We remain optimistic about generative artificial intelligence’s (GenAI) influence on work because we’ve seen the results of integrating AI into organizations. While there may be challenges for companies considering AI — potentially enough to suggest AI “isn’t ready” for mainstream use — we are confident challenges for the future of AI have solutions.
As many organizations adopt it, the potential for GenAI will continue to flourish. This progression can take many different forms. Here are four potential outcomes to assist business leaders considering adopting AI into their organization.
The Future of AI: 4 Potential Scenarios of What Comes Next
The Utopian Future of AI
Let’s start with the most exciting future of AI. In this optimistic scenario, AI’s potential is reached and the technology transforms every avenue of modern life. This would be most obvious through scientific breakthroughs in complex fields such as medicine or physics. These high-level innovations (or discoveries) roll down to everyday life. Artificial intelligence proves it is a versatile technology that can integrate across various business models and create an autonomous society. This could lead to better jobs (such as AI engineers) or improved societal welfare that redefines our understanding of work.
In this scenario, there are multiple indications AI has integrated into all aspects of life. This would feel similar to how the internet became relevant to every industry or how everyone eventually got a smartphone. If this is AI’s future, then businesses should lean into an AI culture where every task is augmented by the technology.
A Promising Future of AI
If the utopian future comes, it will likely be preceded by a time period where the future of AI looks very promising. In this potential scenario, the technology of AI progresses steadily but perhaps without the world-shattering breakthroughs present in the first scenario. Artificial intelligence has become widely available — allowing anyone access to the technology — but perhaps its uses are fairly narrow.
The limitation of the technology prevents its implementation across all industries so some are revolutionized (such as call centers) whereas others are still figuring out the best use for AI. This is why AI adoption research indicates “31% of [AI] projects are still in pilot or proof-of-concept stages. McKinsey data suggests “a lack of transparency into the origins of generated content and traceability of root data could make it difficult to update models and scan them for potential.” With the standardization of AI, governments pursue regulations and corporations will implement internal policies for how to use AI responsibly.
In this scenario, businesses should work with the technology for what it is not what it could be. This might mean safeguarding against unsolved challenges such as mitigating bias within algorithmic decision-making. This scenario is also a time to be cautious of overhyped promises. The technology is developing in the right direction, but it needs time to fully integrate.
A Concerning Future of AI
We’ve seen countless times across history how technology can be unevenly distributed and that may be the case for AI. In this scenario, the future of AI follows the stratification of other new technology. This could take the form of only a handful of countries having access to AI or it could be segmented among the wealthy of each society. According to one study, roughly 70% of AI early adopters have reported the adoption resulted in increased revenue. If only AI-adopting sectors experience increases — and only some sectors adopt AI — this could dramatically shift the economy.
An unevenly distributed use of the technology may result in incredible gains in some industries which could influence economic uncertainty or unemployment for other sectors. This perceived unfairness contributes to public backlash and legislation turns toward restricting or banning AI technology instead of regulating it. This creates a spiral effect that results in less competition and innovation — which further stratifies the haves and the have nots.
If this scenario occurs, businesses utilizing AI should consider varying their partners. The arms race for the technology will likely result in significant shifts in capabilities and access which could put individual organizations in high risk. This would be the time to create coalitions of other organizations with similar tech access to strengthen their operations and potentially contribute to AI governance.
The Unremarkable Future of AI
Artificial intelligence has the interest of businesses and proof of its success, but this has been true for other technologies. High-profile disappointments can contribute to the public’s distrust or disinterest in utilizing AI in their life. This could occur if hallucinations, unreliability, or security vulnerabilities continue to emerge for businesses attempting to use AI. Alternatively, the technology could be dominated by unethical uses such as scams, misinformation, or copyright infringement in the future of AI.
Or maybe using the technology simply becomes too expensive. Any of these factors could trigger public backlash, cooled investments, and fading interest. This would be similar to the short hype cycle the world experienced for virtual reality — billions of dollars invested, multiple smaller corporations bought by trillion-dollar companies, a season of marketing, but ultimately nothing world-changing emerged.
Which Future of AI Will Emerge?
Whichever future emerges, it should be evident within the next couple of years. By 2033, proponents of AI say it could create half a billion new jobs. This would radically transform society within the next decade. If this transformation occurs, the signs of its progress will be evident very soon. A report from EY says “80% of CEOs are integrating artificial intelligence into products/services within the next 12 months. Another report from McKinsey suggests Generative AI “could add the equivalent of $2.6 to $4.4 trillion annually across various use cases.”
The success of AI relies on action being taken right now. Many businesses are facing challenges in control, transparency, and trust with AI solutions. The general public is getting familiarized with the technology and its implementation will take time. Both of these factors will be influenced by governmental regulations or corporate policies.
Artificial intelligence embodies the power to reshape industrial and social futures. Recognizing the path of the technology’s future can aid your own businesses’ adaptation to the changing market. Keeping pace with developments can ensure all organizations securely navigate AI’s future while bringing the promising future to all.