Connect with us

Artifical Intelligence

CES 2024: Tech set to be more responsible this year

Keynote addresses from Intel, LG and Walmart underlined the commitment of a tech sector to using AI with care, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Global leaders of the technology sector last week spelled out a future in which they both contribute to a better world and help run that world. The word “responsibility” was repeated constantly during the annual CES expo in Las Vegas, the year’s biggest launchpad of new consumer technology products. The gadgets on display from 4,000 exhibitors were overshadowed by keynote addresses from the chief executives of major corporations like Intel, LG, Qualcomm, Walmart, and Hyundai.

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger in particular spelled out a vision of a more responsible tech sector, particularly in the face of consumer suspicion of artificial intelligence (AI).

“Technology is moving faster than products, products move faster than business, and business moves faster than regulation,” he said. “So regulation is always trying to catch up to the implications of technology. As we have a broader and broader influence and the world is going more digital, it becomes more incumbent upon us, as technologists, to be engaged in the policy discussions on the regulatory frameworks, so that we help close that gap, so that regulation is in place to support this ever-growing pace of technology.”

Gelsinger went to great pains to acknowledge public concerns about AI, and the need for the technology sector to address the factors underlying those concerns.

“We’ve got to make it open, we’ve got to make it accessible, we have to make it explainable, we have to make it responsible. Every day we’re not doing that, we open up domains that people shouldn’t trust. And we should get challenged. So making AI, as we say at Intel, AI everywhere, but doing so through open technology access.”

The requirement, he said, was that anyone should be able to look behind the curtain that tends to hide the workings of AI and other technology.

“That’s always the key: ‘Can I look inside? How did it make those decisions?’ And until we can answer those questions, show how it was good for society, how it met the regulatory domains and demonstrated consistent good, we shouldn’t let it in the wild.”

His comments were echoed in a different context by William Cho, CEO of LG Electronics, which every year has one of the biggest displays of current and new consumer technology at CES.

“We are all facing a historic turning point and we at LG are all thinking about what our role and responsibility should be. LG’s focus lies in how AI can make a difference in the real world, providing a tangible benefit to our customers. At LG we’d like to redefine it as ‘Affectionate Intelligence’, because we fundamentally believe that AI should foster a customer experience that is more caring, empathetic and attentive.”

Cho outlined the differentiation of LG’s AI solutions, based on its capacity to harness vast amounts of data from 500 to 700-million LG products in use worldwide. Many of these are smart devices equipped with AI-supported intelligent sensors that are optimised to learn and analyse users’ “physical’ and emotional” life patterns in the real world, rather than based on Internet data gathered by large language models like ChatGPT and Google Bard.

“We have a unique opportunity to leverage real live data gathered from billions of smart devices,” said Cho. “Of course, with your explicit permission.”

Even the world’s largest physical retailer, Walmart, took to the CES stage to reiterate its commitment to responsible use of technology.

CEO Doug McMillon warned business leaders that they were at “a fork in the road” with regard to use of technology.

“One path is to completely prioritise technology to maximise what’s possible without considering potential implications. The view is that if we can use technology to do something, it’s inevitable that it’ll happen, so we should just go fast and exploit what’s possible.

“(The other path is) one where the benefits of technology are pursued, but people are considered along the way. The underlying principle is that we should use technology to serve people,  not the other way around.

“We love what technology can do, but we’re building it in a way that creates better careers at the same time. It creates better customer experiences and a stronger business.”

The Consumer Technology Association, organiser of CES, estimates that around 150,000 people attended the event this week. More than 10,000 new products were launched or demonstrated – and these will slowly trickle through to South Africa.

Jinkook Kang, subsidiary president of LG Electronics South Africa, told Business Times that the local office was continuously evaluating its product offering.

“While the launch dates of these new products in South Africa have not been confirmed yet, the company anticipates enhancing its TV and audio lineups, introducing exciting new additions to home appliances and monitors. With a record-breaking 33 CES 2024 Innovation Awards earned this year, the introduction of the latest products will certainly captivate the South African consumer.”

He said the outlook for consumer electronics in South Africa was similar to the global scenario with “declining demand for specific categories and pressure on the supply chain”.

“In South Africa, the company endeavours to grow by leveraging high-quality innovative products, enriching the product range, and consistently improving the service offering to elevate the customer experience. The key challenge of market demand uncertainties for specific categories is influenced by economic pressure on consumers.

“We have observed a shift in what South Africans are willing to spend, with increased interest in electronics that seamlessly integrate with off-the-grid power solutions, and a focus on energy efficiency without compromising quality or performance.”

* CES, formerly the Consumer Electronics Show, is one of the most influential tech events in the world, serving as the launchpad for several thousand new products every January in Las Vegas. It is owned and produced by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), and features every aspect of the tech sector.

• Arthur Goldstuck is CEO of World Wide Worx, editor-in-chief of Gadget and author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to AI”. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee.

Subscribe to our free newsletter
To Top