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Monday March 4th, 2024

How Artificial Intelligence Can Enhance Humanity, Rather Than Supplant It

Darshan Gunawardena – Analytics and Cognitive Leader of Deloitte Sri Lanka and Maldives, ​​Duleesha Kulasooriya – Asia Pacific Innovation Leader and Managing Director of Deloitte Centre for the Edge, Mayura Malagala – Strategy, Analytics, and Growth Leader of Deloitte Sri Lanka and Maldives

In a rapidly evolving landscape, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not just a technological advancement but a catalyst poised to enhance humanity’s potential and opportunities. Deloitte experts from the Asia Pacific region and Sri Lanka came together in an illuminating Echelon panel discussion to shed light on how AI can empower and uplift rather than replace.

Three prominent voices from Deloitte shared their insights on the transformative power of AI:

Duleesha Kulasooriya, Asia Pacific Innovation Leader and Managing Director of Deloitte Centre for the Edge discussed how the Deloitte Centre for the Edge serves as a futures think tank, focusing on the edges where disruptions emerge. He highlighted the profound shifts brought about by technology and the internet, emphasizing that AI, particularly generative AI like ChatGPT, is set to usher in another transformation.

Darshan Gunawardena, Analytics and Cognitive Leader of Deloitte Sri Lanka and Maldives, delved into the evolving role of data and AI in reshaping businesses and economies. He emphasized the potential for data-driven innovation and the challenges of data fragmentation and quality. Gunawardena highlighted the democratizing effect of AI tools like ChatGPT and urged businesses and individuals to embrace new technology and explore innovative business models.

Mayura Malagala, Strategy, Analytics, and Growth Leader of Deloitte Sri Lanka and Maldives, explored the transformative potential of technology infused with AI and its profound impact on businesses and society. He emphasized the need for responsible AI use and avoiding excessive regulation while striking a balance. Malagala shared insights for industry leaders and discussed the feasibility of implementing a digital ID system in Sri Lanka.

These experts collectively discussed how AI can empower individuals and organizations, promote ethical AI practices, and shape a brighter future by harnessing the potential of new technologies.

Navigating the AI Revolution

Kulasooriya sharing insights into the profound impact of emerging technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) on society, business, and humanity, delved into the role of the Deloitte Centre for the Edge and the transformative potential of AI.

The Deloitte Centre for the Edge, Kulasooriya explained, serves as a futures think tank, focusing on the edges where disruptions emerge. These edges encompass demography, geography, and technology. The centre works primarily with boards and CEOs to help them anticipate the future and make informed decisions in the rapidly evolving landscape.

The conversation then delved into the fundamental shifts brought about by technology and the internet. Kulasooriya emphasized how our lives have transformed, from remembering phone numbers to navigating with maps, all thanks to the internet. However, he pointed out that AI is set to usher in another profound transformation. He noted, “AI is now about access to an intelligent machine that can synthesize and provide insights from data, and generative AI, exemplified by ChatGPT, has changed the game.”

Addressing the challenges of this transformation, Kulasooriya highlighted the differing responses to generative AI, with younger generations embracing its possibilities while older individuals and established institutions approach it with apprehension. He emphasized that the genie is out of the bottle, and the key is to harness AI safely and meaningfully.

Regarding the impact of AI on societal equality, Kulasooriya stressed that while technologies may not be evenly distributed, they can uplift those at the bottom. The focus should be on raising the floor rather than worrying about the gap between the bottom and the top. He emphasized making AI tools available to as many people as possible to enhance humanity and create equal opportunities.

The conversation also touched on the adoption of AI in Southeast Asia, with Kulasooriya noting that while businesses in the region tend to be fast followers, governments have taken a leading role in promoting AI adoption and education.

In closing, Kulasooriya expressed optimism about the potential of AI to solve complex problems but acknowledged the challenges of the transition period, including potential job displacement. He encouraged individuals to embrace AI as a brainstorming tool and harness its capabilities for personal and societal growth.

As the world grapples with the transformative power of AI, the insights shared by Kulasooriya shed light on the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead, emphasizing the importance of thoughtful and responsible AI adoption.

Aggressive Adoption

Gunawardena talked about the evolving role of data and artificial intelligence (AI) in reshaping businesses and economies. As organizations increasingly recognize the value of data, the question arises: Is there a more open-source approach to data that can foster innovation and growth?

Gunawardena addressed this question, stating, “An organization will hold its data as sacrosanct, but the question is, how do we use this data and build on top of it? One way is to anonymize the data, removing personal or client-specific information, and allowing it to be opened up. Open banking APIs have demonstrated this concept, where anonymized banking data sets have spurred FinTech development, creating an entire ecosystem of innovation.”

While the potential for data-driven innovation is vast, Gunawardena emphasized the challenges of data fragmentation and quality. “Fundamentally, the problem is that data is in silos, and integrating it into a unified system poses a significant challenge. Quality data is crucial, especially as we delve into AI. AI models rely on quality data, and without it, they can introduce biases and inaccuracies.”

When asked about Sri Lanka’s readiness to harness this potential, Gunawardena pointed to a notable shift. “There has been a monumental change, especially with generative AI, such as ChatGPT. Conversations with business leaders in Sri Lanka now revolve around how to use Gen AI to improve efficiencies, and productivity, and cut costs. In a survey conducted by Deloitte across 16 countries and 2800 participants comprising Directors and the C-suite, titled ‘The State of Generative AI in the Enterprise: Now decides Next’, released with the start of The World Economic Forum, 79% of the respondents expect Gen AI to transform their business in the next one to three years.”

Addressing the issue of accessibility, Gunawardena highlighted the democratizing effect of AI tools like ChatGPT. “With about 60% of Sri Lanka’s population having access to the internet, tools like ChatGPT can augment knowledge. Individuals can use it to improve skills, learn new languages, or enhance their abilities. Curiosity and a willingness to explore these tools are key.”

In closing, Gunawardena urged businesses and individuals to be more aggressive in adopting new technology and exploring innovative business models. He stressed the importance of understanding the capabilities and limitations of AI tools to move beyond mere efficiency gains towards true innovation. “Knowledge is power, and these tools can empower individuals and organizations to transform and adapt to the changing landscape of the digital age.”

As Sri Lanka embarks on this transformative journey, the intersection of data, AI, and innovation promises to shape its future economy and society, creating opportunities for those who embrace the possibilities.

A Crucial Balance

For Malagala, Strategy, Analytics, and Growth Leader of Deloitte Sri Lanka and Maldives, the discussion revolved around the transformative potential of technology infused with AI and its profound impact on businesses and society.

Malagala began by addressing the shifting focus of organizations, stating, “Many organizations have been automating their processes and implementing operational systems. Now, the focus is on leveraging the data collected in these systems to make intelligent business decisions and drive insights for the future.”

Reflecting on the broader implications of generative AI and AI in general, Malagala highlighted two key aspects. “Firstly, the speed at which work can be accomplished and the ability to improve outcomes will drastically change. Repetitive tasks, like technical writing, can be automated using generative AI, allowing humans to refine the output. Secondly, entirely new areas of work may emerge, as we continue to unlock the potential of AI and data, leading to unexpected innovations.”

When asked about the societal framework for AI adoption, Malagala stressed the importance of responsible use while avoiding excessive regulation. “Education and regulation should strike a balance. We must educate individuals and businesses on the responsible use of AI and data privacy, rather than stifling innovation with excessive restrictions. The key is to create protective frameworks that promote ethical AI practices.”

Addressing the survey findings from Deloitte, Malagala shared insights for industry leaders in Sri Lanka, stating, “For CEOs and business leaders, it’s essential to view generative AI as an opportunity rather than a challenge. Embed AI as a strategic component of your business strategy and seek assistance where necessary. In this rapidly evolving landscape, taking proactive steps is crucial to stay competitive.”

Regarding the feasibility of implementing a digital ID system in Sri Lanka, Malagala affirmed its feasibility and potential benefits. “A single digital ID can bring tremendous power, from linking national IDs to health records, traffic violations and other citizen data. It’s a matter of ensuring data security and privacy to build trust in such systems.”

In his closing remarks, Malagala expressed both excitement and apprehension about the pace of technological change. “The speed of change is both exhilarating and concerning. We must educate and collaborate to harness the potential of new technologies. It’s about empowering people of all ages and ensuring they are aware of the capabilities of these tools, which can uplift knowledge and improve lives.”

As Sri Lanka navigates the transformative journey facilitated by generative AI and technology, the balance between innovation and responsibility remains pivotal, and proactive engagement with these advancements is key to shaping a brighter future.