Joint Authors: Laura Christie & Etienne Oosthuysen
Technological innovations have revolutionised how we live, work, and interact with one another and played a crucial role in shaping the course of human history. From the invention of the printing press to the development of the Internet, each innovation has brought about significant changes that have transformed society and the world.
Let’s look at some of the most notable human innovations (In order of mainstream adoption).
- The Printing Press (1440): Invented by Johannes Gutenberg, the printing press revolutionised the spread of knowledge and literacy, making books and other printed materials accessible to the masses.
- The Steam Engine (1712): Developed by Thomas Newcomen and later improved by James Watt, the steam engine was a key driver of the Industrial Revolution, powering factories, locomotives, and ships transforming global trade and transportation.
- The Telephone (1876): Invented by Alexander Graham Bell, the telephone revolutionised communication, allowing people to talk directly to each other across great distances.
- The Automobile (1885): Karl Benz’s invention of the first gasoline-powered automobile paved the way for personal transportation and reshaped urban planning, travel, and industry.
- The Airplane (1903): The Wright brothers’ invention of the first powered, heavier-than-air aircraft changed how we travel and conduct business, enabling global connections and speeding up transportation.
- The Internet (1960s-1990s): The development of the Internet as a global network for communication, information sharing, and commerce has transformed every aspect of our lives, from how we work to how we socialise and access information.
- Personal Computers (1970s-1980s): The advent of personal computers, such as the Apple II and IBM PC, made computing accessible to the masses, leading to an explosion in software development and the rise of the information age.
- Mobile Phones (1980s-2000s): The introduction of mobile phones and, later, smartphones revolutionised communication, enabling people to stay connected anywhere and ushering in the era of mobile computing and the app ecosystem.
- E-commerce (1990s): The rise of e-commerce platforms, such as Amazon and eBay, disrupted traditional retail and created new opportunities for businesses and consumers to buy and sell goods online.
- Social Media (2000s): Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have transformed how we communicate, share information, and stay connected with friends and family, influencing everything from personal relationships to politics and marketing.
- Generative AI (right here, right now): This will overhaul how we work, leading to substantial productivity increases, help us deal with the explosion of data and requirements from data, help increase accuracy and reduce duplication, and personalise and customise the experiences of users.
So what can we expect?
If what we have witnessed at the end of 2022 and the start of 2023 is anything to go by, Generative AI is set to become one of the most rapidly evolving human inventions, with incredible advancements in applying this technology in data analytics and far beyond. Let’s revisit some of the most notable human creations to see what role Generative AI could play and then look at how it will be used in brand-new opportunities.
How is generative AI already evolving existing technologies?
- Forget the printing press: Generative AI can now automate the book and document creation process, making it faster and easier to produce high-quality printed and digital materials. It can also create personalised content, such as customised textbooks or interactive educational materials.
- New Engines: With its ability to process vast amounts of data, Generative AI can optimise the operation of engines and other mechanical systems, improving efficiency and reducing environmental impact. It can also be used to develop new materials and designs for new engines and other mechanical systems. We are looking forward to allowing AI to reduce our environmental impacts and make more environmentally friendly engines.
- Electricity: Optimising the production and distribution of electricity makes it more efficient and reliable. It can also be used to develop new technologies for energy storage and renewable energy production.
- Audio: Improve voice communication quality, making it clearer and more natural. It can also be used to develop new applications for voice communication, such as language translation or voice-controlled devices. Allowing those with disabilities to effectively communicate with whom they haven’t been able to communicate with before.
- Transportation: Evolving to now self-driving cars and other autonomous vehicles, it can also be used to optimise the design and performance of cars and other vehicles. Depending on whom you ask, this could be both to reduce human error or increase the risk of digital and technological failures on a mass scale.
- Flight: Generative AI can be used to optimise the design and operation of air vehicles, improving their efficiency and environmental impact. It can also be used to develop new applications for air travel, such as drone delivery or space tourism. To infinity and beyond, here we come.
- The Internet: We look forward to generally creating personalised content from a third-party system that can remove unwanted content and perform user recommendations, a digital personal assistant shifting through the internet and finding everything you want to see. Making the Internet more engaging and valuable. It can also be used to improve the security and reliability of the Internet, reducing the risk of cyber-attacks and other threats. That’s right; my computer said no to you; it wasn’t me.
- Personal Computers: Generative AI is already being used to develop new software applications and tools, making personal computing more powerful and versatile. Soon it will be widely available to automate everyday tasks and improve user interfaces, making personal computing more accessible to everyone (including those with disabilities).
- Mobile Phones: It is currently being used to develop new applications and services for mobile devices, such as augmented reality and personalised health monitoring. It can also optimise mobile devices’ performance and battery life. No longer having phone conversations cut short because your phone is about to die?
- E-commerce: It is currently being used to improve the customer experience and streamline the supply chain for e-commerce platforms, making online shopping faster and more convenient. It can also be used to develop new applications for e-commerce, such as personalised shopping assistants or virtual try-on tools. We look forward to having a proper virtual try-on tool to find the perfect pair of glasses or outfits. Or dropping in to see another country whilst on a lunch break. Would you buy a virtual coffee in Paris?
- Social Media: Its ability to improve the relevance and quality of social media content, reducing the spread of misinformation and promoting healthy online interactions. It can also be used to develop new applications for social media, such as social commerce or personalised news feeds. The applications for teenagers to block out digital bullying or for the masses not to be able to be given miss information may make some people feel more comfortable about communicating online.
How is Generative AI being used to create brand-new opportunities?
- Computer Vision: Generative AI can manipulate images and can therefore enhance various computer vision tasks and applications, for example: generate realistic images from scratch or fill in missing parts of an image with plausible content, transfer artistic style from one image to another while preserving the content, or upsampling low-resolution images to higher resolutions while maintaining or improving the image quality. Moreover, it can be used to learn the underlying structure of normal data and detect deviations from it, detecting and segmenting objects within images by generating object masks or bounding boxes (if only we had this when we made this solution for occupational health and safety – Artificial Intelligence and Occupational Health and Safety – AI and enabler or a threat – YouTube),
- Music and Audio: There have been significant advancements in the music and audio processing, where models like NSynth have demonstrated the ability to generate new and unique sounds. This has led to the developing of new applications such as music composition, sound design, and speech synthesis. This type of technology is also currently being researched for its applications to how we can communicate with animals and improve communication ability with those with disabilities.
- Creative Applications: There are many new possibilities in creative applications, allowing artists and designers to create new art forms, designs, and media. Applications like StyleGAN have demonstrated the ability to generate realistic images of non-existent objects, faces, and scenes. Coming soon to a theatre, VR headset or games will be unique AI characters we have never seen before.
- Healthcare: There have been significant advancements in healthcare, where Generative AI can accelerate data and patterns discovery which is an integral part of the drug discovery process, including generating novel chemical compounds with desired properties, predicting their activities, and optimising their structures; improving medical image analysis, such as segmentation, detection, and classification of abnormalities in images like X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans; assist in tasks like image reconstruction, noise reduction, and super-resolution, improve medical image analysis, such as segmentation, detection, and classification of abnormalities in images like X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans; create therapeutic tools, such as chatbots or virtual agents that can engage in empathetic conversations, provide support, and assist in mental health interventions; etc.
- Robotics: Allowing robots to generate their own actions and responses to their environment. Generative models have been used to create robots that can learn from their surroundings and adapt to new situations, causing concerns that we might meet the Terminator sooner rather than later.
- Gaming: New gaming emersion experiences are on the horizon, allowing games to generate content on the fly and adapt to the player’s behaviour. Applications such as Procedural Content Generation have demonstrated the ability to create new and unique game environments, levels, and challenges. Imagine creating your perfect game. Would you get bored or be wholly immersed in its possibilities?
- Data: (data, predictive and prescriptive analytics) – our sweet spot! Data volumes are growing at rates never seen before (predicted to grow beyond 175 zettabytes by 2025, up from 64 zettabytes in 2020), users are more data literate than before, and demands for quick insights and data solutions have never been greater. Generative AI will help expedite the various data workloads, including engineering, modelling and visualising, and ultimately take on many low-value tasks so businesses can truly exploit the value of their data. In the coming weeks, we will write more on this and related topics, such as prompt engineering.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of new technological advancements, and our imaginations can run wild with its applications for use. Even those with a high-risk appetite would know that even the most innovative technical advances come with an excellent bright red warning label. It is essential to seek the proper advice when considering how and what generative AI technologies to adopt.
Why is it essential to seek expert advice? There are multiple things to consider before you dive head in. These include leveraging technologies you already use (do not reinvent the wheel), security (make sure you consider sovereignty, sensitivity, access and permissions), ethics (a whole new field to help us avoid using AI for inappropriate purposes or in inappropriate ways, including bias avoidance), change management and people (alleviate concerns people may have in terms of what AI means for their job security) and the costs vs benefits of implementing AI.
Overall, generative AI has made significant advancements across a wide range of applications, and these advancements are likely to continue as researchers and developers explore new possibilities for this technology. As generative AI continues to evolve and improve, it will play an increasingly important role in shaping our future (likely our very near future).
We are excited to be at the forefront of these developments and look forward to continuing to provide you with the latest and leading-edge news in generative AI.