AI & (Human) Society (Book Alert!)

If you subscribe to one (or more) of the monotheist religions (Judaism, Christianity & Islam), then you might ask the question “what makes us human” and how is that related to the way we’re made in God’s image?

Perhaps a more fundamental question — are #religion and #ai compatible?

MIT Technology Review recently launched a new 3-part “AI Colonialism” series which explores parallels between the rise of AI and the (European) colonial history by examining communities that have been profoundly changed by #ai.

In Part 1, the series reports that in South Africa, AI surveillance tools that monitor people’s behaviours and faces, are re-entrenching racial hierarchies and fueling a “digital apartheid”.

It is stories like this that I am researching as part of my next book on “AI and (Human) Society” which aims to shine a spotlight on (hopefully!) well-intentioned topics such as “AI for Everyone” (Google’s rhetoric), “Responsible AI” (Facebook’s rhetoric), or “broadly distribut[ing]” its benefits (OpenAI’s rhetoric).

These #phrases and #buzzwords have become part of our everyday vocabulary. However, advocates for #ethicalai and #responsibleai etc. generally fail to provide any advice or guidance on profound challenges brought on by #emergingtech – such as technology addiction, inherent biases and inequalities, the ethics of creating destructive (or irresponsible) technologies and of turning decision-making over to #intelligentsystems.

My next book will explore complex topics including, for example,

1. our role as #humans and #peopleandculture

2. #sentientai, #human #consciousness and the #soul

3. the compatibility (or not!) of #ai and #religion (and .. God)

4. #transhumanism and future of human existence

.. and more.

If you’d like to review any chapters, or would like to contribute to / write the “forward”, #getintouch – thanks in advance!

In all cases, #followme and #contactme to learn more.

#SocietalAI #newbookalert #aiforeveryone #techforgood

AI and Humanoids

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about the world” (skip to 2.44)

A.I. – Sorry, I forgot to tell you about ..

Imagine a future where #humanoids live amongst us .. designed to be ‘good’, ‘responsible’, ‘subservient’, and more .. serving us humans – in ethical, moral and sustainable ways.

Would we live together in harmony?

Would we give up human-to-human relations in favour of #robots who fulfil our whims?

Would the #humanoids behave more ‘human like’ by learning how to better mimic our rivalries, prejudices, jealousy, and more?

Would we have communities of #humanoids who mirror our class systems underpinned by social, economic, religious, political, and structural hierarchies?

Or, would we end up creating ‘ghettos’ to separate human and #artificial life? 💭🤔

Before we can imagine a future filled with #trustworthyai #responsibletech and so forth, surely we need to ‘fix’ issues affecting our human world? 💭🤔

A world which supports and enables #equityandinclusion #integratedcare #freedomofexpression #peacefulliving etc.

Or is this just naive wishful thinking ⁉️

#FutureReimagined #SocietalAI #oneworld #soulfulliving

AI and Religion

Whilst #artificialintelligence continues to embed itself further into our everyday lives, we see #ai disrupt parts of society which includes #religion and #religious rites – such as prayers, sermons, and more.

Mindar — Robot Preacher

Where is this all leading to?

Will this impact #freedomofchoice #worship #spirituality?

Would this be considered blasphemous?

Will this lead to #unintendedconsequences that fragment and disrupt communities?

Do we expect #ai to fully replicate all things that make us ‘human’?

What about the human soul?

How will we differentiate between real and ‘artificial’? This extends to #metaverse #augmentedreality #virtualreality #mixedreality 💭🤔

If ‘experts’ and protagonists across governments, corporations and research institutions are successful in creating #sentient #ai, who will uphold the interests and needs of #humans?

Can we really leave this responsibility to lawyers, politicians, #bigtech ,..? 😳

We need to collectively #reimagine #societyandculture BEFORE we grapple with how much and how far we allow #technology to influence our daily lives.

#SocietalAI #humanityfirst #thinkaboutit

Future of Humanity and Technology

I personally find the topic of “AI and Society”fascinating 💭🤔

While many ‘pundits’, self-proclaimed experts and social media postings advocate the need for #digitaltransformation #ethicalai #responsibletech #wellbeing and so forth, I personally feel that there is something missing ..

Specifically, the distinct lack of a #worldview and rejection of the human soul — especially where #ai and #machineintelligence is concerned.

Let’s not forget that BOTH #technology and #society are co-related, co-dependent, co-influence with each other.

AI and Technology impacts on society, including the potential for society to progress or decline, in both good and bad ways – with both beneficial and harmful consequences.

With this backdrop in mind –

I will be releasing more content over the next few months that raises important questions that we should ALL be asking.

Click ‘Follow’ for more posts and articles on #AI and #EmergingTech —

LinkedIn https://lnkd.in/eHBfRxi
Twitter https://lnkd.in/en3bNWp

If you like my posts, you will enjoy my book available via :-

(1) https://lnkd.in/gbk-zba (Amazon)
(2) https://bit.ly/34cfJVf (IGI Global)

Abstracts of each chapter are available here – https://bit.ly/3ngOOhM

If you’ve got this far ..

Thank you for your support 🤝🙏🏼 – please do stick with me 😊

#SocietalAI #technologytrends #impactinglives #wellbeingmatters

We are what we repeatedly do .. but is this ethical?

You may be familiar with the phrase ”if it can be done, it should be done”.

This is often accredited (mistakenly) to Aristotle, a renowned philosopher.

It is in fact the words of Will Durant in “The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers” who summed up Aristotle’s words in this way:

“…we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.”

Will Durant

(See attached infographic)

Excellence is not an act but a habit

What’s the point?

Businesses around the world continue to compete to churn out ever increasing numbers of products and services that they can sell for profit; to stay ahead of competitors.

Why?

Is this ethical? Is leveraging #ai to support this behaviour ethical (or even moral)?

We remain a consumer society and perhaps closer to the Aldus Huxley (A Brave New World) vision of the future rather than George Orwell (1984).

Ethics have been discussed by many philosophers, politicians and activists throughout history.

Just because we can do something, DOES NOT necessarily mean we should do it.

Case in point is the application of #artificialintelligence to #everydaylife – especially #consumerism.

Today, significant investments and research efforts are being spent to understand how #ai maybe applied to #war #economics #healthcare #manufacturing #financialmarkets #automation and so on.

Where do #ethicalai #trustworthyai #responsibleai etc fit into this?

We should admit that there are differences between #artificialintelligence and #humanintelligence .. the key word being “artificial” 😊

No algorithm can emulate (at least for now) human intelligence, meaning the idea of #sentient #ai is partly fantasy and potentially a ploy to cause fear or get peoples attention.

We are still developing solutions that are ‘narrow’ and ultimately in the domain of #artificialnarrowintelligence rather true #artificialgeneralintelligence … where #intelligentsystems #automationsolutions are able to do multiple activities at the same time .. like we humans can do with our biological brains.

Hence, any debate or application of #ethics should look at all aspects of #society and #human dimensions. Otherwise, we will simply feed #fear #anxiety rather than take control of a future that will be controlled and influenced heavily by #ai #emergingtechnologies 💭🤔

#questionsworthasking #SocietalAI #societyandculture #ethicalleadership

Changeable attitudes to AI Ethics & Responsibility

Dictionary definition – ‘Ethical ‘

Technology itself now plays a major role in how we think, interact, engage, .. it fundamentally affects ALL of us daily .. the pace of change often making us feel disoriented, angry and resentful 😳

Our thoughts and perspectives on ethics, morals, equality, freedom, etc. change depending on our government (authorities), our religion, our politics, and so on.

So how will our attitudes to #trustworthyai #ethicalai #responsibletech etc. change over the next few decades❓

We are fast becoming a society that ”lives for the moment”, is #materialistic, is #atheist, is in control of our own destiny, has no consensus on ‘right & wrong’ and is also blurring previous (strict) lines relating to war, occupation, gender, sexual orientation, equality, trust, freedom (of speech, of expression,..), .. 💭

As one generation replaces the next, it gets to determine how society should (will) operate .. hence, in time, the social impact and role of #ai #emergingtechnologies in society will change – for better or worse 🤔

How can #people and our #societyandculture respond, adapt and maintain some level of equilibrium ⁉️

How do we cope with #technologicalinnovation without a common framework for social, moral & economic & environmental principles ⁉️

Should #technocrats and advocates of #ethics #morals #responsibletech leverage #socialsciences and #humanities to help us navigate through #changeforbetter coupled with #technologytransformation ⁉️

Thoughts welcome 💭🤔

#SocietalAI #peoplematter #reimaginethefuture

Lest we forget

I’m in a reflective mood today .. or perhaps I’m suffering from #heatstroke whilst enjoying the glorious sunshine 💭🤔

We are experimenting with building #sentientai #robotsforhumans and #intelligentsystems and more .. all crafted by a mix of #computerscience #datascience #algorithms #ai #ml #quantumtechnologies #bioengineering and more .. by people who don’t operate with common beliefs (be they political, social, economic or religion) or who share a common framework of morals or ethics.

Governments across the globe are competing to be the first to realise #artificialgeneralintelligence .. working against one another rather than together.

Who amongst these agencies truly cares for social needs of the masses?

Who is pausing to consider intended and unintended consequences?

Why in fact are we building these types of capabilities? And for what purpose? To enslave or to free or something else?

In our past, when scientists came together on the #manhattanproject to create nuclear weapons .. it was only when they succeeded, was there an admission that this capability would devastate human lives.

In fact, the scientist who led the effort (J. Robert Oppenheimer) was humiliated and (dare I say it) ‘cancelled’ (yes, this phenomenon is NOT new!) in an effort to silence anyone who questioned the morality, ethics and real purpose of nuclear weapons.

Will we repeat this part of our history .. with #artificialintelligence? 😔

Will we simply continue to watch and follow historians such as Yuval Noah Harari (and similar) rather than collectively subscribe to a moral compass that binds us to one another? 🙄

Or will we just continue to be consumers of #emergingtechnologies that could cause more harm than good? Interested instead in #abundance #materialism #indulgence 🤔

#peoplemakeithappen #humanitymatters #thinkaboutit #futureofsociety #societalai

Societal AI

Before We Begin …

This article seeks to promote an understanding of the potentially transformative impacts and consequences of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on people and society. Each section will be published in parts – like a Netflix series!

Society is our extended mind and body

Introduction

AI — which is actually an “umbrella term” encompassing automation, machine learning, robotics, computer vision and natural language processing — impacts every aspect of our lives, ranging from customer services, retail, education, healthcare, autonomous cars, industrial automation, and more. It has become increasingly integrated into our society, automating tasks, accelerating computational and data analytics-based solutions whilst also assisting (and in some cases, displacing) humans with decision making.

For some, AI is synonymous with terms like ‘the fourth industrial revolution’ (or “4IR”). Interestingly, previous industrial revolutions have brought about huge social and economic change giving rise to more financial opportunities and more time for leisure activities, etc.

At the same time, AI is also fuelling anxieties and ethical concerns. There are questions about the trustworthiness of AI systems, including the dangers of codifying and reinforcing existing biases, such as those related to gender and race, or of infringing on human rights and values, such as privacy. Concerns are growing about AI systems exacerbating inequality, climate change, market concentration and the digital divide.

AI is in fact a new technology that promises and delivers great benefit to portions of society but harms certain groups. This is often referred to as “unintended consequences”.

The potential benefits of AI to society will be blunted if human biases find their way into coding. Hence, engineers tasked with designing AI algorithms and developing “intelligent systems”, and the like, should accept more responsibility for considering potential unintended consequences of their work.

A start in this direction would be integrate social sciences into engineering and computer science curricula. The key word here is “integration”. Students from both disciplines would greatly benefit by learning from each other, as would the faculty members who assemble  the course syllabus and deliver lectures and seminars. Students majoring in the social sciences might discover interesting technological issues of societal importance while engaged in projects with engineering students. Likewise, engineering students would learn to value the social dimensions of innovation and gain a heightened awareness of potential unintended consequences of their work on both society and our environment.

We should be well past the days when the development of technology is separated from human needs, desires, and behaviour. This is why engineers should engage with the social sciences, and vice versa.

One important question we all need to seriously consider is “How can society regulate the way AI (and emerging technology) alters, augments, and enhances our lives – safely?”.

The response is not simple; it requires new paradigms, language, and regulatory frameworks that promote the idea of Artificial Social Intelligence. Hence, I have coined the term “Societal AI” that represents AI as a domain underpinned by principles and laws that govern social interactions between humans and AI.

“Societal AI” is about incorporating human-centred perspectives and humane requirements (including constraints) when designing AI algorithms, agents, and systems. Not only in terms of the capabilities of AI technology but more importantly what we are doing with it; potentially meshed with the behaviours, attitudes, intentions, feelings, personalities, and expectations of people.

At the same time, we cannot afford to leave important decisions and principles that affect fairness, accountability, transparency, and ethics (FATE) to businesses, governments, and policy writers. Instead, as citizens, we must influence how AI is leveraged to help shape and influence “AI for Social Good” – for the benefit of society.

Revolution of Society (for AI)

Introduction

We all accept that change is inevitable. Moreover, anyone who denies that will be left behind! 

We are all acutely aware of how quickly Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) is becoming embedded in our everyday lives whilst also becoming increasingly sophisticated. AI undoubtedly captures our imaginations but we’ve arguably ‘only scratched the surface’ in it’s potential use and application.

Technological advancements such as smartphones, tablets, GPS systems, robots and automation, have radically affected our daily lives and, inevitably, how we interact – physically and (nowadays) virtually. Nevertheless, there are still those among us who refuse to evolve. They hide their heads in the sand and are missing the revolution that is modernising our world.

Evolutionary versus Revolutionary Change

Historically, change was a matter of of political turmoil and/or religious conversion.

Change can come in many ways – sometime in the normal flow of evolution, other times as a radical revolution. In all cases, our society is continuously morphing. In the world of business and commerce, competitors rise and fall, fashion changes, technologies emerge and become obsolete, laws and taxes are modified. Successful corporations must follow the trends and be agile or face closure.

While there are many characteristics that unite us, change is the one area where I see the greatest differences between us.

Evolutionary vs Revolutionary Change

On the one hand, there are those who prefer a slower more evolutionary approach to change. They are happy to take calculated incremental steps towards change. 

And, on the other hand, there are those who prefer a more revolutionary approach. These are the ones who are ready to run with the latest technology and be at the front of the line. Change for them is always moving forward. Making adjustments. Getting better all the time.

Societal AI

We need to create an integrated model of social evolution and revolution, one that accounts for the complexity, inconclusiveness, and impediments of our society.

We need to develop constructs, laws, policies, and so on that uphold “Societal AI” (Copyright, 2021) – not only in terms of the capabilities of AI technology but more importantly what we are doing with it; potentially meshed with the behaviours, attitudes, intentions, feelings, personalities and expectations of people.

“Societal AI” is about incorporating human-centred perspectives and humane requirements (including constraints) when designing AI algorithms, agents and systems.

At the same time, we cannot afford to leave important decisions to ‘FATE’ i.e. principles that affect Fairness, Accountability, Transparency and Ethics to businesses, governments and policy writers. Instead, as citizens, we must influence how AI is leveraged to help shape and influence “AI for Social Good” – for the benefit of society. 

This multi-dimensional approach recognises that change is always saturated in conflict. Major changes are rarely initiated by conscious decisions that are automatically implemented; power and morality generally control the direction that significant changes to our social norms might take.

Every person’s primary socialisation was received in childhood and is simply one part of a lifelong socialisation process. Adults go through a process of “Resocialisation”, which is the learning of new norms and values that occurs when they join a new group or when life circumstances change dramatically. Learning new norms and values enables people to adapt, though newly learned things may contradict what was previously learned.

Most instances of resocialisation are mild modifications, such as adapting to a new work environment. Extreme forms of the process can include joining the military, going to prison, or otherwise separating from mainstream society.

We human beings are hierarchical animals. Always and everywhere, we have ranked ourselves in comparison with others of our species. The sorts of hierarchies different societies have constructed vary widely.

While many contemporary social scientists seem to believe that equality is our default status, all societies, ranging from hunter-gatherer communities to modern techno-consumer based civilisations, have sorted people by their relative power.

We assume the root cause of inequality (structural and otherwise) lies in the extraordinary selfishness of a small number of oppressors need to provide evidence of their unique egoism. However, in today’s age, especially with the rise of social media (think TIK TOK, YouTube, Facebook, etc.) powered by the mobile internet, all of us seek to be winners. And all of us hate being losers. Yet if some of us are to win, others of us must lose.

Structural Inequality

Structural inequality differs from individual forms of inequality. That’s where racism and sexism are exhibited by individual behaviour. Many people think that all inequality is due to personal biases that can be overcome individually. They believe that inequality would disappear if people “just stood up for themselves,” or if others stopped oppressing them.

Structural inequality occurs even in a free market economy because of the laws and policies that form it. Those laws regulate government contracts, bankruptcy, and property ownership. They create advantages for some and disadvantages for others. When the laws work against specific groups, inequality becomes part of the structure of the market.

The solution to structural inequality must address the structure that created it. A much bigger challenge than we might care to admit.

Social Hierarchies

Human hierarchies are challenged by the size of our communities and the complexity of our interpersonal activities. The ways that people dress, talk, and conduct themselves are all used to provide evidence of relative power. So are the houses in which they live, the cars they drive, and the jobs they do. This, however, leaves considerable room for deception and manipulation.

Additionally, we humans do not merely test ourselves against individual others. We also recruit allies with whom to engage in tests against similar collections of collaborators. So important is this tendency to gather and deploy assemblages of associates that we have a name for it. We call it “politics”.

Most of us consequently acquire statuses that depend upon our standing within groups, as well as from their standing compared with competing groups. The president of the United States is accordingly reckoned to be very powerful (arguably, the most powerful), even though he/she may be physically unimpressive (I’ll leave your imagination to wonder at this point.. given what’s happening in the world right now!).

Who gets to be on top (or the bottom) and how they get there can change. So can the distance from the apex to the sub-basement and the opportunities for social mobility. These are not constants-although the existence of inequality is.

If this is true, then there are limitations on the sorts of reform that are feasible. Simply transferring resources from one group of people to another will not, of itself, eliminate differences in rank. Because hierarchical standing is comparative, people are generally aware of their inferiority or superiority relative to those against whom they measure themselves. Simply building up their egos or bank accounts may not erase disparities in power-if these exist.

Most businesses, institutions and government organisations are constructed in accordance with a particular hierarchical format. They are bureaucratic and hence they incorporate “hierarchies of authority”. Part of what gives such arrangements their stability and precision is that they delegate power in conjunction with role responsibilities. This makes them less arbitrary and more conflict-free than their precursors. While they may be rigid, they are also capable of complexity and sophistication.

Less well appreciated, but growing in significance, are organisations grounded in professionalised authority. Here the comparative power of individuals depends more on their technical expertise and degree of self-motivation. In traditional bureaucracies, bosses make decisions that are imposed on subordinates. In many of today’s modern technology centred organisations, professionals are delegated control of their work product because they can be trusted to exercise competence. This makes these structures less coercive, although it does not eliminate inequalities.

Concluding Thoughts

The bottom line is that if human societies are to be modified in directions more people find fulfilling, this can only occur if the nature of human hierarchies is acknowledged and understood.

If we apply the same thinking to the role (and opportunity) of “AI in Society”, then a paradigm shift, not a classical revolution, is in our future.

This means we need to challenge the status quo that includes historical constructs, social hierarchies and bureaucracies. We need to start re-imagining our collective future.

The question we should all ask ourselves is which advances using AI should we seek? Can laypersons or social experts truly foresee the future? How well do they actually understand the potential of AI – both to be a potential force for good and/or bad?

Social changes are disorienting. Consequently, their ‘hows’, ‘whys’, and ‘wherefores’, deserve to be investigated. Moreover, we need to somehow do this dispassionately and with neutrality. We need to separate our egos from our intellectual pursuits. In all events, we need to understand what are the consequences for us – individual citizens (people) as well as our wider communities and society.

Lastly, for AI to serve society as an enabler and facilitator for “social good” that benefits all people (i.e. citizens) across all parts of society, we need to reflect on what #newnormal – the post COVID19 world – will (should?) really look like.

About the Author #aboutme

Over the past 25 years, Salim has built a career in consulting, working both client and supplier side as an interim CIO/CTO and a Business Change / Transformation Consultant.

Salim has engaged in, and led, digital and technology transformations and programmes involving rescue & recovery (“turnaround”), process optimisation & improvement and organisational change — globally across the UK, Central Europe, Nordics, Turkey, UAE, US, Asia and Australia.

Salim is an Oxford University alumni and an author in the field of Artificial Intelligence. Key interests include the role of AI for the betterment of people and society.

Checkout Salim’s latest book –

“Understanding the Role of Artificial Intelligence and Its Future Social Impact”

(1) https://lnkd.in/gbk-zba (Amazon)

(2) https://bit.ly/34cfJVf (IGI Global)

This work has been endorsed by academia and industry thought leaders (https://lnkd.in/dWHBXBE).

“Smarter”​ Digital Banking

Introduction

In every town across the UK, our high street is changing.

The majority of “bricks and mortar” businesses — including our high street banks — are closing. Additionally, the COVID19 pandemic has devastated many small businesses and, when walking down the high street, there are many shops and stores that are empty, boarded up or imminently winding up with “closing down” signs plastered across their storefront. This also extends to high street banks who have declined to sign up to a pledge to make sure there’s at least one branch in every town.

It’s not a phenomenon that’s limited to the UK either; all over the world, traditional banks are gradually disappearing and being replaced with more efficient services.

Post-COVID19 recovery has been hit hard by the financial crisis that is putting a lot of pressure on business owners forcing them, at pace, to migrate their previous business models to digital models using ecommerce technology often underpinned by Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) algorithms and other emerging technologies such as Blockchain and Augmented/Virtual Reality (AR/VR).

Automation technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are on the rise and, at the same time, consumers are themselves busy adapting their lifestyles which are fast becoming a hybrid of “work from home”, “work from office” and “work from anywhere” options.

Traditional Banking is dying

Traditionally, customers choose their bank partially based on location; people didn’t join a bank which didn’t have a local branch. There were lots of services which needed to be conducted in-branch, from paying in a cheque to applying for a loan, and everything in between.

However, as technology has evolved more customers have started to take advantage of the online services that banks have offered. In turn, this meant that the number of customers visiting the branches shrank. Some branches reported seeing less than 10 customers per day.

No alt text provided for this image

One-third of UK bank branches closed in the past five years, led by RBS, which cut its network 56% between January 2015 and August 2019. These large-scale closures are driven by the need to slash some of the massive costs associated with operating physical infrastructure — freeing up funds to invest in building out digital tools. These branch closures are going to continue — TSB is closing 80 branches this year, Lloyds is closing 56, and HSBC is closing 27 — and will be a primary factor behind the decline in branch penetration. Some banks — like RBS and Barclays — have turned to non-traditional branch formats like grocery stores or post offices to maintain a wide geographic footprint without investing in added infrastructure.

While it’s true that a minority of customers found this to be an inconvenience, for the majority of people it simply wasn’t an issue.

Banking, as we know it, is dying. Banks, as we know them, will either vanish or mutate. 

The truth is that banking habits have simply changed, with the majority of transactions and services now available online. Many millennials have never visited a bank, nor are they likely to need to do so in the near future. Perhaps it’s time to accept that traditional banking isn’t a significant part of the financial future?

Looking Ahead: Customer Centric Digital Ecosystems

A majority of global banking executives don’t see a future for the branch-based model.

According to eMarketer (July 2021), 65% of worldwide banking executives expect that the branch-based model will be “dead” within the next five years, according to survey data collected by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) on behalf of Temenos: a Swiss-based banking software provider who is busy rolling out (globally) an explainable AI (XAI) product “Temenos Virtual COO” which intends to show how AI can streamline back-office functions of a bank aggregating data to give overviews of financial health whilst cutting administrative workloads.

There are many other examples, which includes Santander Consumer Bank who have been piloting Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in the Nordic region since 2019 to process account activity. The Spanish-based banking giant reported in July 2020 that the pilot saved 30,000 man hours in 2019 and more than $2 million. The RPA pilot utilised 150 intelligent bots, offered by Automation Anywhere, to automate tasks such as loan processing.

The Bigger Picture

No alt text provided for this image

Insider Intelligence for the UK carried out an insightful study into branch penetration forecasts. “Penetration” is defined as bank account holders ages 18+ who visit a bank, credit union, or brokerage branch at least once per year.

Here are some interesting facts (source: eMarketer, July 2021)

  • Branch penetration in the country will decline from 65.3% in 2019 to between 60% and 62% in 2024. Temporary branch closures during the pandemic accelerated a trend of UK banks scaling back their physical footprints to rein in operating costs. Avoiding branches during lockdown is the most common reason (40%) why consumers are using digital banking more frequently, per Virgin Money UK.
  • Digital banking penetration will climb to reach between 75.8% and 78% by 2024, up from 68.7% in 2019. Banks will bolster their digital channels by prioritising security measures and ensuring their platforms can accommodate heavier volume — an issue that was emphasised during the pandemic when overwhelming volume led to outages among some major banks. provide educational resources to streamline the transition to digital for those users to make the onboarding experience and navigability of digital platforms frictionless, to encourage repeat usage. 
  • Smartphone banking penetration will spike from 37.1% in 2019 to reach between 46% and 59% in 2024. The immediate impacts of the pandemic and lockdown measures will drive up smartphone banking penetration as new users turn to these channels out of convenience. And the growing presence of neobanks — digital-only banks that don’t operate branches — is also driving up penetration, while pressuring incumbents to improve their mobile banking products. They have gained popularity through their competitive offerings and slick digital user experience — their growth has been fuelled by branch closures, Open Banking regulations, and consumer desire for convenient banking options. Incumbents will thrive with a two-pronged approach to their mobile strategy. First, they’ll add innovative features to reach parity with upstarts and attract younger consumers, and second, they’ll simplify their interface to engage hesitant digital users, including older consumers.
  • ATM penetration will drop sharply from 84.7% in 2019 to land between 74.2% and 76.2% in 2024. There has been a major years-long shift away from cash in the UK, and as digital channel penetration increases and functions like depositing checks and transferring funds between accounts can be done remotely, consumers will be even less reliant on ATMs. Banks have begun leveraging their ATMs to bridge the gap between in-branch and digital capabilities, while still serving those customers who need cash access. Enhancing ATMs with branch-like capabilities such as video calling with bank staff can allow banks to cut costs, streamline processes, and accommodate customers who prefer in-branch banking or have not yet adapted to digital banking.
  • Call centre penetration will tick up to 34% in 2020 but will return to pre-pandemic levels of around 26% by 2024. Despite advancements in digital channels, consumer preference for human assistance have sustained the need for call centres that have served as the front line of communication between customers and banks as demonstrated during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. This channel will retract to its pre-pandemic levels when the COVID19 crisis abates with Banks likely to streamline in two ways, (i) they will take a targeted approach to their call centres to create dedicated lines for different inquiry categories (like mortgages) or demographics (like the elderly), and (ii) banks will expand their customer service by opening it up on additional channels such as iMessage to help divert volume to cut costs and make customer service conversations more efficient.

Closing Thoughts

Even with a partial lifting of COVID19 lockdown measures, the coronavirus continues to limit movement of people—and this has hit the UK high street hard. From retailers with a high dependency on physical stores to restaurants and coffee shops without delivery facilities, the obstacles have proven insurmountable for some. For others, the longer-term question is, “Will the UK high street be able to recover when (and if) normalcy returns?”

One thing is certain high street banks are dying and rapidly being replaced by digital platforms. These platforms will typically be enhanced using AI and emerging technology.

As banks look to enhance their digital channels and drive adoption, they will focus on the following three areas:

  1. Banks can offer educational resources to first-time digital banking users to encourage adoption of digital platforms and increase awareness of the available tools. The pandemic has created an opportunity for new users to discover digital banking platforms.
  2. Investments in AI will allow banks to deepen engagement through personalisation. Through AI-powered features like real-time analysis of spending habits, banks can deliver insights that help customers manage their specific financial situations. AI solutions to improve the customer experience will be a key opportunity. Banks paused some of their investments to curb costs amid the economic downturn, especially since AI programs don’t generate an immediate return on investment. But banks will resume their investments in AI once the worst of the pandemic passes.
  3. Designing platforms with an emphasis on security could be integral in encouraging adoption. As new users come onto digital platforms, it’s imperative for banks to ensure the security of their customers’ most sensitive information and communicate that priority to customers — especially given the size and frequency of data breaches globally. This could cement loyalty beyond the initial adoption period, as a platform that’s not perceived as secure could lead to customer distrust or turnover.

Additionally, the combination of digital transformation and emerging technologies will give rise to

  • Democratisation: enabling users easier access to technology without getting any training. It is providing people with expertise; they look for without investing much.
  • Multi-experience: providing the customer with an immersive experience using Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR) — a new trend offering a multichannel human-machine interface. In some cases, this might extend to “human augmentation” which will involve changing people’s inherent physical capabilities implanting technology elements.
  • Transparency and Traceability: with the increasing demand of technology advancement, customers are increasingly aware of their personal information and how valuable it is. This is the domain of topics such as #responsibleai #ethicalai and so on focussing on six areas: ethics, integrity, openness, accountability, competence and consistency.

Transparency and Traceability will typically focus on six area: Ethics, Integrity, Openness, Accountability, Competence and Consistency

  • Autonomous devices/solutions/services: will lead to automation of human tasks that increases productivity which were previously performed by people. In some cases, “mundane” and “administrative” tasks done by humans will become obsolete (or at the very least, offer an option of “human versus machine”). Typically, this will be underpinned by collaborative and augmented intelligence using AI and Machine Learning much of which already exists in robots, drones, vehicles, and home appliances.
  • AI security: as the volume and speed of data being generated continues to grow, the deployment of AI and emerging technologies must be predictable and safe. This extends to data privacy, data integrity and the rights of the consumer.

While much of this article has outlined changes to traditional banking, it is the rise of AI and emerging technologies that will ultimately make noticeable changes to our lifestyles and day-to-day choices.

Whether we are using AI and emerging technologies to automatically streamline and enhance businesses processes, develop a “digital twin” or deploy smart solutions across a business, community or country, we all have a responsibility to be future ready.

After all, a future which is built on “AI for Social Good” and “AI for All” is one that we all should be invested in — for everyone’s sake.