-customised business models. 

AI is already able to analyse customer data to create personalised and targeted print materials, such as customised marketing materials or individualised product packaging. This approach enhances engagement and response rates.

At Durst, AI algorithms can now predict when printing equipment requires maintenance, reducing downtime and improving overall efficiency. This predictive capability helps in preventing unexpected breakdowns and extends the lifespan of machinery.

AI-driven automation can streamline print production processes, from pre-press to finishing. This can lead to faster turnaround times, reduced errors, and increased productivity.

AI tools can assist graphic designers in creating visually appealing and effective designs. These tools can analyse design trends, suggest improvements and even generate design variations based on user preferences, as we have seen at Antigro.

In the field of quality control and colour management, AI can quickly identify defects or imperfections in pre-press and printed materials. This ensures that the final output meets high-quality standards.

It can optimise the print supply chain by predicting demand, managing inventory more efficiently, and optimising logistics. This reduces costs and improves overall supply chain management.

AI could optimise print processes to minimise waste and energy consumption, contributing to a more environmentally sustainable, carbon-free print industry. Any wrong directions – data leaks, ethical missteps – will probably be managed by legislation, even international regulation.

While these advancements offer significant benefits, there will also be challenges, including addressing ethical considerations, ensuring data security, and managing the impact on employment within the industry. Overall, the integration of AI is likely to transform the print industry, making it more efficient, innovative, and responsive to customer needs. 

But what does it mean to have this ever-growing, ever-improving and increasingly autonomous technology at the heart of all our systems, both business and personal? After all, it is predicted that AI will help run our businesses, look after our health, write our programs, financially advise us – even do our jobs and become our friends.

The flip side

In his book The Coming Wave, Mustafa Suleyman, a co-founder of DeepMind and now co-founder and CEO of Inflection AI, predicts instead a horrifying vision of the future, one where malign actors use AI to unleash financial chaos in the markets, launch drones to massacre innocents in city centres and spread synthesised viruses around the world. Because AI, unlike other powerful technologies such as, for example nuclear weapons, is available to all, its intense power percolates down to everyone with a computer. 

Therefore to prevent this turmoil, AI could be "rocket fuel for authoritarianism" as governments seek to control the new asymmetry of power that AI gives its citizens by surveilling them, analysing their behaviour, predicting criminality. Examples of this are already seen in China's facial recognition and emotion detection technology that is used to profile and control the Uighur minority. But all nations have the potential to set up similar oppressive systems.  

AI is similar to other successful technologies that have rapidly proliferated across the globe in that there are unforeseen consequences. For example, no one could ever have predicted that the motor car would reshape landscapes, create huge cultural changes, and end up being a prime cause of global warming. Gutenberg did not intend his printing press, invented to print Bibles, would catalyse the Reformation or a scientific revolution. 

It is still unclear the scope at which AI will operate, but in an age when it will interface with everything we humans do, when it will be smarter and able to draw on vast amounts of data and knowledge, when everyone uses it to make their lives easier and their businesses more profitable, that if anything goes wrong with AI, the effects will be cataclysmic.

“AI is far deeper and more powerful than just another technology,” Suleyman writes. “The risk isn't in overhyping it; it's rather in missing the magnitude of the coming wave. It's not just a tool or platform but a transformative metatechnology, the technology behind technology and everything else. It is  a maker of tools and platforms, not just a system but a generator of systems of any and all kinds."

Technology diffuses in waves and has unpredictable impacts. At the same time, not using AI may have disastrous consequences too. Can we afford not to leverage AI's power to increase living standards, ease stress on our resources and working age populations? Standing still may not be an option. But as the development of AI technology is so rapid, Suleyman argues that containment is needed: the ability to monitor, curtail, control and even end technologies. But that window for meaningful containment is narrowing. 

Attempts are being made as governments and technologists themselves wake up to the danger. In March, Elon Musk and other tech leaders called for a slowdown on AI development, acknowledging nothing less than an existential challenge to life on earth itself.

Just this week, the European Commission reached a 'historic' deal on the first AI law anywhere in the world. Under the agreed proposals, the EU would establish safeguards on the use of AI within the EU by establishing a risk-based tiered system where the highest level of regulation applies to those machines that pose the highest risk to health, safety, and human rights.

The law also imposes limitations on the use of AI by law enforcement agencies. This would mean the police would only be able to use the invasive technologies in the event of a threat of a terrorist attack, the need to search for victims or in the prosecution of serious crime.

Of course, technology is never completely subject to legislation and will continue to evolve with or without approval from lawmakers. Humanity will have to adapt to the new normal, says Suleyman, but it is yet to be seen whether we can claim its benefits or be overwhelmed by the coming wave.

by FESPA Staff Back to News

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