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A society built on artificial intelligence

UTOPI OR FUTURE: Is artificial intelligence and automation a lifeline or a threat to society?

It is more than 500 years since Sir Thomas Moore found inspiration for the book Utopia while strolling around Antwerp. In May, I even traveled from Dubai to the Belgian city to give an Artificial Intelligence (AI) lecture and couldn't help but draw the parallel to Utopiacharacter Raphael Hythloday, who in the 1500 century entertains two Englishmen with tales of a better world.

Dubai has got the world's first minister of artificial intelligence in addition to museums, academies and foundations dedicated to future studies and have embarked on their own Hythloday-like journey. While European countries have generally become more anxious about how technological advances can threaten jobs, the United Arab Emirates has enthusiastically embraced the labor-saving potential inherent in artificial intelligence and automation.

Arab cultures see work as something one does to be able to live; one does not live to work

There are practical reasons for this. There is an imbalance between local and imported labor in the Gulf states, with local labor accounting for 67 percent in Saudi Arabia, but only 11 percent in the United Arab Emirates. Since the region's desert landscape is not sustainable for further population growth, the possibility of replacing human labor with machines is very attractive.

But there is also a deeper cultural difference. In contrast to Western Europe, where the industrial revolution and "Protestant work ethic" saw their light, Arab cultures view work as something they do to be able to. . .

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sami@nytid.com
Mahroum is director of strategy and research at The Dubai Future Foundation and fellow at The Lisbon Council. He has written the book Black Swan Start-Ups: Understanding the Rise of Successful Technology in Unlikely places.

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