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Monday, July 15, 2024

2024: Why It’s Time to Address the Big AI Questions

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From regulation to reskilling: 2024’s AI playbook. How data, governance, and human-centric solutions unlock AI’s true value in the year ahead.

AI has headlined tech and national news agendas in the last 12 months. But as we move beyond the hype, what’s next for the technology that seemingly presents as many challenges as it benefits?

Controversial yet exciting, here are the five trends I see gaining momentum in 2024, from AI learning models and regulation to employee empowerment and CTO-driven change:

AI focus will shift to data accuracy to drive learning models

Many AI learning models today rely on large data lakes or stores—an accumulation of information gathered over multiple years or even decades. That data is, in essence, ‘ at rest,’ which means most learning models are being trained on data months behind the true state and formatted or organized in ways that don’t reflect modern enterprise technologies. 

In 2024, we’ll see a significant push to improve the accuracy of AI learning models. Making data transient and reflective of the current state will be a priority as businesses look to continuously enrich AI applications and use cases to deliver applications and services in real-time.

The industry will have to answer the critical questions about AI governance

AI is a complex, nebulous technology to regulate – so it’s no surprise that the regulatory frameworks we have in place are relatively immature. The technology has moved so quickly in 2023 that businesses and governments have faced a serious challenge keeping up.

The recent AI Safety Summit hosted in the UK, in which 28 governments, including many from APAC, agreed to a safe AI development approach, focused on the need for governance and protection yet presented few answers to critical questions, like: How should data be shared? How should we interact with data? What access should be given at an individual level? Do we know what modifications have been made—when and by whom?

Yet it only recently revealed that Southeast Asian nations are charting a distinct path in AI governance, challenging the EU’s push for global regulations. The ASEAN’s voluntary ‘guide to AI ethics and governance’ prioritizes cultural nuances and flexibility to create a business-friendly environment.

Also Read: Google Cloud Next 2024: AI Takes Center Stage with New Tools and Partnerships

Nations want to work together in some form to make AI successful, although governments alone will not be responsible for this.

In 2024, we’ll see greater emphasis from governments and businesses on answering AI’s critical questions and ensuring the right level of governance around how data can be accessed and shared safely, securely, and responsibly.

Greater collaboration between governments and enterprises will shape AI regulation

A big question for 2024 is how to best provision and secure data to be used in the right spirit for AI. Yet, while AI regulation is a global issue, I see the solutions coming from how individual countries define their risk appetite. 

Because the applications we see aren’t limited to one country, and the learning models aren’t trained on a specific country’s data, data sovereignty will play a critical role in defining any regulatory framework. 

Any regulatory solution in 2024 will likely come from collaboration between the enterprises building the technology and the government. Across APAC, Confluent is already working closely with many governments, looking at how AI can help detect fraud and misuse of public citizen data, for example. 

Government bodies are already starting to define standards, but this will accelerate through 2024 as they consider the technology landscape for AI in the next five or ten years. 

AI-driven change means businesses must empower employees to retrain and upskill

Most AI tools and applications in 2023 aren’t replacing jobs — they are driving significant productivity improvements. While it can’t replace a human counterpart’s intentionality, creativity, or awareness, AI can automate swathes of the menial day-to-day. In that sense, it can benefit workers, allowing them to buy back time and energy to focus on the most valuable or meaningful tasks.

While I don’t believe jobs will disappear in 2024, organizations must start investing in AI-driven changes to their workforce strategies. Workers will need to recognize that AI will impact their role, putting the onus on organizations to create opportunities for workers to retrain or upskill. The opportunity to automate the lower-level admin tasks and allow employees to upgrade their talent to focus on high-value business areas cannot be passed up lightly.

The CTO will be the champion of AI-driven transformation for customer experiences

Living up to customer expectations is a board-level priority, and in 2024, we’ll see CTOs playing a pivotal role in defining AI-driven change focused on the customer experience. 

AI, combined with real-time data streaming, can unlock big service improvements — whether preventing fraud for a fintech app, handling a retail order, or placing a booking for a taxi ride.

While a little counterintuitive, AI is also the most effective means of personalizing a customer’s experience at scale. If you can access data in real time and analyze previous interactions with customers alongside their preferences and behaviors, AI can make your business feel more human.

Also Read: Explained: Knowledge Graph in ML

What’s next?

Overall, 2024 will see clarity in the way ahead for AI. Tech companies, governments, and businesses will work together to define what’s important and valuable in AI and implement the regulatory frameworks that make AI safe and secure for all. 

Workers, meanwhile, will benefit from AI that can do much of the heavy lifting in their roles—but they must also be prepared to adapt their skills to suit a working world in which AI support is the norm.

All of that hinges upon data. Setting data in motion — safely and securely — will offer the foundation for bringing the true value of AI to life in 2024.

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