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The (r)evolution of AI: shaping the future of technology and society

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is definitely here to stay. As today’s world experiences rapid changes and growth, organizations need to be agile to keep up the pace. Implementing AI at scale can improve team effectiveness and bolster company culture. Explore how to invest in cutting-edge technologies and algorithms as well as unleashing the potential of automation. And be part of the successful organizations that will have managed to adopt the technological breakthroughs of the era timely. 

This was the subject featured on stage at ICT Spring last June 30, during the Visionary Conference morning session. 

For the occasion, RTL Today Presenter, Radio & Podcast Host Lisa Burke served as Master of Ceremonies. In her opening speech, she highlighted how embracing AI is not only a necessity but a need as it can “improve team effectiveness and bolster companies’ culture”. 

Developing solutions and boosting business capabilities

AI Club Asia Founder & Managing Director Bo Gao hit the ground running by presenting the AI innovation landscape in Asia. She asserted that “Singapore is Asia’s Silicon Valley”, where there are a lot of synergies as we see in Luxembourg: there are towers all across Singapore, and it is a financial center and a gateway to Asia-Pacific. She presented AI Club Asia, an AI ecosystem focusing on AI applications and Deployments across different industries. 

From world leading companies, SMEs, scale ups and start-ups to academic research centers, AI labs, investors and policy makers, AI Asia Club aims to facilitate the integration in the local ecosystem, support companies’ innovations, develop businesses, and fulfill the gaps being at national or international scale (notably in Asia and Europe). They focus on different sectors, such as AI in: fintech, smart city, sustainability, healthcare, manufacturing, or transportation, among many others. 

AI is surely useful and promising, but “you have to be careful in its use”, reminded LIST FNR Pearl Chair and the head of the Software Engineering RDI Unit Jordi Cabot. He stated that “[generative] AI is here to stay and is surely going to improve our lives”, yet “every citizen should have basic knowledge of AI” – so as to best use it. He took the example of Copilot: it has a virtual assistant that helps users in the parameters. This tool has been trained on billions of lines of code to learn for instance how to translate in another language.  

What’s behind this “magic”? He noted that generative AI is based on Large Language Models (LLMs), which is actually a huge, dense network. They are basically trained to achieve tasks we ask them, as mentioned above. In the last five years, there was an explosion of LLMs, and many of them are specific to a given sector, such as fintech for instance. Yet, “if you have a specific need and you have lots of data available, you may want to train your own LLM for an optimal result”, he specified. This is nevertheless not an easy process, as it requires a lot of computing power; for this, it is hence essential to rely on a High-Performance Computer (HPC), such as the MeluXina. 

Luxinnovation Special Advisor Ralf Hustadt explained that MeluXina can be trained if a business is willing for instance to teach the HPC how to distinguish different patterns based on your processes and data. As it is not simple to train a HPC like MeluXina, there is of course a whole team behind to support businesses in this training process.

Fostering innovation through strategic partnerships

Mayor of the city of Tsukuba Dr. Tatsuo Igarashi came next on stage to present the initiatives occurring in his city. The city counts 255,000 residents, notably 20,000 people engaged in research – including 8000 Ph.D holders. He explained that 30 years ago, they started joint research between startups and national research institutions and universities. They recently concluded a partnership agreement with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), back in 2020. 

He stated that Tsukuba’s mission is to “contribute to the human kind through science and technology”. And one of the best ways for them to develop solutions is through startups. The Tsukuba Startup Park, for instance, is an incubation facility which offers offices for startups, organizes events where startups can learn how to grow and more, and actually aims to offer a place where entrepreneurs, researchers, and citizens can enjoy interacting with one another. The city also has developed partnerships with overseas institutions – such as Luxinnovation, AWS, ProLogis, etc. – for startup support. 

Igarashi said that Tsukuba City is a “national strategic zone where we try to implement cutting-edge technologies to solve social issues by generating laws and regulations”. Tsukuba adopts the “Leave No One Behind” spirit by: connecting citizens and government, bringing out each person’s diversified abilities, and combining knowledge of world-class science and technology. In the next few years, Tsukuba plans to introduce online voting, mobility robots, and social participation of people with disabilities through the use of robots. 

Dr. Tatsuo Igarashi then joined a roundtable session, moderated by Farvest Group Senior Communication & Content Officer Laura Campan, with IC Group Executive Vice Chairman Mr. Kwabena Osei-Boateng dedicated to fostering innovation through strategic partnerships. Kwabena emphasized that “AI really requires 4 things: data, expertise, investment, and regulation”, and scientific research institutions play a big role in the data and expertise areas. Further, universities and other specific institutions need to focus on developing the expertise so as to engage in AI, in innovation, in a very important way. 

On his side, Igarashi said that in Tsukuba, they try to bring awareness in the classroom, where students are encouraged to develop their own curiosity. They also have a special program where students can easily enter in contact with researchers in any field. “This kind of daily basis access to cutting-edge technologies and science can ignite creativity in their mind”, he added.

Besides, Kwabena expressed that Ghana is on its way of regulating AI; he yet “[suspects] that we are a couple of years ahead of formal regulations”, as it is important to regulate it properly. Similarly, Igarashi stated that although Tsukuba is keen on using ChatGPT and generative AI, they are still on the way to find the right way through the power of AI and its associated risks. 

To attract foreign investors, Kwabena made clear that it is necessary to define how AI can help agriculture, healthcare or education. If a country can engage in this, then investors are more likely to be interested in the country’s ecosystem as they know “there is a return to be made” in these areas in terms of innovation. Igarashi continued and said that it is important to have a nice and fructuous environment for startups, and this is what Tsukuba tends to do – notably with the Tsukuba Startup Park.

Leveraging the full potential of AI

After this insightful discussion, NVIDIA Government Affairs EMEA Bea Longworth presented how AI technology can be sustainable by design and can accelerate Europe’s twin transition: “we have a responsibility to ensure every step of the AI value chain is re-thought and re-engineered to be sustainable by design”. 

She asserted that “AI is a potent weapon against climate change, and we can’t afford to limit its potential”. And of course, a green transition requires green AI. She expressed that technologies can help in capping data center energy consumption and already exist. She articulated sustainable AI as the sum of three pillars: 

  • Compute infrastructure itself, from chip to data center to software
  • The impact AI can have on helping solve today’s energy challenges. This encompasses applications such as balancing the energy grid to prevent blackouts, more accurately predicting demand, and integrating renewables into the energy network
  • How AI can accelerate our predict and mitigate climate change, and ultimately enable a path to net zero

Overall, AI is an incredible force to help us against climate change. It is already helping tackle today’s challenges, making Europe’s energy sector more resilient and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

We cannot talk about AI without mentioning the future of transportation. Cruise Staff Systems Test Engineer (AV Engineering) Ishan Singh presented Cruise, a company operating a rapidly expanding, driverless, fully-autonomous, and all-electric fleet of vehicles. For now, it operates in the United States, in areas of San Francisco, Phoenix, and Austin. 

Cruise autonomous vehicles (AVs) are designed to obey speed limits and other road rules and, contrary to a human driver, cannot be distracted, substance-impaired, or fatigued. These AVs use machine learning to classify objects on the road, predict vehicle trajectory, or plan a maneuver. Also, Cruise makes sure to inspect the fleet regularly, relying on robust maintenance processes. To give out numbers, Cruise AVs have 53% less collisions compared to human drivers, and 73% less collisions with meaningful risk of injury. 

To finish off, The Envisioners Chief Envisioning Officer & Founder Dave Coplin gave an inspiring keynote address on “Reimagined Business”, or how AI is going to change the way we work. A current problem companies, customers – not to say everyone – face is; productivity. As “we have a specific definition of productivity, we think about productivity in industrial terms”, he said. In other words, productivity is thought of as a cold economic equation where input is divided by output. 

The issue with this approach is that it fixated efficiency, which is based on processes designed a couple of hundred years ago. Although processes are getting more efficient, “we are using this amazing 21st-century technology to make all Victorians’ ways of working a bit quicker, a bit cheaper”. And, he declared that “this is not the gift of technology”. 

As terrible the Covid-19 pandemic was, it has definitely digitized our society and now, more than ever, people are more interested in digital experiences. This is a trend that also kept growing in the business side: “every business is now a digital business”. Digital technology is used to extend the human experience – for instance in hospitality for restaurants or bars.

And this is the rise of humans, it is now essential to be equipped with the right tools in order to make the most of new technologies. And AI is considerably changing the game in this aspect. It is about to change how humans engage with technology in general, and this in four main aspects: automation (optimize workflow), skills reframe (learn new and necessary skills for the AI era), big data’s big secrets (awareness of AI-powered tools biases), and accountability (right use of human judgment). 

Coplin declared that automation will take up 30% of an employee’s workflow. “The success of automation is not going to be measured by the fact we can automate [this 30% percent], the success of automation lies in what you do with this 30% capacity that you have”, he added. This 30% should be used to deploy it to deliver more value to business. “Technology is supposed to lift every employee, every customer, every individual”, he continued. He concluded this thought: when we know the problem we want to solve, we make the best use out of technology so it can provide answers, solutions. It is all up to us to ask the right questions to unlock the full potential of technology!