Discussing the Implications of AI and a Call to Action

alan ai column

Following hot on the heels of my recent article (published to rAVe [PUBS]) on the implication of artificial intelligence in AV and digital signage Gary Kayye and Steph Beckett invited me to participate in a live broadcast discussion about the genesis of the article, and additional thoughts about the implications of AI on the industry.

This all began with my general fascination with the concept of AI, going back to 1968. The tipping point was the book (and subsequent movie) “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The Arthur C. Clarke classic novel explored human evolution and technological advancement: its promise and its danger. One of the protagonists turned antagonists was HAL 9000, the supercomputer, and the novel explores the troubles that can crop up when humans build machines, the inner workings of which are not fully comprehended and, therefore, cannot fully be controlled.

For those into trivia, HAL is an acronym for a Heuristically-programmed ALgorithmic computer. HAL is a sentient artificial general intelligence computer that controls the systems of the Discovery One spacecraft and interacts with the ship’s astronaut crew. As a side note, heuristics are mental shortcuts for solving problems quickly, delivering a result that is sufficient to be useful given time constraints. Sound familiar? At the time, we were unaware that fantasy was to become reality.

This fantasy turned reality has taken on a life of its own. In 1969, Neil Armstrong famously said as he took the first step on the moon, “One small step for man and one giant leap for mankind.” AI is “one giant leap for mankind” on par with the industrial revolution, analog to digital and computers and the internet. The one word that describes each of these life-changing advancement is power. Power in the effect each has had on our society and financial power for those who were developers and early adopters.

In this vein, we need to understand the current and future “power” of AI and the pluses (there are many) and potential minuses that can do irreparable harm in extreme cases. Go back and read (or watch!) “2001: A Space Odyssey” for reference. In my article, I pointed out that we are in the early stages of understanding AI, but left uncontrolled and unregulated, the intended and unintended consequences can be very good or very bad, or somewhere in between.

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One barometer of where AI is headed can be seen in the financial community. Bloomberg Financial claims a CAGR of over 45% over the next ten years. The team at Markets and Markets forecasts a 37.5% CAGR from 2024 to 2030. The most conservative growth estimates over the next 3 to 5 years will show over 25% growth year over year! The never-before-seen trillion-dollar market capitalization “club” is now made up of Nvidia, Microsoft, Apple, Google and Meta– all involved deeply in AI. The companies’ individual and collective growth figures are staggering to say the least. This is a lot of power residing in just a few companies!

Suffice it to say that Pandora’s Box has been opened, and to mix metaphors, the genie is out of the bottle, never to go back in. There is no question that AI embraces many disruptive technologies, both good and bad. It is an existential evolution, both personally and professionally. It already affects each of us on the consumer side, and its application and effects are increasing daily on the professional side. At the end of the live broadcast, Kayye asked what our industry at large, and AVIXA specifically, should do about all this. Here is my take.

AVIXA is the voice of the ProAV industry and is best known for its annual trade shows and certifications (ISE, InfoComm and CTS, respectively). In my opinion, with the indisputable magnitude of AI and so much in flux and at stake, AVIXA should establish an AI Industry Council populated by ProAV and digital signage industry experts. These experts should have no vested interest other than understanding, assessing and reporting on AI, with its ever-changing status and applications, with a mandate to educate and advance these technologies in our AV and digital signage communities. At its best, it might develop a set of guiding principles similar to what the G7 recently put forth. AVIXA, do you hear me?