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Could AI herald a new epoch of technology?

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May 2023

New developments in artificial intelligence (AI) could herald a ‘third epoch’ of technological development, transforming lives and creating a myriad of new investment opportunities, according to Siuchoon Koay, research analyst in the Newton Investment Management equity research team.

AI has been making headline news in 2023, following the development and launch of generative AI chatbots1 that can conduct a human-like conversation with users, generate software code, emails, draft business proposals and even write essays.

Opinions on AI’s latest phase range from excited approval from the many companies which see rich potential in its application to those who downplay its use as a new gimmick or worry about its unintended consequences and potential future impacts on humankind.2

In March 2023, an open letter from the Boston-based Future of Life Institute,3 backed by over 1,000 artificial intelligence experts, researchers and backers, called for a pause in broader AI experiments pending more research into their potential dangers.

Yet for all this, it appears that many firms see far more benign prospects for this emerging new technology, with some believing it could revolutionize many business sectors, creating a wave of efficiency gains, cost savings, new products and revenue opportunity.

Transformative change

At Newton Investment Management, Siuchoon Koay, research analyst in its equity research team, believes AI could be more transformative than the development of the internet, opening new frontiers of opportunity.

“With artificial intelligence we have now arrived at what can be seen as the ‘third epoch of technology’. The first was the development of the internet; the second smartphones. AI will throw us new surprises, transforming our lives in ways we cannot imagine, yet exactly how is highly uncertain because predicting AI is like predicting growth of the internet in 1999 or of smartphones in 2007”.

With hardware progress and the ability to train AI models within reasonably short time frames, Koay believes AI is “ready for prime-time” in applications ranging from large language models to predictive modelling, pattern recognition, perception processing and even creative content creation.

AI applications

“While it is uncertain, there are lots of probable developments and applications for AI. The initial end use could be more consumer-oriented, focusing on generative AI that creates new content. We think we’ll also see the development of new natural language processing tools such as chatbots that interact in a human-like way.”

“Perception processing could also be set to help bots and droids take on repetitive, dangerous, or mundane jobs, while new AI tools in the creative industries could lead to the development of novel art forms. So-called hyper-personalization4 is also likely to see the development of new AI pets or companions for humans.”

Pattern recognition and predictive models also could accelerate scientific discovery in areas such as weather forecasting, crime, and health diagnostics. Sustained interest and investment in AI could drive a new wave of growth in coming years.

The market is already growing fast. Generative AI investments increased more than threefold between 2020 and 2022, while the median pre-money valuation for venture capital -backed generative AI companies rose from about US$40M in 2022 to US$90M in Q1 2023.5

According to Koay: “AI could contribute hundreds of billions in increased productivity and new consumption to the global economy. This technology could potentially impact all sectors – itself the cause and target of disruption. We believe it will present a myriad of investment opportunities in the years ahead.”

1 A chatbot is a computer program that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) to understand customer questions and automate responses to them. Source: IBM. 2023.

2 ITPro. Why risk analysts think AI now poses a serious threat to us all. 21 February 2023.

3 The Future of Life Institute is a nonprofit organization that researches the potential risks of AI applications.

4 Hyper-personalization is the use of real-time data AI, machine learning, and predictive analytics to get better information from an audience at an individual level and, in turn, act appropriately on that information. Source: Mendix. 2023.

5 PitchBook data as at end March 2023/ Yahoo!finance. How much are generative A.I. startups really worth? VCs are paying up as they scramble to get in on the next big thing.


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