Global Challenge 6:

How can global information, communications technologies, artificial intelligence, big data, and cloud computing work for everyone?

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The race is on to complete the global nervous system of civilization and make supercomputing power and artificial intelligence (AI) available to everyone. Humanity, the built environment, and ubiquitous computing are becoming a continuum of human consciousness and advanced technology reflecting the full range of human behavior, from individual philanthropy to organized crime. Elon Musk’s Starlink is completing global access to the Internet with an advanced broadband system via over 5,500 micro-satellites today with plans for 42,000 micro-satellites; China plans a similar system with 26,000 satellites; and Amazon’s Project Kuiper plans its system with 3,200 micro-satellites. The internet connects 5.35 billion users as of April 2024 and is expected to connect nearly everyone within ten years. Assuming Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) could be available in the same time period, then the majority of humanity would have access to global intelligence that gets smarter continuously. Today two-thirds of the world has a mobile phone; over half have smart phones, which is forecast to be 7.33 billion by 2025. The continued development and proliferation of smart phone apps are putting state-of-the-art artificial narrow intelligence (ANI) systems in the palm of many hands around the world. The USA’s Frontier is the fastest computer with 1.1 Exaflops/second, followed by Japan’s Fugaku with 442 petaflops and Finland’s LUMI with 152 petaflops and then USA’s Summit and Sierra both from IBM, and Sunway TaihuLight from China. The race is also on for large-scale quantum computing, that promises to solve vastly more difficult and complex problems, far faster than super computers within five to ten years. IBM’s Condor is leading in 2024 with 1,121 superconducting qubits. Some examples of less powerful quantum computers, but commercially available today are USA’s IBM quantumQuEra, and IonQ Forte, Canada’s D-Wave, China’s Origin Wukong, and UK’s Rigetti.

Another great race today is to develop artificial general intelligence (AGI), which some think could arrive within five years. If so, its impact will be far beyond current artificial narrow intelligence. However, if we don’t get the initial conditions, guardrails, regulations, and governance “right” for both the AGI developers and users, then many unregulated AGIs could evolve into an artificial super intelligence (ASI) beyond our awareness that science fiction has warned about. Investments in AGI are forecast to reach $200 billion globally by 2025 with a market volume of $826.70 billion by 2030. To develop safe AGI, OpenAI, Microsoft, Google, and Anthropic have created the Frontier Model Forum, and IBM, Meta, and 50 others such as Intel, NASA, CERN, and the University of Tokyo have created the AI Alliance. Representatives of the US and China have been secretly meeting in Geneva since July 2023 to coordinate safety strategies. The US, China, and 26 other countries sign the Bletchley Declaration to collaborate on future AI safety. The UN General Assembly adopted a U.S. initiated AI resolution co-sponsored by more than 120 other countries. China has declared its goal of being the world’s AI leader by 2030. President Putin of Russia said whoever leads in AI rules the world. International and national AI strategies are being continually updated as the race for AGI continues.

Meanwhile, DeepMind’s Gato (of Alphabet) is beginning the transition from ANI to AGI with over 600 different tasks from the control of a robot to recognizing objects. The human brain projects of U.S., EU, China, and other countries, plus corporate ANI and AGI research, should lead to augmented individual human and collective intelligence.

Web 3.0 promises to integrate immersive augmented reality and virtual reality metaverse with decentralized user-centric systems like blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO), a variety of artificial narrow intelligences (from autonomous agents to natural language processing), and semantic web technologies, all integrating our physical and digital lives. Web 3.0 will evolve in parallel with Web 2.0. However, such decentralized systems could make enforcement of regulations against disinformation and information warfare more difficult and give vastly more entry points for cybercrimes. As global tele-smart-everything evolves, how well governments develop and coordinate Internet security technology and regulations may determine the future quality of cyberspace.

Cybercrime increased by 600% during the COVID pandemic. Ransomware accounts for 70% of all malware payloads. The global cost of cybercrime is estimated to grow to $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. With the evolution of the Internet of Things, wearable computers, autonomous vehicles, and brain-computer interfaces, cyber security will become increasingly important. Low-cost computers are replacing high-cost weapons as an instrument of power in asymmetrical cyber and information warfare. Information security should address a wide and diverse range of “enemies”—from the “geek in the back room” to criminal organizations and governments. To prevent cheating on exams and suppress political dissent, 35 governments shut down the Internet 187 times, slightly up from 34 countries that shut down the Internet 182 times during 2021, and compared to 25 countries that shut down the Internet 213 times in 2019. In 2023, 18 governments intentionally interrupted connectivity 124 times including 55 nationwide disruptions totaling 2370 days of disruptions.

As of April 2024, 64.6% of the world was connected to the Internet (5.44 billion users) and 5.74 billion, use social media, which is expected to increase to nearly six billion by 2027. Social media users averaged 151 minutes per day in 2023, up from 147 minutes from the previous year. Social media has connected people to improve their lives, but it also intensifies polarization by feeding users more extreme versions of their preferences to compete for user’s attention and clicks for advertisers. As a result, social media has become a powerful tool used in information warfare. Facebook reported that it deleted 1.8 billion fake accounts in the third quarter of 2021. While the numbers have come down since then, another 827 million fake accounts were deleted in the third quarter of 2023.

Internet advertising income passed television ad revenue as long ago as 2017 and continues to grow, with mobile phones now accounting for half of all internet traffic. Rapidly increasing video, AR/VR, and IoT use raises concerns about anticipating and meeting future bandwidth demands for an internet infrastructure that was not designed for these applications. Internet reliability has become strategically vital for much of civilization. More than a billion hours are viewed each day on YouTube.

Blockchain is being explored as a new approach to IoT security, as is quantum entanglement. Quantum cryptography is an emerging security technology in which two parties can generate shared, secret cryptographic material between ground stations or between Earth and satellite (as demonstrated in June 2017 by China). Norton has seen a 51% increase in password stealing malware during 2022, with over 24 billion passwords exposed by hackers in 2022 alone. Future quantum computers could make current security systems obsolete; NIST is working to prevent this with post-quantum security algorithms and standards. In December 2020 China announced a quantum computer calculation in 200 seconds at room temperature that a supercomputer would take 2.5 billion years to complete. IBM’s 127 qubit chip is available for commercial use and IBM has produced a 2-nanometer chip with 50 billion transistors on the size of a fingernail increasing performance and reducing energy demand. ASML also pushes Moore’s law with its chips at 3-7 nanometers. IBM announced it will have a 1,000-qubit chip in 2023 and both IBM and Google announced they plan to have a 1-million-qubit chip by 2030. (10 qubits is 210 or 1,024 simultaneous calculations, and 30 qubits or 230 is 1 billion 73 million simultaneous calculations). All this is leading one day to a global-scale quantum Internet. Quantum computers will be able to train and run complex AI models, while AI algorithms can make quantum computing more efficient.

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution evolves, all elements of a business will become connected with artificial narrow intelligence; companies will increasingly become collective intelligence systems. Financial services and other kinds of businesses could just become software. The three kinds of artificial intelligence are artificial narrow, single-purpose intelligence (what we have today); artificial general intelligence, adaptable to multiple purposes re-writing its own code (which might not be possible, but some expect it by 2030); and artificial super intelligence, general intelligence that sets its own goals independent of humans (what science fiction warns about). Some unemployment impacts of narrow AI are being seen today, but if artificial general intelligence can be created, then the big impacts on unemployment, economics, and culture will be much greater. Facebook (now Meta) closed down AI bots that created their own language that humans could not understand, and Google’s AutoML can create new AI better and faster than humans, using layers of neural networks. Europol has created NoMoreRansom to decrypt and unlock computers under ransom attacks. Digital twins (advanced simulations) are being created for aircraft, cities, ecosystems, and eventually humans and AGI/IoT to test actions, evaluate impacts, and make improvement with the ability to change the twin through time with new data.

Who owns the intellectual property produced by AI with the participation of many inputs from humans and sensors around the world? How can standards, certification, and testing keep up with AI when humans will no longer know completely how it works? Meanwhile, the Covid pandemic has accelerated the growth of tele-everything worldwide from tele-education and tele-conferences to tele-work and tele-medicine. There are 1.35 mobile billion accounts with transfers of $1 trillion per year. Global telemedicine grew from $18.2 billion in 2016 to $87.8 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach approximately $285.7 billion by 2027. Tele-education is forecast to grow from $250 billion in 2020 to $1 trillion by 2027. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have enrolled 220 million students in 950 universities offering nearly 20 thousand courses over the past decade (data not including China); 40 million new students signed up for at least one MOOC in 2021. Meanwhile, 2.2 billion people 25 years old or younger do not have internet at home in 2021.

  • Begin to design global governance for the initial conditions and performance of artificial general intelligence (AGI).
  • Make safe Internet access a right of citizenship (Finland made access a right in 2010).
  • Support Starlink’s plan to provide universal Internet access to the world, regardless of location.
  • Establish international agreements on IoT security standards and repair protocols.
  • Create a UN Convention on AI (with separate sections for ANI and AGI).
  • Assess global governance models for the transition from artificial narrow intelligence to artificial general intelligence.
  • Create national public global collective intelligence systems for water, energy, food, S&T, etc., and connect them in a global system.
  • Create low-cost, hand-held computers with direct satellite access for low-income regions to access educational software and telephony, with elementary literacy as a first priority.
  • Train everyone in their roles in cyber-security, like how to use Europol’s NoMoreRansom to decrypt and unlock computers under ransom attack.
  • Invent synergies between government cyber-security personnel and independent hackers for a safer Internet.
  • Promote tele-nations and tele-citizens: people from poorer nations who live and work in richer nations, who help develop their original countries via volunteer telecommuting.
  • Establish a UN treaty on Internet ethics.
  • Apply UNESCO guidelines for the governance of digital platforms.

Africa: Smart Africa is an alliance of 37 African countries, international organizations, and 40 global private sector members to support Africa’s digital development. Over 600 million or 43% of Africans use the Internet and 662.87 million are expected to have smart phones by 2025, opening the door to tele-education, tele-medicine, and eventually tele-everything else. However, Africa loses $4 billion annually to cyber-attacks. Increased training in data analysis, artificial intelligence, data and text mining, and other cyber skills is needed to improve decision-making and more fully benefit from increased Internet access. The African Union is developing policy frameworks for the digital transformation of Africa in partnership with business, civil society, and academia. Africans overseas will be able to help the development back home more easily – matching African brains overseas with the development process back home. Also, the remittance market is adopting mobile money transfer; according to WorldRemit, half of the world`s 261 mobile money service providers are in sub-Saharan Africa. Texting is the most common use of mobile phones in Africa. By the first quarter of 2021, Africa had 53.3 million smart phones. Mobile applications (money transfer, medical help, farm production information) are revolutionizing life in Africa. There are 255 million active Facebook users on the continent, 80% of them using mobiles. Madagascar offers a mobile cloud phone service based on logins like e-mail so that users who do not have to have their own phones can borrow someone else’s mobile phone to make a call. The new Main One and West Africa fiber-optic cables are cutting costs and increasing speed. QuizMax is a free mobile phone app for math and science education used by 100,000 children in South Africa. Uganda received an African Development Bank award for its cell-based health management system. Kenya’s Digital Villages Project integrates Internet access, business training, and microcredit. FAO’s Africa Crop Calendar Web site provides information for 130 crops. Tight government budgets and AIDS deaths among professionals make tele-education, tele-medicine, and e-government increasingly important. Teachers and students in Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda have received over 1,000 Kindles and 180,000 e-books, bringing massive e-libraries to schools. Google Translate is now available for Chichewa, Hausa, Igbo, Malagasy, Sesotho, Somali, Yoruba, and Zulu.

Asia and OceaniaInternet users in the region have grown from 2.1 billion in 2018 to 3.1. billion in 2023; over 55% of the world’s Internet users. China has grown from 22.5 million Internet users in 2000 to over 1 billion in 2023, with 1.7 billion mobile phone subscribers, and 1.06 billion social media users as of 2024. India has 752 million Internet users (53.4% of the population) in 2024 and a billion smartphones.  Singapore has created AI Verify, an AI governance testing farmwork and tool kit. China has introduced the “Great Cannon,” a technique for a DDoS attack on Web sites that are considered to be carrying anti-China material. India has the most Facebook users with over 260 million. The rise of the mobile phone in India has led to the development of caste-oriented social media communities. Japan intends to lead the world in creating a super smart society via the Japan 5.0 program. Although South Korea is rated by the UN as a leading e-ready country, its youth struggle with video game addiction. Phones are being smuggled into North Korea to post reports on conditions. Bangladesh is working to make unlimited Internet packages available. Pakistan has a program to teach literacy and then guide students to job openings. India is establishing e-government stations in rural villages. Nearly half of Central Asia’s population is connected to the Internet. During the last quarter of 2020, internet users in the Philippines spent more than four hours per day on average on social media. The Asia/Pacific region is forecast to increase total investment in AI from $17.6 billion to $32 billion by 2025. Meanwhile, Iraq shut down the Internet 54 times in 2023, Iran did this 47 times, and India 34 times (down from 84 times in India in 2022).

Europe: The EU Parliament approved the AI Act in 2023 as the first supranational regulations for AI. Northern Europe’s 98% Internet penetration is the highest in the world. The European Council also approved Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act for a safer and more equitable internet services. The EU’s Safer Internet Programme is working in 27 European countries to counter child pornography, pedophilia, and digital bullying. Germany is increasing AI investments from €200M in 2023 to €500M in 2024. The Czech Republic has passed a law requiring most companies to have a Web site with relevant corporate information. About 90% of Russians use the Internet more often than once a week, and it is a major source of news free from government control. On the other hand, Russia has banned profanity and obscenity from all public media, including literature and news. It has developed a national AI strategy to graduate 15,500 AI graduates and AI services to $656 million by 2030. In the Netherlands, virtually all households have a computer (97%) and Iceland has the second highest proportion of households with Internet access globally, at 96%. The EC’s Horizon 2025-2027 plan allocates €13 billion to core digital technologies.

Latin America: Latin America has grown from 387 million internet users in 2018 to 470 million in 2023. Google is building Firmina, the largest sub-sea cable in the world from the East Coast of the US to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC/CEPAL) has 39 goals/strategies for the digitalization of the region. The Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean, MERCOSUR, and CARICOM also have plans for the digitalization of commerce, education, health, and social services. E-commerce in Latin America is forecast to grow 30% each year to 2025. Uruguay is the first country to provide all primary students with their own Internet-connected laptop, followed by Costa Rica. Over 75% of students have access to the internet in their schools. Brazil reported high usage levels in average time per day spent by online users on social media, with users spending more than three hours and 40 minutes on social media on daily basis.

North America: Internet uses in the region have grown from 328 million in 2018 to 345 million in 2023; 82% of the population. Over 80% of the U.S. has smart phones and 85% of US households have high speed Internet access. It is estimated that social media advertisers will spend $72 billion during 2023.  President Biden committed $45 billion to ensure all Americans have high speed Internet by 2030. Silicon Valley continues as a world leader in innovative software due to its unique innovate-oriented culture that rewards employees for out-thinking their bosses; something unheard of in most cultures of the world. Google gives “20-percent Time” for employees to do whatever they want, which is credited with half of Google’s new products. The Digital Public Library of America houses more than five million books, 50 million images, along with manuscripts, videos, sounds, and banded books from museums and libraries. Cyber-attacks are increasingly viewed as a leading threat to U.S. national security in information warfare weakening social cohesion. Increasing information warfare attacks from Russia to counter US support for Ukraine are expected. Cyber criminals are estimated to make about $200 billion worldwide in 2024 and cost U.S. business and individuals a loss of about $452 billion, that is estimated to grow to $1.82 trillion by 2028.