Mark is the CEO of Alyve Consulting, a Digital Transformation and technology strategy focused consultancy based in Melbourne, Australia.
The Gathering Storm Of AI
We stand on the brink of a societal revolution, teetering between unimaginable opportunities and unprecedented ethical dilemmas. The storm of interest and investment in AI, particularly generative AI, is provoking excitement and fear in equal measure.
Two Sides Of The AI Coin: On one side, there are discussions about the sweeping changes this technology will bring to businesses and job landscapes. On the flip side are warnings darker than dystopian novels—the potential for AI to devastate economies, magnify societal biases and empower bad actors in never-before-seen ways.
AI’s Pervasive Influence: While the cacophony of opinions is loud, the consensus is hazy. AI’s more significant, pervasive societal impact is neither wholly understood nor widely discussed. This article aims to shed light on this overlooked reality.
The Data Goldmine: We must rewind the clock by a decade to fully understand this revolution. While working on a technology futures project for SAP North America in 2012, I tackled questions about leveraging the personal data landscape—beyond just serving ads. The writing was on the wall: Data is valuable, and its true power will inevitably be placed in the hands of consumers who generate it.
More Than Just Smart Spam: While data itself is uninspiring, it gains monumental power when used to make decisions and shape narratives. Yet, disappointingly, we have relegated this power to sophisticated spam—also known as targeted advertising. Indeed, advertising drives economies, but is that really the pinnacle of innovation we can achieve?
The Business-First Approach To AI: Fast forward to today, and generative AI is ubiquitous. However, its application remains business-centric mainly, focusing on organizational efficiencies rather than groundbreaking consumer innovations.
The Inevitable Rise Of Digital Personal Assistants
Consumer Comfort With AI: As people grow accustomed to AI-driven applications, the next logical step is deeper integration into our personal lives.
AI For Personalized Decision Making: Imagine a digital assistant as intimate as the one depicted in the movie Her—an entity that knows you and is solely committed to enriching your life.
Data Guardianship: Who guards this intimate data? Given the innate conflict of interest within their advertising-centric business models, traditional tech giants like Google and Meta seem unlikely stewards.
The Monetization Of Personal Data
What will likely emerge is an entirely new market category—Data Banks. These institutions will safeguard our personal data, allowing us to control its distribution and usage. This is where technologies like blockchain could play a revolutionary role, transforming the economics of data ownership and creating economic value in ways that could dwarf the impact of social media by orders of magnitudes.
A Glimpse Into Tomorrow
Imagine Alice, a future consumer living in the near future. She wakes up to the smell of fresh coffee—her AI Digital Assistant already knows she has a long day ahead and what blend she prefers on such occasions. As she sips her coffee, Alice is informed about a comprehensive, tailored itinerary for her day.
Morning Briefing: Alice’s AI Assistant reviews her schedule over breakfast, integrating professional commitments with personal interests. It reminds her of a looming project deadline and a newly released podcast episode that she can listen to during her commute that may help her form a unique point of view for the project.
Dynamic Health Monitoring: As she jogs in the park, sensors in her smart clothing monitor her biometrics, sending real-time data to her Digital Assistant. The AI instantly consults the latest medical databases to provide Alice with nuanced health updates and nutrition recommendations.
Reconnecting With Friends: Alice has some free time at lunch. Her AI suggests meeting with a college friend who recently moved back to the city. The digital assistant autonomously arranges the catch-up, even suggesting a café halfway between their current locations. It even suggests asking the friend if they want to play tennis next weekend.
Virtual Tennis Lesson: Having set a date for a social game of tennis with the friend she met at lunch, Alice then engages in a virtual tennis lesson scheduled with a holographic Roger Federer, thanks to her AI trawling the web to find an optimal engagement based on her interests and availability.
Alice is not once bothered by irrelevant ads or spam throughout the day—her AI acts as a filter, allowing only pertinent and enriching information through. Companies have the opportunity to build their brands and transact with her. But all this is orchestrated seamlessly. Alice retains ultimate control over her data, deciding what gets shared and what stays private. Business can provide offers, but doing it in a way that is helping her achieve her desired outcomes.
Data Isn’t Oil, It’s Soil
All of this may seem like a massive change in the way businesses and consumers interact, and it is. Many in the corporate world will be unwilling to let the consumer have even more control.
The problem is that there has been the belief for many in the corporate world that data is to be treated like oil, something of value to be collected and stored.
But imagine what organizations could achieve if they could spend far fewer resources on collecting, analyzing and securing data–instead, redirect those resources to creating amazing digital experiences designed to develop deeper connections with their customers. Imagine what could be achieved if corporations no longer vied data as “oil” but as “soil”—the medium where meaningful relationships can grow and thrive.
Our Collective Responsibility: Navigating The AI Revolution
As we hurtle toward this future, the stakes are colossal. It’s our collective responsibility to steer this technology toward societal betterment, lest we let misguided agendas take the wheel. It’s not just an opportunity; it’s an imperative.