The rise of artificial intelligence, a new world ruled by titans
The financial crisis of 2008-2009 led to a reconfiguration of the world. Indeed, the monetary response of states - increasing the amount of money and lowering interest rates - has facilitated access to investment and allowed the formation of technological titans.
A titan is defined as an actor who owns an asset that allows him to dominate its immediate environment. Several companies, making excellent use of AI in their activities, have emerged from this crisis: Apple, Amazon, Tesla, Uber, Tencent, Alibaba. Driven by large market capitalizations (1) , these companies are constantly investing in innovation, disrupting their respective fields of activity. The pace of innovation is stunning in this new world, exceeding even human's ability to assimilate it at the rate it is expanding. The rise of robots and artificial intelligence is restructuring the organization of the world.
To be able to navigate in this volatile world, a new mental mapping is needed. Charles-Edouard Bouée proposes a map of this new world:
- The North representing the enslaved world
- The South representing the free world
- The West representing the human world
- The East representing the robots world
Beside Titans, other categories of players are evolving on this map: the individuals using technology while rejecting it (south-east), the sanctuary of the wise (south-west), the rock of the ultra-rich etc.
What is the role of utilities on this new map?
Utilities have a holistic role: the task of providing abundant, decarbonized, and decentralized energy to all other actors. They have the capability to become Titans, even if for now they are not. To become Titans, utilities should be able to give the energy remote control to everyone (companies and households alike). The remote control of energy can be defined as the ability to consume energy tailored to a specific need. AI is fundamental to reach this goal. New technologies can be highly energy intensive, but at the same time technologies such as big data, IOT (internet of things), AI or data analytics allow utilities to optimize their energy production and cover the goals of the energy producer titans. It is by using the new applications of AI, without forgetting their primary “raison d’être” (provide the whole society with energy) that a utility can gain a competitive advantage over its competitors in a world of innovations and free access to cash for investors.
How do you describe the competition on AI between states?
There is an important competition between the US and China, but this competition is not reduced to these players: Europe is a latecomer but not out of the race. American researchers are not better than European researchers but receive four times more funding. America's power is based on its technological lead, especially for the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), which explains their strength and application in the IT competition (as an example, Americans placed cyberspace as a new war space in 2004). The case of China is different. They were in a period of technological catch-up for a long time. However, today, they have several titans (Alibaba, Tencent ect.), large investment capacities and an abundant population, which are all important assets in the IA competition. AI has beaten the best players on Go, a game dominated by Chinese and considered too complex for machines. The historical dominance of some states in some sectors can be overturned if the technology permitting it gets the necessary funding. The future will let us find out how the Europeans position themselves in the AI race.
Can we imagine a technological disruption overtaking AI?
AI does not exist as such, intelligence remains human. AI only means more advanced mathematical models than before. There is no technology that will overtake AI, but rather new technologies that will enter into symbiosis with it. For example, quantum computing will be a major revolution, but will require AI to handle the quantum leap (impossible by humans alone). Other technologies like IOT or 6G will be superimposed on this edifice, but will never remove it.
Are there any barriers to the implementation of AI?
Currently, there are none. A technology is not dangerous as such, there are always beneficial and lethal applications of it: bacteriological weapon, atomic weapon etc.). So far, most of these technologies have not been used to recreate a new world war during the Cold war. Most likely, barriers to AI will only be put in place if there are major accidents due to AI.
(1) As an example, Tesla, led by its charismatic director Elon Musk, has reached a market capitalization of 815 billion of dollar (686.11 billion of euros) in January 2021, with 499 550 cars delivered in 2020. At the same time, Volkswagen with 9.305 billion of cars delivered had a market capitalization of 147 billion of dollar (123.75 billion of euros).