“By 2040 AI will permeate everything. It is highly likely that it will have passed the Turing test well before 2040. Many aspects of daily life will be easier and more efficient due to the integration of AI. A few areas in which I expect that AI will dominate with a more-positive balance of outcome are manufacturing, commerce, transportation, education, entertainment, healthcare and robotics.

  • “Healthcare will be transformed: We will see greater AI integration into diagnostic and decision support tools. New treatments and drug designs will emerge. The process from conceptualizing a drug to its eventual placement in drug trials will be less expensive and timely and less prone to error. Disparate data sources can be combined to facilitate drug research and predict potential drug interactions and/or side effects. AI-based software tools such as AlphaFold from DeepMind have already expedited drug design by tackling complex problems such as predicting the 3D structure of a protein just from its 1D amino acid sequence. Graph Neural Networks can speed up tasks such as text classification and relation extraction. Cancer will be one area in which AI will make positive impacts for drug discovery due to the complexities inherent for human researchers in understanding all genetic variants of cancer and how they may respond to new drugs or protocols. AI will help in not only designing better drugs faster, but also in uncovering new drug combinations. AI will also positively impact patient management. Multi-modal conversational AI virtual assistants will streamline administrative tasks in patient access and engagement (for everything from scheduling to bill pay to patient record access). AI will improve patient monitoring and early detection by analyzing vast amounts of data from disparate sources such as wearable devices, patient records, genetic data, elf-reported data, third-party sources, etc. AI will improve accessibility and efficiency in telemedicine by enabling medical practitioners to triage patients more effectively, monitoring patients remotely for early detection and warning and increasing diagnostic accuracy. AI-powered surgical bots are poised to deliver real-time rich data to reduce complication rates, while AI-powered robots will be engaged to complete routine patient-care tasks and provide elder heath or companion services to address staffing shortage and turnover.
  • “Manufacturing and Commerce: AI will dominate, manufacturing and commerce for both the merchant and the consumer in positive ways. The merchant can more accurately predict consumer demand, tailor prices, identify and respond to changes in consumer tastes and trends and better manage inventory and the supply chain. Merchants will be able to effectively target individual consumers with personalized products recommendations and offers. AI-powered drones will dominate delivery to the last mile. For the consumer, AI will deliver next-generation customer experience, with a highly tailored marketing, sales and customer-support experience. AI-powered shopping assistants will cater to unique customer needs such as finding the best offers or verifying product attributes (e.g., verifying authenticity or sustainability). Consumers will be able to virtually trial products in a way to mimic the actual use of the product and obtain individualized post-sales support.
  • “Transportation: As smart cities become more commonplace, AI will help urban planners with common transportation-related problems such as traffic monitoring and road safety by analyzing real-time data from traffic sensors. They will increase vehicle and pedestrian safety, reduce congestion and optimize traffic flows. Drones will dominate last-mile delivery for e-commerce merchants.
  • “Education: AI will positively transform both teaching and learning. AI will enable data-driven, personalized education plans for students in every stage of the education system. By 2040 advances in virtual reality (VR) and extended reality (XR) are powerful enough on their own, however the combination of AI and VR and XR will be a powerful force for transforming any formal or informal educational experience.
  • “Entertainment: AI will deliver customized and immersive experience to consumers. The combination of AI with other technologies such as VR and XR will be highly immersive. It will be a cost-cutting boon, as studios will be able to quickly create background visuals, resurrect a famous actor from days gone by for a scene, correct audio and visual errors and speed up editing.
  • “Robotics: By 2040 advances in robotics and AI will yield a full spectrum of AI-enabled robots to take over tasks considered mundane, repetitive, risky or undesirable. A variety of household robots will be available to take on domestic chores. In healthcare, robots will also be deployed for tasks such as executing precision surgery and providing companionship and eldercare. Much more sophisticated robots than those of today will be deployed for military and policing functions. We will very likely witness robot soldiers (in the military and as local police) that are as intelligent as humans and capable of handling various tasks, from reconnaissance to combat.

“Advances in and greater integration of AI will bring additional challenges to society overall by 2040, including a polluted information ecosystem and corresponding heightened risk to democracy and democratic institutions, greater economic inequity, loss of human interaction and agency, loss of privacy, increased cyberattacks and the dangers of cyberwar.

  • “Disinformation and a polluted information ecosystem: The most significant negative consequence will be AI’s impact on the information ecosystem. According to a 2022 Pew Research poll, adults under 30 trust news from social media almost as much as news from national news outlets. Thus, the news-consumption preferences of the most tech-savvy swaths of the population create a highly effective target for disinformation campaigns. Declining media literacy, widening economic inequity and mass migration all create ideal conditions for social division that can be exploited by cleverly constructed disinformation campaigns. As AI-enabled tools become more prevalent and affordable, disinformation campaigns and computational propaganda will become more ‘normalized’ and commonplace, i.e., no longer the purview of nation-states or deep-pocketed bad actors. The ultimate impact will be the blurring of truth and fiction and the erosion of trust in democratic institutions such as elections and the justice system. This is the single most significant and worrisome consequence. AI and AI-powered algorithms can greatly influence how news is shaped, amplified and distributed in such a way to bring social divisions into sharper contrast. The current concentration of power in big tech (i.e., the fact that a handful of big tech platforms control how news and content are distributed) and their surveillance capitalism business model, are accelerators. Greater social manipulation will, in turn, lead to three negative outcomes: 1) Reduction of the public’s ability to discern the truth. 2) Erosion of trust in news and media. A free and independent media and a well-informed electorate are critical requirements for a functioning democracy. Still even assuming that both are present, there is an implicit assumption of trust in the free press by the public. Disinformation campaigns work long-term by eroding trust in all media, even those with rigorous journalistic standards. 3) Decline in critical thinking skills as the information eco-system gets more polluted and AI takes over more mundane tasks previously done by humans.
  • “Economic Inequity: The adoption of AI will increase economic inequity and widen the digital divide, not only between the haves and the have-nots in society but also between the more-developed and less-developed nations. The climate crisis will result in mass migrations from less-developed nations to more-developed ones (especially in Europe) further exacerbating the divide. Widening socioeconomic inequity due to AI-driven job losses is a huge threat. Blue-collar manual-labor and repetitive jobs that are prone to labor shortages and high turnover will be a natural target for AI automation, but AI will also target white-collar jobs that have traditionally been more lucrative and stable. Jobs in software development, customer service, accounting, tax preparation and paralegal positions will disappear. Access to education and skills retraining is predicated on one’s socio-economic status. Employers must make adequate investments in upskilling their workforce now to prepare for the future.
  • “Loss of Human Interaction and Agency: Some of the interactions with AI tools and systems will be a replacement of interactions that had previously taken place between individuals. An overreliance in AI systems in lieu of human interaction, will affect socialization, especially of the youngest generation. Decreased socialization at this level will have consequences for larger human collectives in terms of social cohesion, understanding and conflict resolution. As AI systems take on decision-making roles, we will lose more human agency.

The adoption and uptake of AI systems requires the trust of users, which in turn depends on how well we address these core issues: Accountability, Fairness and Transparency.

  • “Loss of Privacy: Enough has already been written about the threat AI poses to privacy, that I will not focus on it here in too much detail other than to highlight it as one of the major negative consequences of advances in AI. The highest impact over individuals’ lives will be in regions already under the influence of state surveillance, especially in nation-states (such as China) that have far-reaching surveillance programs tracking their citizens. Advances in AI will further enable nation-states to closely surveil citizens, quickly identify and locate detractors and dissidents and take immediate punitive measures against anyone they consider antagonistic to their regime.
  • “Cyberthreats: Cyberattacks will be far more complex and effective thanks to AI. We can fully expect that the existing asymmetry between the cyber defenders and the cyber attackers will be exacerbated as AI provides myriad new tools to bad actors. As quantum computing advances in the next few years, we will soon reach the capability of breaking today’s cryptographic algorithms, which would render all digital information protected by current encryption protocols open to attack.
  • “Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems: This as an area in which the negatives will outweigh the positives for all of the reasons that have arisen out of intelligent public debate on all of the problematic issues tied to it. These systems pose unprecedented questions in multiple areas: ethics, governance, future of warfare etc. They also bring up traditional concerns (‘What if it is hacked?’ or ‘What if it goes rogue?’). Most worryingly though in a world fraught with religious, sectarian and regional conflicts, it has the potential to ignite an arms race.

“The adoption and uptake of AI systems requires the trust of users, which in turn depends on how well we address these core issues. 1) Accountability: ‘Who is accountable when a poor decision is made as the result of use of an AI-powered system?’ The decisions and recommendations of AI models cannot always be fully understood, nor explained (even by the developers of the system). Thus, establishing accountability and legal recourse will prove to be a challenge. 2) Fairness: ‘How can we be assured that we are not encoding bias and thus perpetuating discriminatory practices?’ 3) Transparency: ‘Are we transparent to the stakeholders regarding issues such as equity, privacy, security, interpretability and intellectual property?”

This essay was written in November 2023 in reply to the question: Considering likely changes due to the proliferation of AI in individuals’ lives and in social, economic and political systems, how will life have changed by 2040? This and more than 150 additional essay responses are included in the report “The Impact of Artificial Intelligence by 2040”