Unfolding the Future


Unfold the future: Dr. Ayesha Khanna

How smart cities and artificial intelligence will empower people and amplify our potential

Artificial intelligence has opened up the possibilities for innovation in society. When combined with automation and machine learning, we can personalise how we connect with and attend to the needs of different communities.

The impact of artificial intelligence (AI) will be seen most clearly across the four basic city services: transport, energy, healthcare and education, as technology will make these basic services more accessible to everyone.

We could be managing energy usage better and preventing wastage, advancing telemedicine to address the medical needs of those living in the outskirts of cities, helping the police with security, and taking the concept of global collaboration and virtual team work to the next level.

With the proliferation of 5G, we will see an explosion of data as more and more people and businesses come online to take advantage of this digitally interconnected ecosystem of services.

To succeed in this new world, we must be ready to embrace change. Agility therefore is essential for businesses looking to make an impact on society or have that competitive advantage.

Right now, every industry is undergoing digital transformation. It has been happening for years, but this pandemic has forced many of us to not only look at doing things very differently but pivot quickly. And change is never easy.

Personalisation and education

One of the biggest changes this year has taken place in education. For the first time, digital learning became the key medium for us to educate our children. This transition to home-based learning (HBL) was not an easy one for both children and their parents, who also had to adjust to working from home. Teachers too became the students, as they adapted to new digital tools while trying to maintain the interactive spirit of a real classroom.

While many of us took some time to get used to this new way of learning, one found that many parents and children eventually did adjust to it. This idea of digital learning, when you couple it with artificial intelligence, it only becomes more powerful and makes education more accessible for all — through personalisation.

We’ve seen how personalisation works online. As we browse the Internet and our social media feeds, technology learns what we like and continues to deliver tailored content, offers or recommendations. This machine learning has great advantages in the education space.

For example, in every classroom there are some students who are left behind because they struggle to understand basic concepts. Artificial intelligence can pick up on their struggle much earlier than a teacher who has to look after 40 students. Through personalisation, the teacher has a lot more insights, and can provide individualised attention to students and help them practise their key skills.

This is just one example of how artificial intelligence can highlight and identify the true potential of students and make them feel special, make them feel respected, and make them feel that, regardless of where they are in the class, they have a very bright future.

Personalisation and education

People sometimes feel that they're always waiting to know how AI will disrupt their jobs and their lives. But this is a very passive approach, a point I address in my next book, U+AI, about the relationship between humanity and technology.

Instead, we should be asking ourselves, “How can I use AI for my benefit?”

That is why I love Singapore’s concept of a Smart Nation. It is beyond just being a Smart City that drives access to basic services. It positions people to take advantage of these shifts through life-long learning opportunities. In this way you are helping the economy, training people, pivoting the education system, so that all our children, mid-career citizens and the elderly know how to use these technologies, can re-skill, and keep pace with the workforce of the 21st century. Even as jobs change, so will our people.

Of course, AI like any major technology has its risks. On one hand it can improve the quality of life for citizens. On the other, there are privacy concerns, the risk of manipulation through the spread of fake news and fake images, and cyber hacking. Therefore, we cannot be innovating in isolation. We have to take a multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach to designing new technology and ensure we have the right policies and regulations in place to maintain a level of safety and security. This way we can have all the advantages of AI and reduce the downside.

Technology is only going to keep evolving. As we look to change the shape of the future, there must be a collective vision to innovate responsibly and make life more enjoyable and meaningful for everyone. And with the right education, we can eventually find meaning in a world where AI is a new team member that has endless benefits to empower us and amplify our own potential.

Read the next opinion piece by Rosaline Koo, CEO of CXA Group.
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