On 20 July, the inaugural session of a conference cycle on Web3 dynamics and opportunities in Lebanon was held at the Beirut Digital District, the country’s technological hub. The event, titled “The Future of the Digital Ecosystem through Generative AI”, aimed to educate the audience about generative artificial intelligence (AI), create awareness, foster community engagement, and highlight Lebanon’s potential opportunities in this field.
Uncertainties surrounding the future of generative AI: One of the expert speakers emphasised that “ChatGPT is the tip of a gigantic AI iceberg”. Generative AI has already exceeded human performance in various tasks and keeps improving. While content generation through Large Language Models (LLMs) currently dominates generative AI, new applications are on the horizon, particularly with new emerging properties, such as visual reasoning and fill-in-the-blank capabilities. Self-improving AI is also an area to watch for the future of generative AI.
According to an analysis by BlueShift Institute, which formed part of the panel, the critical unknowns shaping the field revolve around (i) regulation; (ii) the capabilities of generative AI in terms of quality and scalability; and (iii) guarantees that the objectives of generative AI will remain aligned with humanity’s objectives, with deepfakes cited as one of the dangers. On a positive note, constituting, to some extent, a critical certainty, generative AI technology is considered a potential solution to the climate crisis.
Impact of AI on businesses: AI has been and continues to be used efficiently across all economic sectors. All industries will continue to be impacted, with companies across the pharmaceutical, financial, and video streaming sectors already integrating ChatGPT into their operations. In the short term, most of the impact will be focused on content generation. Although no use cases in Lebanon were discussed, this presents an opportunity for further in-country exploration.
Regarding the technology’s economic influence on employment, a managing partner from McKinsey, part of the presenting panel, indicated that by fully exploring the potential of generative AI, around 70% of developed economies’ workforces might witness the automation of around 50% of their tasks. Consequently, generative AI is perceived as a driving force behind the forthcoming productivity wave.
Potential of the metaverse: The Metaverse holds promise in providing augmented reality experiences for retail and entertainment industries, enhancing customer experiences and improving children’s learning experiences. However, it is crucial that governments push discussions on regulating the metaverse to ensure its responsible development.
In conclusion, the conference shed light on the advancements and potential of generative AI, its impact on businesses, and the promise of the metaverse, all of which have implications for Lebanon’s nascent technological ecosystem and growth opportunities.
What we hope to see from future AI discussions in Lebanon
The conference gathered global industry leaders, as well as participants from Lebanon’s technological and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Their keenness to leverage each other’s knowledge and expertise in the tech and ICT sector to empower Lebanon’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is clear. However, while the growing discussions around Web3 in Lebanon are a welcome development, the unspoken but crucial issue of AI regulation in the country remains.
Future editions of conferences on Web3 must:
- Address the need for a National AI Strategy in Lebanon, which would be underpinned by business-friendly policies around key issues, such as data protection, intellectual property, and cybersecurity.
- Stress the regulation of emerging technologies, such as AI, to enable them to be deployed in an ethical, safe, and responsible manner in line with global best practices.
- Offer government stakeholders a seat at the table to allow the public and private sectors to jointly build the foundation of a sustainable ICT ecosystem in Lebanon. This would allow emerging technologies, including generative AI, to thrive in an inclusive and fair manner for all stakeholders (businesses, developers, and end-users).
Access Partnership’s AI Policy Lab is working closely with governments and the private sector to shape AI policy and regulation globally. If you are interested in learning more or require support with keeping on top of AI policy and regulatory developments globally and in the MENA region, please contact Dana Ramadan at [email protected]