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Artificial intelligence is everywhere. You’ve probably heard of, or tried ChatGPT, the AI-powered chatbot that will write a job application, compose a poem, do your homework and more. But that’s just the tip of a very big iceberg.

Well over half of all the research and development taking place across Israel today is rooted in AI. Our ability to teach machines to learn, and to do things better, faster and more accurately than we can, is the foundation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (after steam-powered machines, electricity, then IT).

AI is a key part of the solution to the world’s biggest problems, Dror Bin, CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA), told delegates earlier today at Tel Aviv University’s (TAU) AI Week, an international conference for industry leaders and academics.

AI CASE STUDY: GreenOnyx uses AI to cultivate wolffia arrhiza, the world’s smallest and fastest-growing vegetable. The crop grows naturally on ponds in south east Asia, where it is traditionally washed in warm water, and then boiled – but AI maximizes yield and quality of the veg, growing it autonomously in sterile conditions. Courtesy

The ongoing challenges of climate change, and the world’s growing population cannot be adequately addressed by eating less, heating our homes less, travelling less or cutting emissions, he said.

“The only leverage humanity has to solve this problem is technological breakthroughs. And when we talk about technological breakthroughs, artificial intelligence is definitely one of them,” he said.

“All of us are very busy, including me, by the way, in the last few weeks playing with ChatGPT, creating original text, and also with DALL.E creating original paintings. But actually AI is going to change our lives in a much more fundamental way than just creating new text and paintings.”

He revealed figures showing that in 2021, a record year for investment in Israel’s 7,000-plus startups, 60 percent of all funding went to AI research and development. That amounts to $18 billion out of a total $27 billion, he said (based on figures from Startup Nation Central and IAA research).

AI CASE STUDY: Imagry is training cars to drive like a human, replicating our reactions and decisions – but not our impatience, risk-taking, or tendency to become distracted. Instead of following a set of rules, designed to cover every eventuality, like other systems, it learns, like humans, from experience. It will go live on buses in Tel Aviv and Nahariya, northern Israel, this year.

“Software as a service, enterprise software and cyber communication are areas where we expect to see AI. But on top of that smart mobility, industrial tech, life sciences, agri-food, energy tech, all of them are already assimilating AI into their development. Today, not tomorrow, not the day after. It’s happening today, the revolution, it’s already in its process.”

AI dominates every area of commerce and industry, from robot farmers to traffic management, from drone deliveries to clean energy, from technology that listens to the hum of a production line to diagnose faults to personalized medicine.

“By disrupting multiple markets, not only the usual markets of cyber and search and commerce, but also areas like food and energy and transportation, and so forth, disrupting multiple markets with AI, Israeli hi-tech will play a leading role in solving humanity’s most complex challenges,” said Bin, head of an organization that invests $500 million a year in Israeli innovation.

Israel, tiny country that it is, currently ranks fifth globally in an index of leading nations based on their investment, innovation and implementation of artificial intelligence, according to the British news website Tortoise Media, behind USA, China, UK and Canada.

It ranks third in commercialization of AI, fifth in terms of talent, and ninth in terms of development. But it lags behind in places where the government should be involved, said Bin, citing its 45th place for government strategy and 29th place for infrastructure.

AI CASE STUDY: European supermarkets are using Israeli AI to mark down the prices of meat, poultry, dairy products, ready-meals, salads, and other perishables up to four times a day, to encourage shoppers to buy them. Wasteless uses a “dynamic pricing” system that adjusts electronic shelf labels based on the unique conditions of each store, such as consumer purchasing patterns, expiration date of the product, and inventory. Courtesy

He said next week the government would be adopting the second part of a plan to address these issues by investing in universities, and in AI research.

Earlier the conference heard opening remarks from Gili Drob-Heistein, Executive Director of the Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center (ICRC) at TAU.

“AI has transformed the way we live, work and interact with each other,” she said. “From speech recognition and image classification, to robotics and autonomous systems, AI has opened up new possibilities and paved the way for a better future.”

She then revealed that her words had been written by AI. “This speech was written by ChatGPT in a few seconds, a simple demonstration of the capabilities we have at our fingertips. The evolvement in this field is amazing. And it’s changing on a daily basis,” she said.

Israel is ranked fifth in the Global AI Index. Credit Israel Innovation Authority

Ahead of the conference Dr. Yaniv Harel, Head of Research at ICRC, told NoCamels of the threats AI can pose in the world of cybersecurity or defense.

“Attackers can use AI to develop more aggressive attacks based on AI. We should be developing defense capabilities to protect against such potential attacks,” he said.

Indeed, a commander of Unit 8200’s Artificial Intelligence Center, spoke at the conference about how AI tools significantly help the military thwart terrorist attacks.

“One of the instrumental tools that we have built and operate today is a system that knows how to find ‘dangerous’ people based on input from a list of people who have been incriminated and entered into the system.

“In the past, this several week-long process would have needed hundreds of researchers. Today, the system does it in seconds.”

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