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 does 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:
1. 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 gathering information over multiple years or even decades. That data is, in essence, ‘at rest’, which means the majority of learning models are being trained on data that is months behind the true state and which has been formatted or organised 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, with a view to delivering applications and services in real-time.
2. The industry will have to answer the critical questions over 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 only recently, it was 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’ prioritises cultural nuances and flexibility, with the aim of creating a business-friendly environment.
It’s clear that nations want to work together in some form to make AI successful, although this will not be a responsibility for governments alone.
In 2024, we’ll see greater emphasis from both governments and businesses on answering the critical questions that AI poses — and ensuring the right level of governance around how data can be accessed and shared safely, securely, and responsibly.
3. Greater collaboration between governments and enterprise will shape AI regulation
A big question for 2024 is how to best provision and secure data so it can 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 appetite for risk.
Because the applications we are seeing 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.
That said, any regulatory solution in 2024 is likely to come from collaboration between the enterprises that build the technology and government. Across APAC, Confluent is already working closely with many governments, looking at how AI can play a role in aspects such as fraud detection and the misuse of public citizen data, for example.
Government bodies are already starting to define standards, but we’ll see this accelerate through 2024 as they look ahead to the technology landscape for AI in the next five or 10 years.
4. AI-driven change means businesses must empower employees to retrain and upskill
Most of the AI tools and applications we’re seeing in 2023 aren’t replacing jobs — they are driving significant productivity improvements. While it can’t replace the intentionality, creativity, or awareness of a human counterpart, AI is well-equipped to automate swathes of the menial day-to-day. In that sense, it can actually benefit workers, allowing them to buy back time and energy to focus on the most valuable or meaningful tasks on their plate.
While I don’t believe we will see jobs disappear in 2024, organisations must start to factor in AI-driven change to their workforce strategies. Workers will need to recognise AI will impact their role — and this will put the onus on organisations 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 areas of the business cannot be passed up lightly.
5. 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, brings the opportunity to unlock big service improvements — whether that’s through 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 personalising a customer’s experience at scale. If you’re able to access data in real time and analyse previous interactions with customers alongside their own preferences and behaviours, AI can actually make your business feel more human.
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 put in place the regulatory frameworks that make AI safe and secure for all.
Workers, meanwhile, will benefit from AI that can take on much of the heavy lifting in their roles – but must also be prepared to adapt their skillset 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 to bringing the true value of AI to life in 2024.