AI wave has potential to revolutionize industries, cultures
With AI technologies continuing to advance at a lightning pace, their influence reaches far and wide, bringing major changes to our daily lives, industries and cultures. On the occasion of the 73rd anniversary, The Korea Times will run a series to explore the multifaceted ways AI is reshaping human society while scrutinizing the ethical, social, and economic implications. Also, we will highlight the opportunities and challenges of human-AI interaction by navigating the new world of AI-driven changes.
By Baek Byung-yeul
Cartoonist Min Song-a turbocharged her online creation, “The Girl Downstairs,” through an innovative new tool that enabled the webtoon to become a global hit on Netflix.
The secret weapon behind her success is Webtoon AI Painter, a magical AI tool from Naver Webtoon that reduced her work significantly and transformed the laborious task of coloring into a few effortless clicks.
“Webtoon AI Painter was able to complete the difficult coloring work in just a few seconds,” Min told The Korea Times. “It is a great help for creators to be able to finish the coloring process with just a few clicks.”
Min’s case is just one example of how AI is rapidly blending into our everyday lives, bringing changes to society, industries and cultures. The tide of change accelerated even more as U.S.-based AI company OpenAI’s ChatGPT made its debut in November of last year.
What is astonishing is that the AI wave is still in its infancy when it comes to creative industries and has the potential to completely revolutionize the way people work, socialize and consume content. The continuous evolution of AI technology will no doubt bolster creativity and productivity, and eventually reshape the future of human society sooner rather than later.
In a report unveiled during a forum titled, “Survival and Growth Strategies in the AI Era,” hosted by The Korea Times on Oct. 18, Matt McDevitt, McKinsey partner and co-leader of QuantumBlack Japan, stated that generative AI will boost businesses significantly across all industries, from technology to manufacturing, energy, education and retail. QuantumBlack is an AI company run by the global consulting firm.
“It is estimated that generative AI has the economic productivity potential of $4.4 trillion,” McDevitt said. “This is not even tapping into the potential recommendation, things that we cannot predict and things that we have not seen thus far. This is only around looking at industries around the world.”
Canada-based market research firm Precedence Research also released a report recently estimating the size of the global generative AI market to reach $118.06 billion by 2032 from $10.79 billion in 2022.
Kim Dae-jong, a professor of business administration at Sejong University, said we should remember the Luddites, members of a 19th-century movement of English textile workers who opposed the use of certain types of cost-saving machinery, often by destroying the contraptions in clandestine raids.
Contrary to concerns at the time that the advancement of machine technology would lead to a decrease in occupations for humans, the number of jobs actually increased dramatically and this trend will continue as generative AI becomes more widely used, the professor said.
“Generative AI will be a great help to humanity. As generative AI develops, the economy will grow and there will be a need for new industries. In Korea, we should not stigmatize the use of AI, but actively research how to live with AI and lead the new industries that are emerging from the advanced technology,” Kim said.
The professor’s point is supported by examples from a variety of industries. Among the conglomerates here, Hyundai Motor Group is using AI for job interviews to boost the objectivity of the hiring process.
The automotive group is using AI technology developed in collaboration with a startup company called Genesis Lab. The AI analyzes non-verbal factors, such as facial expressions, behavior and a person’s voice during the interview process.
A Hyundai Motor spokesperson said that since introducing AI interviews, the hiring process has become more efficient and fair.
“By eliminating subjective factors, AI enables a fair recruitment process and allows us to process a wide range of data in a short period of time, increasing efficiency and saving costs,” the spokesperson said.
In the health care industry, medical AI company Lunit is using its AI software to analyze CT scans and other images to diagnose cancer. Thanks to AI technology, more people are having their cancer detected at an earlier stage.
“When thinking about the use of AI in the health care industry, we see it making a significant contribution in two directions. Increasing survival rates and lowering the cost of cancer,” Brandon Suh, CEO of Lunit, said. “Lunit is currently operating 2D and 3D imaging solutions for cancer, including the most common cancers in the world, lung cancer and breast cancer. We expect survival rates to increase as the accuracy of diagnosis improves.”
AI technology is becoming essential for content makers as it greatly increases efficiency in the field of content creation.
Game company Netmarble began researching AI technology in 2014 and has been using it to detect problems in game systems and make adjustments. The company is also actively using AI for efficient game development, such as automatically creating natural facial expressions for characters.
“Netmarble’s voice-based facial animation generation technology is used to create natural-looking graphics that are indistinguishable from real human expressions,” Oh In-soo, head of Netmarble’s AI Center, said. “We expect this technology to not only improve the immersion experienced by game users, but also to create additional benefits, such as shortening the development period.”
In addition to the AI painting tool, Naver Webtoon is applying its AI technologies to various operations, such as tracking the illegal spread of online comics. It also started a pilot service called Barrier Free Webtoon since January, which uses AI technology to convert visual information into auditory information so that visually impaired people can enjoy online comics.
“Naver Webtoon is actively adopting AI technology, such as developing a painting tool that makes it more efficient for creators to work and cracking down on illegally distributed online comics,” a Naver Webtoon spokesperson said.
AI is becoming increasingly useful, not only in other industries, but also in the space industry, which is undergoing a major transformation due to advances in satellites and a boom in space resource development, experts said.
They said private companies led by Elon Musk’s SpaceX are taking a giant leap forward with advances in AI technology, including the sophisticated control of satellites and dealing with unexpected situations in space exploration.
“The global satellite service market is now shifting from providing simple satellite imagery and public services to a new market-driven paradigm, such as customized analytics services by applying generative AI,” Ahn Hyung-joon, a research fellow at the Space Policy Research Center, said in a recent report.
“AI is being used in everything related to space,” Park Si-soo, CEO of Spaceradar, a local space market intelligence provider, said. “As countries develop space exploration, more and more AI technologies will be introduced into all space-related industries,” Park added.
“For example, in the field of telecommunications services via satellites, if there is a lot of traffic in a specific region, it is very difficult to suddenly move satellites to that area to solve the problem. In this case, AI can be used to predict gridlocks in a high-traffic area in advance and redistribute satellites accordingly,” Park added.
Not only in the industrial sector, but also in other fields, generative AI is being used to improve the convenience of users. “We are encouraging students to use generative AI services when writing reports to improve their academic efficiency,” Kim, the Sejong University professor, said.
Importance of AI ethics
Although AI technology is expected to lead to new advances, experts said it is more important than ever to strengthen the ethical awareness of developers and users so that this technology can be used properly.
They added that regulations should be put in place to prevent AI technology from harming certain groups and that there is a need for measures to protect the privacy of users.
Experts also pointed out that it is time for the global community to reach an agreement on how much copyright should be granted to creative works created by AI technology.
“We already have many voluntary ethical frameworks and guidelines around the world, and there is much agreement on what they should cover. For example, algorithms must be valid and reliable, safe, privacy-protecting, non-discriminatory, unbiased, transparent and accountable. The issue is whether such guidelines go far enough, because they are not enforceable, either by the government entities or through private lawsuits,” Maura R. Grossman, a research professor in the School of Computer Science at University of Waterloo, said.
“Many people, including me, believe that we do need government regulation and not just guidelines, because without laws, Big Tech companies lack the incentives to make sure their commercial AI products are trustworthy and will not do harm to the public, and in particular minority groups,” the professor added.
Korea is also working to create an AI ethics ecosystem and establish a regulatory framework to become a model country for the digital order.
On Oct. 25, the Ministry of Science and ICT announced that the government is promoting the AI Ethics and Reliability Assurance Promotion Plan that aims to support private-sector-led AI ethics and reliability assurance and promote a sense of responsible AI throughout society.
The plan follows a declaration during President Yoon Suk Yeol’s meeting with local AI companies, where they pledged to voluntarily come up with the necessary safety measures to strengthen AI reliability.
In detail, the government and private AI companies will establish guidelines for generative AI-based services and promote a reliability verification process from November.
“AI is a core technology in the era of deepening digitalization, and efforts to secure AI reliability and safety are of utmost importance,” ICT Minister Lee Jong-ho said. “We will do our best to support the reliability verification of private companies’ AI services and complement policy measures.”
In case generative AI is misused in politics, the National Election Commission said in September that it had begun introducing regulations to prevent generative AI from artificially influencing elections as part of the state-run agency’s preparation for the 2024 parliamentary elections.
Regarding the issue of copyrights for works created using generative AI, experts said there is a need to examine the extent of the technology’s involvement in the creation, and there should be sufficient legal and social consensus and a review.
Stating that “The U.S. Copyright Office has stated quite clearly that in order to receive copyright protection, a work needs to be created by a human,” the University of Waterloo professor also said “questions can arise when a human enters one or more prompts that lead the AI to generate a creation, whether that creation can be copyrighted because of the human contribution.”
“The copyright issue regarding works made with generative AI is an ongoing one, so it is hard to give a straightforward answer and there are a number of issues to consider. In the case of AI trained on image data with expired copyrights, the copyright controversy can be avoided in principle,” Kim Min-ji, a columnist covering art, technology, culture and global affairs, said.
“However, given that the definition of ‘work’ in Article 2 of the Copyright Act is ‘a creative work that expresses human thoughts or feelings,’ it is difficult to assume that all content made using AI can be copyrighted,” Kim added.
Jenifer Sunrise Winter, a professor of Communication and Information at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said, “When we think about whether AI-generated works should receive copyright, it is important to ask what/whose data the models trained on.”
Winter added, “Many times, it is trained on other (human) artists’ works and not properly acknowledged. We should certainly consider that AI may have such rights in the future, but the issue of where the training data originated must first be addressed,” the professor said.