How Generative AI Is Reshaping Business And Our Lives

Exploring the dualities of generative AI


Reward / Risk

Revolution, not evolution

In biology, the punctuated equilibrium model posits that evolution occurs in sudden bursts of explosive progress in between long periods of little to no change. There is a parallel in technology, where incremental progress is occasionally interrupted by a massive transformation as a technology emerges that is so disruptive that it can transform society. Generative artificial intelligence (AI) is one such advancement. It is reshaping both industries and lives. The question is how.

Generative AI is changing everything, everywhere, all at once

Artificial intelligence has existed for decades, but its popularity soared with the launch of ChatGPT in late 2022. It quickly began reshaping industries, powering daily tasks, and enhancing products that define modern living. What seems like magic are actually deep learning algorithms that enable generative AI to continuously self-optimize without human intervention. For instance, DeepMind’s protein-folding AI surprised experts by teaching itself physics and chemistry principles, allowing it to make protein structure predictions much better than human experts could. As these networks advance, the only question will be how far, and how fast, generative AI can expandits dominion.

Generative AI supplies tools and platforms for innovation to flourish

Generative AI defies one-size-fits-all interpretations with its sheer breadth of applications, from healthcare and finance, to education and art. In transportation, there could one day be a generative AI-powered urban sphere that dynamically adjusts signals and routes, improving safety and eliminating traffic jams. In education, generative AI could democratize learning with lessons individualized to a student’s unique style, needs, and aspirations. Our survey respondents are eager to see AI-accelerated healthcare advancements as well, perhaps envisioning a future in which personalized diagnoses and treatments are provided with near perfect precision.

Will generative AI be a force for:

*. >10% chance (considered “high” because it pertains to existential risks, which have potentially catastrophic consequences)
Source: Oliver Wyman Forum, AI Impacts 2022 Expert Survey on Progress in AI

It is already being used across professions that once relied only on people rather than machines. Writers, influencers, and artists now can tap generative AI to help craft their work. But it also has resulted in plagiarism, errors, and job loss. Here, the duality of generative AI is in full effect: The technology promises to eliminate millions of hours of mundane and repetitive tasks but also threatens to eliminate the very authors who benefit from its productivity.

Where do we go from here?

Generative AIʹs arrival presents humankind with incredible opportunities (and also questions that frequently lead to some answers and more questions). In the chapters that follow, we explore generative AI’s transformative impact on the workforce and consumer spheres, the potential opportunities, and hidden risks.

People hold high hopes for AI’s potential to expedite human advancement across industries

% respondents who think AI will help improve the following in the next 30 years

Question: "Which of the following areas do you think AI will help improve most in the next 30 years?”
Source: Oliver Wyman Forum Generative AI Survey, October–November 2023, 16 countries, N=16,033

Real or AI? Most can’t tell

We asked respondents whether they think the following images are photographs of real-life objects/sceneries or created by generative AI

Source: Oliver Wyman Forum Generative AI Survey, October–November 2023, 16 countries, N=16,033

Sci-Fi or fact: What is and isn’t generative AI?

Source: Oliver Wyman Forum analysis

Where does generative AI think it stacks up relative to other innovative technologies?

The technology is nothing if not bold. We recently asked the best-known application, ChatGPT, to evaluate generative AI’s position relative to the most influential technologies in history. It ranked itself No. 25, between railroads and 5G. Time will tell if this is bravado or modesty.

Equally interesting is how ChatGPT positioned other inventions, declaring e-commerce supreme over air conditioning and cloud computing above the airplane. Ranking each of these technological marvels is a trick question as each has left an undeniable mark on the world. Nonetheless, it’s an intriguing exercise: Are these rankings a reflection of the past, a prediction of the future, or a mirror of generative AI’s own aspirations?

/Prompt: Consider the top 50 most influential technologies in human history based on factors including but not limited to the innovative contribution, economic impact, and social and cultural impact it has had/will continue to have on humanity. Assign each technology a score from 1–100, where 1 is negligible impact and 100 is the most influential of all history.

Source: Oliver Wyman Forum analysis

"AI can give us our wildest dreams and worst nightmares. What a pivotal point for humanity to decide what to do with this and how to treat each other."

Biotechnologist, US (Man, age 58)