Vices and virtues of a revolution

In four years, in 2028, Artificial Intelligence will be worth 43.4 billion dollars in the food logistics and quality control sector alone: ​​today, according to the valuation giant PwC, the sector barely exceeds 8 billion. …

Vices and virtues of a revolution

In four years, in 2028, Artificial Intelligence will be worth 43.4 billion dollars in the food logistics and quality control sector alone: ​​today, according to the valuation giant PwC, the sector barely exceeds 8 billion. Leading the global market is North America, with 3.7 billion, followed by Europe (2.2 billion) and Asia Pacific (1.7 billion). PwC's forecasts seem punctual, and yet it is legitimate to doubt their precision, considering that the scale of the changes that AI is capable of producing is such as to make it difficult to project a political, economic, social and regulatory framework capable of transforming these changes in development and widespread well-being. What is certain is that, by applying the food sector multiplier to the most varied productions, one can easily arrive at values ​​with an enormous number of zeros. Consider that OpenAI alone is raising 7 trillion dollars with the aim of revolutionizing business models. Naturally, it's easy to say that it will only be well-being, as Sam Altman thinks. Meanwhile, it should be noted that this will depend a lot on the regulatory challenge, given that the main players in the field do not seem to have the same ideas. For example, the United States, with the Biden administration's recent executive order, reflects a co-regulatory approach in tune with large industries, while China maintains its dirigiste vision. In the middle lies Europe, which reaffirms its regulatory paradigm, while exposing itself to the paradox of wanting to regulate even what it does not produce or over which it does not have control. Furthermore, it is impossible not to see that, in the new international structure that is being built around technological dominance, the Old Continent has a marginal role. Too busy with its own internal challenges, the European Union has lost competitiveness and does not have an investment capacity comparable to that of China and the United States, also due to the absence of a common industrial policy. In a market like that of AI, conditioned by economies of scale on data and very high energy consumption, a fragmented Europe with high energy costs risks losing further ground. Some success cases, starting with the French one, demonstrate that, in a continuously developing sector, Europe could still have a chance of relaunching. But this must happen with a coherent industrial policy, aimed at stimulating investment and innovation, especially in a less punitive state aid regime. In turn, Italy is currently suffering from fragmented policies and investments that remain below the necessary average, yet it would have more than one argument to fight successfully thanks to its industrial excellence. How? The suggestion is even banal: using technology to minimize costs through the use of digital copies of products (digital twins) which allow you to proceed through errors and checks, minimizing time and costs. Furthermore, digital twins offer wide fields of application, starting with healthcare where they can contribute to the development of personalized medicine.

These are examples that show how AI can have a truly significant impact on the daily lives of citizens in the immediate future. Moreover, by revolutionizing the structures of knowledge, artificial intelligences will have an enormous role in overturning various social and economic processes, starting with paradigms in the world of work.

The expected changes will be rapid and epochal, with the emergence of new tasks and a substantial evolution of the current ones, where within a few years half of the working time can be carried out alongside human skills and AI. The figure of the data scientist will be of great importance: bearer of skills at the intersection of statistics, IT and domain knowledge, he is already a point of reference for data processing and the extraction of information that can bring value to the organization . In any case, as the World Economic Forum in Davos prophesied a few years ago, 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented.

Managing such a revolution will require very strong interventions in the training system, starting from the early school age groups, but also in the corporate culture, starting with that of small and medium-sized businesses which, in many cases, are still taking measures with these new applications. The perception of work will also change: the political challenge at a global level will be to use the potential of AI not to replace manpower, but to release creative potential in organizations, freeing workers from the most alienating tasks.

However, a great unknown is the impact that AI will have on the formation of public opinion and the dissemination of news. The crisis of traditional media and the multiplication of social platforms as sources of information will increase the risks of polarization in society. We will probably see an exasperated growth of fake news, which will trigger a vicious circle in which AI will flood the web with dangerous content which it will then end up feeding on. It's not just a fear, it's already happening.

In short, the AI ​​revolution, in addition to being epochal, is also crucial for the future of democracies. Understanding its scope is the first step in managing change and using the enormous potential with a view to collective well-being. «We treat AI like shepherds treat sheep – wisely observed Luciano Floridi, philosopher at Yale University -.

They need to be cared for and sheared, but beware of leaving them alone in a rose garden.”