A new technology called Generative AI also known as GenAI, is emerging. GenAI is defined as a type of AI technology that generates text, images or other media using generative models.

AI is the umbrella category for all forms of machinery with human-like intelligence which includes subsets such as machine learning, deep learning, and neural networks. GenAI is a subset of AI that refers to intelligent machines that can produce something new.

Here’s an image which illustrates the characteristics of GenAI:

GenAI is evolving as a valuable solution for automating and improving routine administrative and repetitive tasks. This technology excels at applying foundation models, which are large neural networks trained on extensive unlabeled data and fine-tuned for various tasks. It can effectively identify, summarize, convert, predict and generate content from large data sets. Implementing this technology in the public sector can significantly improve efficiency, enabling organizations to complete their daily tasks with a fraction of the resources. 

Here are three predictions about GenAI:

  1. According to McKinsey & Company, GenAI is poised to unleash the next wave of productivity. They think those new applications have the potential to contribute between USD 2.6 trillion and 4.4 trillion annually to the global economy through various business scenarios;
  2. Goldman Sachs predicts a 7 percent—or nearly $7 trillion—increase in global GDP attributable to GenAI, and the firm expects that two-thirds of U.S. occupations will be affected by AI-powered automation; and
  3.  McKinsey estimates that, by 2030, activities that currently account for around 30 percent of U.S. work hours could be automated, prompted by the acceleration of GenAI.

The following three slides which include 16 different type of applications are being offered by GenAI:

The popularity of GenAI has exploded in 2023, largely thanks to the likes of OpenAI’s ChatGPT and DALL-E programs. In addition, rapid advancement in AI technologies such as natural language processing has made GenAI accessible to consumers and content creators at scale.

It’s obvious that big tech companies have been quick to jump on the bandwagon, with GoogleMicrosoftAmazonMeta and others all lining up their own generative AI tools in the space of a few short months.

According to a report published on 18 July 2023 by MIT Technology Review Insights with the title “The Great Acceleration: CIO Perspectives on Generative AI”:

  • Although AI was recognized as strategically important before GenAI became prominent, our 2022 survey found CIOs’ ambitions limited: While 94 percent of organizations were using AI in some way, only 14 percent were aiming to achieve “Enterprise-Wide” AI by 2025; and
  • By contrast, the power of GenAI tools to democratize AI—to spread it through every function of the enterprise, to support every employee, and to engage every customer —heralds an inflection point where AI can grow from a technology employed for particular use cases to one that truly defines the modern enterprise.

Nevertheless. the automation of tasks by GenAI raises concerns around workforce and job displacement, as highlighted by McKinsey. According to the consulting group, automation could prompt 12 million occupational transitions between now and 2030, with job losses concentrated in office support, customer service and food service.

According to another report recently published by investment bank Goldman Sachs, GenAI is able to create content indistinguishable from human work which indeed is a major advancement.  However, it could:

  • Replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs;
  • Replace a quarter of work tasks in the US and Europe but may also mean new jobs and a productivity boom; and
  • Eventually increase the total annual value of goods and services produced globally by 7 percent.

The report also notes that the impact of the technology will vary across different sectors – 46 percent of tasks in administrative and 44 percent in legal professions could be automated but only 6 percent in construction 4 percent in maintenance.

The following image summarizes a series of increasing frequent breakthroughs:

It’s alarming to note that using GenAI, anyone can create fake content, including photos, videos, and text.  While this is considered a technological advance, it raises serious concerns when different political parties exploit it to spread fake news and propaganda. Fake media generated using GenAI tools can cause severe damage.

According to Statista, 2024 is seeing national elections in more than 60 countries worldwide. Around 2 billion voters – approximately a quarter of the world’s population – are expected to be heading to the polls this year. 2024 has been dubbed a super election year or even the biggest election year in history – aided by closely watched elections in populous countries like the United States, Mexico, India and Indonesia, among others, that will be going ahead this year.

Regrettably, there’s always a possibility that GenAI may be abused to spread misinformation about the candidates associated with thousands of those elections around the world. 

According to the AIAAIC database, which tracks incidents related to the ethical misuse of AI, the number of AI incidents and controversies has increased 26 times since 2012. Some notable incidents in 2022 included a deepfake video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy surrendering and U.S. prisons using call monitoring technology on their inmates. This growth is evidence of both greater use of AI technologies and awareness of misuse possibilities.

These risks haven’t escaped policymakers. In April 2023, the European Union proposed new copyright rules for generative AI that would require companies to disclose any copyrighted material used to develop GenAI tools. These rules were approved in draft legislation voted in by the European Parliament in June, which also included strict curbs on the use of AI in EU member countries including a proposed ban on real-time facial recognition technology in public spaces.

Greely, Ontario, Canada 3 February 2024