IS Oman ready for AI?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the buzzword around the world with many corporates and companies embracing it to improve efficiency and cut labour costs. The Sultanate is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring meaningful deployment of AI in all possible areas without affecting national programmes, including job creation.
“Artificial Intelligence is here to stay. It’s already a part of our everyday life in Oman in the form of a smartphone,” says Maggie Jeans, an OBE (Order of the British Empire) and well-known Oman-based British businesswoman and supplier of academic materials to both government and private sectors.
She was awarded the OBE for her services in improving Anglo-Omani relations.
Reports from different continents indicate the AI revolution will have a profound impact on all aspects of life.
When carried out systematically, AI helps people to do their job more efficiently and effectively. It has a varied scope, which can extend to education, health, oil and gas, SME, telecommunications, aviation, etc.
“Big technological advances are often historically associated with a reduction in the staff head count. While reducing labour costs is attractive to businesses, it is likely to create resistance from those whose jobs appear to be at risk,” Whit Andrews, Research Vice-President and Analyst at Gartner Inc, said on the sidelines of a recent conference on AI.
“The most transformational benefits of AI in the near term will arise from using it to enable employees to pursue higher value activities,” said Andrews.
He said it will be far more productive to get workers excited with the idea that “Artificial Intelligence can enhance the work they do every day”.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Intelligence (MI) is intelligence possessed and displayed by machines, while the Natural Intelligence (NI) is something humans and animals possess and demonstrate.
AI is the way a machine mimics the cognitive functions that humans associate with other human minds such as “learning” and “problem-solving”.
However, computer science defines AI as the study of “intelligent agents” and any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximise the chances of successfully achieving its goals.
As nations implement AI in almost all spheres of life, the dictum ‘future belongs to AI’ is ripe now, said Andrews, adding: “It is time to focus more on augmenting people, not to replace them.”
A recent study carried out by Gartner shows 46 per cent of companies have developed AI plans, while four per cent of corporates have implemented AI successfully.
Hamed al Maskari, an IT trainer at a public school, said while machines are designed and programmed to act and behave like humans, the results will be enormous and will accelerate national growth.
By applying this technology in a wide area of Omani lives, the human effort can be reduced and work speeded up to provide better results, he said.
But Al Maskari had a word of caution. “Since technology is to rule our lives, AI will have its grey areas too.”
According to him, the first drawback is the high cost of implementation. As their intelligence is not natural, they do not have any discretionary powers that humans possess.
Unlike humans, they cannot improve their performance over a period of time as they gain experience. And finally, employing Artificial Intelligence will result in unemployment to a great extent.
Maggie Jeans echoed him. “AI is inevitable. While it will enhance many aspects of life, it will also make many routine jobs redundant as they are taken over by machines, which can be problematic.”