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Change the world

30/01/2024

This was part of the wide-ranging that message technology analyst Arthur Goldstuck relayed at the Nelson Mandela University Business School in Summerstrand.

 

Professor Paul Poisat, left, welcomed Arthur Goldstuck to the Faculty of Business and Economic Sciences

Goldstuck, who heads the World Wide Worx research organisation and is one of South Africa’s most quotable authorities on all things IT, was addressing the Breakfast Club at Business School on 26 January.

Faculty of Business and Economic Sciences Professor Paul Poisat said it was vital for business to understand the impact of AI.

“AI is going to influence our livelihoods but, when people fear for their jobs, often it is because they don’t really understand,” said Poisat. “The more we know about the topic, the more we can embrace it and use it as an addition to our toolbox.”

Goldstuck spelt out clearly how we can – and already are – using AI not only in business but in our everyday lives.

Talking to big company chatbots? Using predictive text when you WhatsApp? Google Maps when going somewhere new? Or spellcheck in Microsoft Word? These are all based on AI – and there is more, so much more, to come.

Samsung’s new Galaxy AI will offer near-simultaneous language translation, for example, without the need for an external app.

“It's directly out of Star Trek, it's science fiction becoming reality for every single one of us.”

Then there is the darker side, when AI is used to create deep fakes or to scam the unwary.

However, said Goldstuck, there was no need to panic nor to feel scared, and his new book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to AI,  expands on this.

“The first big secret is that we all are using AI as it is embedded in the things that we do. AI is an everyday tool that we are all using, but also an emerging tool that every business can use.”

Drawing an analogy to the Douglas Adams’ series of sci-fi novels, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, he positioned himself as a hitchhiker on the tech journey.

Goldstuck traced the evolution of AI to long before the launch of ChatGPT in November 2022, and sketched the events of March 2023, when Google, Microsoft and Adobe introduced applications such as Bing Chat, Bard and Firefly AI.

The progress has meant that today anyone with a smartphone or a laptop can harness the incredible power of machine learning, natural language processing and large language models.

And, with substantial funding pouring into AI ventures, this technology will become more mainstream.

“With the investment in AI, there has to be a dramatic breakthrough,” he said. “We don't know when, and we don't know how, but we know it will happen because it happened over this past year.”

He shared anecdotes of his own hitchhiker’s journey, ranging from lessons from bees in Britain to how the Spanish soccer league had been using insights yielded by AI to transform sports management.

“The result was in the last decade Spain totally dominated club football in Europe,” said Goldstuck.

“When you have that differentiation, it doesn't win a specific game but gives you enough of an edge so that, over time, you are going to be better in the race – until the rest catch up.”

This is a key caveat.

“When you use technology tools because you can see the application for your business it gives you an edge over the competition, locally and globally. But, when they all catch up, it's just a ticket to the game. It is not the winning ticket.

Goldstuck relayed how 3 717 AI start-ups applied for funding in 2021 in the US’s Silicon Valley.

“With the brain power and investment going into AI there is going to be another major breakthrough,” he said.

Reassuringly, though, there is still room for the human touch, creativity and pizzaz.

“Accept that it's here, it's constantly evolving and it's going to make your life easier. You are going to become far more comfortable with it,” said Goldstuck.

“AI is a fantastic assistant and if you don't have it, you're going to fall behind. However  it can't replace you. It has to augment you.”

And, finally, boiled down to basics, he said “it is just code: it takes humans to make that code sing and dance”.

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057
debbie.derry@mandela.ac.za