Technology leaders in the UAE have lauded the role of tools such as artificial intelligence behind a rapid digital transformation but warned they should be used responsibly.
Organisations are keen to use tech tools that have the potential to provide significant positive benefits, but they should be vigilant to address any unintended consequences, panelists said at the first Chief Future Officer Forum in Dubai on Thursday.
"Digital transformation is incredibly exciting, but it's also scary and intimidating. If we may think of what would change in the next five to 10 years, number one [is that] we will all have incredibly more powerful tools in our hands," Ussama Dahabiyeh, chief executive of Injazat, a technology business that is part of Abu Dhabi's G42, said at the forum.
"These are tools that will give us ‘superhuman’ powers in our hands. Our relationship with machine will be different; in the next few years we will see those machines really more integrated in our daily lives, from sensors to robots, all connected to powerful AI models."
Hence, data privacy, security and ethics must be in place to protect individuals and organisations using these technology.
"The most important message is the need to take action and to be bold as soon as possible," Mr Dahabiyeh said.
It is also equally important to build and put in place the infrastructure necessary to support and ensure the reliability of these technology.
"We know that AI is the brain power of humanity in being able to augment human intelligence and then data is the food that fuels it. AI is going to require muscle power, and that's where the infrastructure comes in," said Talal Al Kaissi, chief executive of G42 Cloud.
"Each industry trying to leverage AI is predicated on having proprietary data sets that need to be protected the same way you would protect national security data."
Enterprises and governments have lauded the critical role digital transformation plays in the economy and society, as the world prepares for a future largely powered by technology.
Investments in digital transformation across the Middle East, Turkey and Africa region is projected to surpass $74 billion by 2026, helping organisations achieve long-term stability and growth, latest data from the International Data Corporation shows.
Notable technologies that have been capturing the attention of organisations and individuals are blockchain, cryptocurrencies and the Internet of Things.
But by far the most popular is AI and machine learning, particularly augmented by the rise of generative AI, thanks to OpenAI's ChatGPT.
This has kicked off a race with Google's Bard, drawn interest from Twitter chief executive Elon Musk and prompted Apple to work on improving its digital assistant Siri.
However, there have been warnings as well on the downsides of AI, including its ability to replace human jobs and potentially become more dangerous as it learns more, especially on its own.
Geoffrey Hinton, considered the "godfather of AI", recently spoke on the dangers of the technology after he left his top post at Alphabet's Google this week.
While AI has the "power to revolutionise many types of work, provide substantive productivity gains and be a differentiator for organisations ... [but] with these advances, there is even greater responsibility for those building and deploying AI", Naim Yazbeck, general manager of Microsoft UAE, told The National.
However, this should not deter companies from using new technologies: implementing them properly and being responsible to ensure it is not misused can provide economic and financial benefits, he said.
"There is sometimes the hesitation of trying new technology, like the mentality of 'if it's not broken, you don't need to fix it'," G42 Cloud's Mr Al Kaissi said.
"But we see that most organisations embrace technologies once they know the general value that they are able to induce in terms of cost optimisation or enablement. They tend to typically jump on the opportunity to take advantage of what these provide."