Follow the Prompt: Tech Hype over Blockchain AND AI in the Middle East

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As both a tech enthusiast and a journalist in the Middle East, I’ve had a front-row seat to the whirlwind of innovations reshaping the region, and pouring investments are attracting the world to taste their share of the pie. 

But what are these technologies, really? Blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) are the buzzwords. Each holds the promise to revolutionize not just industries but the very fabric of our society. Today, I want to take you on a personal exploration of these technologies, dissecting the hype, the real-world implications, and how these innovations are being leveraged for profit and societal benefit.

 My Take on Blockchain and AI

Blockchain Technology: When I first encountered blockchain, it was as the backbone of Bitcoin. The idea of a decentralized ledger that could make transactions transparent and secure without any central authority was revolutionary. Now, it’s poised to change everything from how we buy homes to how we vote. In my view, blockchain is less about the technology itself and more about the paradigm shift towards transparency and security in digital transactions. Although the transparency and security measures are far from getting materialized, yet. 

Follow the Prompt: Tech Hype over Blockchain AND AI in the Middle East

Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI, on the other hand, seemed like science fiction turned reality. Machines that can learn, adapt, and potentially outthink us pose both exciting and daunting prospects. Debates over its real definition are still being contested, due to its statistical model machines versus its deep tech explorations. Nevertheless, AI’s ability to sift through mountains of data and find patterns can lead to incredible advancements in everything from medicine to city planning. But it also raises significant questions about privacy, employment, and control.

Follow the Prompt: Tech Hype over Blockchain AND AI in the Middle East

Where is the money going?

Here in the Middle East, tech investments are booming, with a considerable chunk flowing into AI and blockchain startups. It’s thrilling to see the region transform into a tech hub, with governments like those of the UAE and Saudi Arabia betting big on these technologies. However, I sometimes wonder, amidst this investment frenzy, whether the focus is skewed more towards monetary gain than genuine innovation or societal improvement. Moreover, if the money is poured over the idea of utilizing these technologies as a brand or is it really providing solutions or new applications to bring positive change to human behaviors. 

AI Investments: Companies here are harnessing AI to predict consumer behavior, streamline operations, and even drive autonomous vehicles. Funds are being developed to utilize robotics, drones, and IoT applications to businesses and industries. The potential for profit is massive, but so is the potential for invasive surveillance and diminishing job opportunities in traditional sectors. As someone deeply embedded in this world, I question whether enough is being done to mitigate these risks. A quick take is summarized well by a recent skit by John Steward on his famous show, Daily Show

Blockchain Investments: Blockchain’s allure comes from its promise to eliminate intermediaries, ensuring that transactions are not only faster but cheaper. Financial institutions, real estate, and even governments are jumping on this bandwagon. Yet, the environmental impact of blockchain, particularly the energy-intensive process of mining, is a concern that often seems overlooked in the rush to capitalize on this new technology. New chains that are being introduced, particularly towards valuations to real world assets and creating liquidity to finance new businesses, or support the capital expenditures for SME’s are all interesting and noble pursuits. But the path to achieve it is filled with challenges, obstacles and conflicts.

 

Follow the Prompt: Tech Hype over Blockchain AND AI in the Middle East

 Social Impact: Beyond the Hype

Blockchain for Good: One project that genuinely impressed me involves using blockchain to aid Syrian refugees in Jordan. By ensuring that aid is distributed efficiently and transparently, blockchain technology shows its capacity to do good. However, the broader adoption across other societal needs is progressing slower than the hype might suggest.

AI for Good: In healthcare, AI’s impact in the region is profound. Predictive analytics are being used to improve patient outcomes, a development I view as a significant win. Yet, the pervasive data privacy issues and the potential for AI to exacerbate social inequalities are conversations that are only just beginning.

 Conversational Aside: What Does This Mean for Us?

Engaging with you, my readers, I often find myself discussing not just the potential of these technologies but what we are exchanging in return.. Yes, blockchain and AI can make us richer and our economies stronger. However, who is paying the ultimate price for all this? 

 Navigating Our Tech-Driven Future

As we navigate this tech-driven future, my role as a journalist is to peel back the layers of hype and expose the underlying realities of these technologies. Blockchain and AI are not just tools for economic growth; they are instruments of societal change. It’s crucial that we balance profit motives with the imperative to safeguard our societal norms and ensure equitable benefits from these technological advances.

Your thoughts and feedback are invaluable as we continue this conversation. How do you see AI and blockchain shaping your future?

Some of the questions or observations and their viewpoint or answers.

How do you think governments in the Middle East should balance the rapid adoption of AI and blockchain technologies with the need to protect traditional jobs and privacy?

Governments in the Middle East should implement comprehensive frameworks that govern the deployment of these technologies, ensuring that they enhance societal well-being without sacrificing privacy or employment. This could include investing in education and re-skilling programs to prepare the workforce for a tech-driven economy, as well as stringent data protection laws to safeguard privacy. Public consultations and partnerships with tech companies can also ensure that the development of these technologies aligns with the public’s best interests.

How blockchain or AI, brings more potential for genuine societal improvement in our region, and why?

Blockchain’s ability to enhance transparency and security in transactions and processes has the potential for genuine societal improvement. This is especially relevant in sectors like government services, where enhanced trust and efficiency can significantly improve citizen satisfaction and reduce corruption. However, AI also plays a critical role, particularly in areas like healthcare and urban planning, by making services more efficient and anticipatory.

How communities are experiencing any direct benefits or drawbacks from the adoption of these technologies?

There have been notable benefits from the adoption of AI, particularly in healthcare. For example, a local hospital introduced an AI-driven diagnostic tool that helps in early detection of diabetic retinopathy, which has led to better patient outcomes. However, there are also concerns about job displacement due to automation, particularly in sectors like retail and customer service, where AI-powered solutions are increasingly being adopted.

    One thought on

    Follow the Prompt: Tech Hype over Blockchain AND AI in the Middle East

    • Olga Nayda

      Interesting point of view, Adil. If you say that Blockchain and Ai are instruments to change society, then who will get benefits from it, and who are using these instruments?

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