AI: The Future Is Now

We asked 14 leading thinkers to investigate the promises and pitfalls of the fast-accelerating AI revolution. Here’s what they found.

October 12, 2023

It was barely a year ago that artificial intelligence still seemed safely boxed away into the realm of “let’s worry about that later.” But, as with climate change and political extremism, the hypothetical has quickly (and scarily) morphed into the concrete. Generative AI applications like ChatGPT and Midjourney are now as ubiquitous in our technological imagination as Facebook and TikTok. TV writers and actors are striking in fear that streaming studios will steal their words and faces. And Geoffrey Hinton, the Toronto-based scientist behind much of the AI we’re using today, has become a modern-day Oppenheimer, suggesting the technology he brought into existence might threaten humanity. But AI isn’t all horror and global havoc: it can also fast-track health care, provide companionship to lonely souls, speed up our supply chains. We reached out to Canada’s top AI thinkers in fields like ethics, health and computer science and asked them to predict where AI will take us in the coming years, for better or worse. The results may sound like science fiction—but they’re coming at you sooner than you think.

AI opening header_1

“The human dimension to the problem of the future of AI—how people will react to the new tools—is at least as unknowable as the technology itself”

By Stephen Marche
2_Medical drugs

Our research team used machine learning to discover a new antibiotic. And that’s just the beginning. 

By Jonathan Stokes

Ultra-realistic digital trickery will help fraudsters deceive people on an entirely new scale

By Jeff Clune
4_University essay

AI will replace traditional forms of academic assessment—and create new ones

By Rahul Kumar

The more confusion these deepfakes sow, the more people will accuse each other of faking everything. You’re not going to believe what you see. You’re going to disbelieve what you don’t like. 

By Robert W. Gehl
6_Labour market

Many white-collar workers will find themselves out of jobs

By Joel Blit

Militaries will use AI to wage deadlier biological and chemical warfare. But what if the technology turns against us?

By Yoshua Bengio

AI brain sensors will translate our thoughts into speech, text or even other languages

By Yalda Mohsenzadeh

AI algorithms can reduce food waste,  add more nutrition and solve some of our restaurant-staffing woes

By Nestor Gomez
10_Personal medicine

We’ll use machine learning to predict illness before it starts, reducing pressure on the health-care system

By Roxana Sultan

Social companions can read emotions and help with daily tasks

By Amir Shabani
12_Cyber attack

The new AI might help criminals take down power grids or infiltrate electric vehicle networks

By Deepa Kundur

AI-generated actors, singers and visual artists stand to replace the real thing

By Jim Parker
14_Sex bots

In the next year or two, we’ll have sophisticated, purpose-built bots designed for relationships, sex and intimacy

By Neil McArthur

They’ll help us shop, bank and book travel

By Jackie C.K. Cheung

“The Age of AI” appears in the November issue of Maclean’s

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Macleans magazine cover
Macleans magazine cover