At the time of writing, we’re slap bang in the middle of the British sporting summer. Therefore, I have been searching for the perfect metaphor for the unmistakable AI boom we have seen in the last 6-12 months, arguably triggered by the immensely popular chatbot, ChatGPT, and its iterations.
Perhaps the career of the iconic yet controversial American golfer, Phil Mickelson, is a suitable parallel. After turning professional in 1992, Mickelson spent 11 years showing glimpses of world-class promise, winning prestigious tournaments but never quite able to triumph in one of the four men’s Major championships. He made an impact, yet couldn’t quite capitalise on his full potential – until 2004. Following his first Major victory; he eventually won five Majors in nine years and became one of the game’s most successful players; he still makes headlines in golf and world sport over 30 years on from turning professional. For so long, Mickelson was portrayed as the typical ‘nearly-man’. When the floodgates opened, however, he enjoyed a sustained period of success.
Whilst the AI we know today – if you can keep on-top of everything it’s now capable of – is a world away from what was considered AI when the term was first coined nearly 70 years ago, we have, until now, never witnessed such a surge in its popularity, usage, general awareness, and future capabilities.
As a result, the use of AI has, unarguably, reached an inflection point, with its capabilities and applications becoming increasingly mainstream. For example (and continuing this blog’s sporting theme), Wimbledon 2023 is featuring AI commentary for the first time. Who could have imagined that?
Furthermore, AI being tasked with crunching masses of sports data in real-time to present previously unthinkable stats is now commonplace. The speed of technological advancement here cannot be understated; remember that Wimbledon only moved away from dot-matrix scoreboards in 2007!
Outside of one or two specific sporting applications, I’m tremendously excited about AI’s increasingly wide-ranging potential. Yes, we’re all aware of the negativity surrounding its boom. For example, telecoms giant BT recently announced that it was replacing 10,000 global jobs with AI by 2030, with many more already lost. In this case, the predictions of previous generations that AI will make humans redundant have already come true.
However, I’m predicting, naively some will say, that AI presents a fantastic opportunity for us to work alongside the technology. It may be hard to imagine now, but think about the job opportunities created by AI in turn. Whilst the potential financial boost of £400bn that it can bring to the UK economy by the end of the decade, according to a recent Google report, feels a little meaningless at this stage, it’s incredibly exciting to witness AI’s possibilities.
In some ways, we’re already there. AI’s applications have been well-documented in fields such as eCommerce, security, education, healthcare, agriculture, gaming, transport, and astronomy. The business, productivity, and efficiency gains that it provides these industries are enabling them to flourish and open up new revenue streams. In a job where “digital transformation” is the key phrase in all that I write, that ’s something I am excited about.
It’s still too early to predict what the overall impact of AI will entail, and the technology still has its limitations. For example, in the creativity stakes, humans still win every time. And why would NASA, or other space agencies, plunge billions of dollars into sending humans back to the moon this decade, when AI could do it better and quicker, and without emotion? The short answer is it cannot.
As a result, IBM has (predictably) reassured us that the day when humans are completely replaced by AI is a long way off. There are also a wealth of industry predictions on the impact that AI will have on society between now and 2030, but the speed at which AI has started to impact our everyday lives makes me think that self-imposed deadline should be brought forward. Who knows what the applications of AI will look like next year, let alone in six-and-a-half years.
The only remaining question is: should the likes of Tim Henman and John McEnroe be worried about their spots in the Wimbledon commentary booth? Only time will tell.