AI: Friend or Foe

UCD Alumni In Different Sectors Consider The Promise And Perils Of Artificial Intelligence

The EU and the Challenge of Artificial Intelligence

The onus on governments now is not to attempt to fruitlessly stem the tide of the rise of Artificial Intelligence but rather to ensure our societies and our laws are properly prepared to manage these new powerful tools. AI should not exist in a legal vacuum. Without proper legal protections and oversight, AI will not be a force for good and human betterment, but rather a source of conflict and fear.

The debate about how AI should be regulated is also part of a global discussion about security, digital sovereignty, and data protection, especially as competition between the US and China for control over resources and supply chains becomes even more intense. The European Union must meet this challenge while defending fundamental rights.

The EU’s proposed “AI Act” seeks to aid governments by providing a regulatory framework and common protections for all citizens and Member States, in recognition of the fact that this question is not just national, but international. This act takes a risk-based approach to the question of oversight with higher levels of oversight of AI in sectors of greater importance, for example law enforcement and healthcare provision. It will prevent the use of AI in areas that pose serious risks to our societies, such as social scoring and predictive policing.

Frances Fitzgerald
MEP; Vice President of the EPP Group

The act also aims to future-proof the regulation of AI. This means that core concepts of AI and its deployment will be regulated rather than specific forms of the technology, thus allowing for future innovation and technological change in the sector. This in turn should mean that people can have confidence that AI exists to serve citizens and not the other way around.

Trust and understanding are vital to the continued fair usage of AI. Citizens should be well informed on the impacts of AI and the ways it is used in the world around them. This information should be presented in a meaningful and straightforward way, not solely through footnotes in unreadable small print.

It is clear from the recent report on public perceptions of AI by the UCD Centre for Digital Policy that at present, the vast majority of citizens are still not aware of what role AI plays and how their data is processed. The draft “AI Act” forms a strong basis upon which the EU can adapt to the increasingly large role that AI is playing in all of our lives. However, this legislation alone is not the panacea to all the potential risks that AI will bring.

Before deploying AI systems at scale across society, we need to ensure that they are trustworthy.”

– Dr Patricia Scanlon, Ireland’s AI ambassador; Founder, SoapBox Labs


In 2023, humans are moving from frequent, daily touchpoints with AI to more deeply integrated experiences and interactions that impact every aspect of our daily lives. AI is driving the fourth Industrial Revolution and revolutionising how governments and industries as diverse as education, healthcare, finance and transportation work and interact with each other and the public.

In healthcare for example, AI assists in diagnosing diseases, tailoring treatment plans and accelerating drug discoveries. In education, it is enhancing educational experiences by automating assessments and personalising learning based on individual needs and progress. In the realm of transportation, AI is powering self-driving vehicles and improving traffic management systems. AI can also significantly impact the climate crisis, both positively by optimising energy usage, driving climate-friendly innovations, and improving accuracy of climate models, and negatively if the energy-intensive AI processes rely on non-renewable energy sources.

There has been much talk of an ethical approach to AI but what does that actually mean for society?

Before deploying AI systems at scale across society, we need to ensure that they are trustworthy and are designed to ensure a positive impact. An ethical approach to AI applications involves ensuring that fairness, transparency, accountability and privacy are built into their DNA. It involves mitigating the potential harm they can do while maximising the benefits.

Dr Patricia Scanlon
Dr Patricia Scanlon, Ireland’s AI ambassador; Founder, SoapBox Labs

Why does this matter so much? At the individual level, AIdriven systems can shape our personal experiences, influencing the products we buy, the news we consume, how we manage our health and more. Without ethical considerations baked in, these systems can prompt privacy breaches and inadvertently manipulate our behaviours, creating echo chambers that skew our view of the world as distinct individuals.

At the societal level, the implications are even more significant, profound and complex. Algorithms with the ability to reinforce systemic biases, causing unfairness in critical areas such as job recruitment, law enforcement, or credit lending can also promote democracy by streamlining electoral processes like voter registration and protecting the freedom and integrity of our social discourse.

At its most fundamental, ethical AI is about trust and human rights, and is both a moral and a practical obligation if we are to harness the huge potential of AI and the fourth Industrial Revolution that is upon us.


Today we are at the dawn of a data-driven digital era that will bring change to our societies, lifestyles and industry at a scale and pace never before experienced on the planet. Advances in technology, speeds of adoption and data generation will have a seismic impact.

The retail competitive landscape is changing dramatically, with barriers to entry falling, and markets opening for anyone with the ability to reimagine a business model and create value for consumers – this presents great opportunity but also for many, a massive threat to existing business. Those who can effectively and appropriately harness AI within their business will be the winners.

So what are the key areas where AI is being leveraged and how? The answer lies in how data is captured, collated and processed. The power of AI means that data can be processed in near realtime, enabling businesses to dynamically evolve their ‘go to market’ strategies and product portfolios.

AI is increasingly being used to dynamically link highly complex supply chains, enhancing product traceability and optimising supply bases. As consumers become more discerning in regard to the products they purchase, regulation demands are increasing.

Fergal Molloy, CEO, Quodos
Fergal Molloy, CEO, Quodos

Sophisticated compliance standards and regulations increasingly apply across nations, regions and local areas. The resultant pressures on retailer supply chains is immense. By applying AI to large data silos, combined with this ever-changing regulatory landscape, insights are generated, highlighting potential risks to consumers and enhancing decision-making on product recalls and optimised sourcing in real-time.

AI is being used to analyse product performance data and realtime customer feedback to predict potential future component failure. As products are launched globally, immediate feedback can be gathered from large audiences through social media and other platforms, to inform the retailer on consumer choices. This information can be fed back in real time to product development departments, enabling business to react and immediately change elements of the product design and feature set.

The algorithms driving Retail AI and Machine Learning (ML) platforms are constantly being fine-tuned to better align strategic intent to product realisation and ultimately customer satisfaction.

It is important to note that with great power must come discipline. AI can bring huge benefits but at the core of all retail success is consumer trust. Many organisations embed trust scores as part of their digital strategic initiatives. These scores place emphasis on retailers’ credibility, reliability, intimacy and self-orientation as it applies to solution development.

Alongside its transformative capabilities, AI brings ethical challenges. It is crucial to ensure … a balance between innovation, privacy and security…

Amy Awad, Senior AI consultant, EY and Co-Founder and CTO, LeanIn


The ongoing AI revolution is reshaping the entire technology landscape and driving unprecedented innovations across all sectors. The recent advancements in AI show massive potential and even more remarkable developments that will fundamentally transform the future of humanity. The transformative power of AI is becoming more evident; it can process and leverage large amounts of data and optimise decision-making.

AI has advanced significantly since the historic milestone was achieved by Christopher Strachey with the first AI Program. Since then, AI solutions have undergone a remarkable journey of advancement and scientists continue to push boundaries of what was once thought impossible. The focus has shifted towards enhancing perception, reasoning and generalisation capabilities by utilising cutting-edge computational models and algorithmbased Machine learning (ML) technology.

AI applications have made a significant impact across various domains, with intelligent automation, predictive analytics, image and video analysis, and risk management and fraud prevention at the forefront. However, with tools like ChatGPT gaining attention, the impact of generative AI is becoming more significant. Around 44% of companies are investing in leveraging AI and aiming to integrate it into their businesses, reflecting its indispensable role as a technological innovator in the foreseeable future.

Amy Awad, Senior AI consultant, EY and Co-Founder and CTO, LeanIn
Amy Awad, Senior AI consultant, EY and Co-Founder and CTO, LeanIn

Intelligent Automation (or Hyper Automation) stands out as the foremost application of AI across industries, enabling business to streamline business operations, boost efficiency, reduce costs and deliver enhanced customer experiences. A recent study by McKinsey Global Institute predicts that automation technologies could increase productivity by up to 40% in certain industries. By 2025, 10% of enterprises that successfully establish AI engineering best practices will be able to generate at least three times more value than those that don’t. To efficiently leverage the power of AI, businesses must first assess their maturity level and identify the most suitable entry point and technology options aligned with their vision.

Alongside its transformative capabilities, AI brings ethical challenges. It is crucial to ensure responsible and unbiased use of AI, to achieve a balance between innovation, privacy and security in this ever-evolving technological landscape.

Looking ahead to the next five to ten years, we can expect profound changes in business workflows across industries. The winners in this new digital era will be those who effectively integrate AI into their critical processes and unlock its value. As computing power and data availability continue to grow, AI will play an increasingly significant role in our daily lives, driving economic growth and transforming industries. We can anticipate AI’s integration into autonomous vehicles, smart cities, personalised medicine and other domains, promising an exciting future.


AI is not merely a new gadget in our technological toolbox; it is a transformative force that is fundamentally reshaping industries. Its impact is multifaceted and profound, driving efficiency, innovation, and granting a competitive edge.

At CeADAR, Ireland’s centre for Applied AI, we witness this transformation firsthand. We work with a diverse array of companies, from start-ups to multinational corporations and public sector organisations, to harness the power of AI and data analytics. Our partners span various industry verticals – agriculture, healthcare, finance, and more – underlining the industry-wide applicability of data science and AI.

In manufacturing, AI-powered technologies, such as generative models, are igniting a revolution, accelerating product development, slashing costs and facilitating rapid adaptation to market demands. The retail sector is witnessing the rise of immersive AI-driven shopping experiences, while finance is being reshaped by AI financial life coaches. AI has permeated transportation, healthcare, and education sectors as well, powering autonomous vehicles, assisting disease prediction, and tailoring curriculums for individual learners.

Dr Arsalan Shahid, Technology Solutions Lead and Head of CeADAR Connect Group
Dr Arsalan Shahid, Technology Solutions Lead and Head of CeADAR Connect Group

But the impact of AI goes beyond these tangible efficiencies. AI is also redefining human roles within industry. While there are concerns about job displacement, there is another side to the story. AI, when harmoniously integrated, can elevate human work, relieving workers from repetitive tasks and enabling them to focus on creative and strategic aspects of their roles. This ‘Human-AI Symphony’ signifies a new work paradigm where humans and machines collaborate for enhanced outcomes.

The integration of AI into our lives and industries necessitates addressing ethical, social, economic, and legal considerations, such as data privacy, algorithmic bias, and accountability. Establishing ethical guidelines, investing in safety and education and ensuring transparency and accountability are paramount. We must be prepared for continuous learning and adaptation as AI technology evolves.

When wielded judiciously, AI can shape a better industrial future. It encourages us to dream bigger, and those dreams are closer to reality than ever.


The 21st century is rapidly evolving into the century of data science with AI leading the way. Medicine and biomedical research are no exceptions. We can now produce more data than ever before, and the bottlenecks have shifted from data production to data interpretation. That especially applies to big and complex data sets such as omics data and images. AI promises solutions due to its ability to detect and classify hidden patterns in such data. In 2017, AI made headlines by diagnosing skin lesions with accuracy on par with human experts, but 24/7. Thus, tireless and high-throughput AI could solve our problem of the shortage of medical staff. Its remote availability also could relieve inadequacies to healthcare access in different regions of the world.

AI can diagnose conditions that humans cannot, e.g. predisposition to diabetes from retina scans, or gene expression from histopathological images. The next frontier will be omics data, such as genome sequences. Although we can read the full text of our genome, we currently only understand less than 10% of it. AI will help us decipher the semantics of genetic variations and their complex interactions that cause disease or preserve health. As every genome is unique, this type of analysis will be the key to precision medicine. For instance, Systems Biology Ireland at UCD is using AI and advanced computational modelling to construct ‘digital twins’ of cancer patients. These in silico avatars allow us to provide the best therapy for each individual patient, optimising treatment on the digital twin before we administer it – truly personalised medicine. Such personalised interventions pose new ethical challenges. AI is an X-ray of our molecular data. We need to safeguard against misuse and misguidance. AI can err, and if it does, it usually blunders severely. We need policies regulating both AI use and technological quality control. But, if used responsibly, AI will likely revolutionise medicine in this century like antibiotics did in the last.

Professor Walter Kolch, Director of Systems Biology Ireland (SBI), UCD; Director, Precision Oncology Ireland
Professor Walter Kolch, Director of Systems Biology Ireland (SBI), UCD; Director, Precision Oncology Ireland


AI is fast-paced, controversial and disruptive. Like the internet, it can be used for good or ill, and over time it will transform the way we work and live. Working in a research-intensive university is one of the reasons I was excited to be appointed as UCD’s University Librarian in 2022. This is exactly the right place to address the opportunities and challenges of AI.

AI will certainly change the professional work of libraries and archives. It will help us generate metadata and catalogue large collections, including photograph, audio and video archives. This output will then require human intervention, such as expert review and enhancement by librarians and archivists, and perhaps crowd-sourced quality control where citizen scientists review and improve the quality of the data AI produces.

We can expect that AI will be useful for Library Chatbot services, literature searches, data management plans and deduplication work. It can improve accessibility with alt text and captioning, and provide book summaries and personalised reading suggestions. Of course, this also raises concerns about bypassing the independent learning process which is an essential part of the university experience.

Dr Sandra Collins, Librarian, UCD
Dr Sandra Collins, Librarian, UCD

We know that AI can generate convincing false references, create ‘deepfake’ videos and photos, and violate copyright by effectively stealing creators’ content from the internet. We know that the training data and the developers’ biases influence the AI’s responses, producing and perpetuating harmful stereotypes and inferences.

With powerful tools such as AI, we need to develop regulation, ethical use and academic integrity guidelines. Libraries are also ideally suited to develop digital literacy services and resources to help users understand the limitations of AI and to be able to evaluate and critique AI-generated content. I am excited that UCD Library will play a leading role in these new developments.


A once-in-a-lifetime shift in how we work has created chaos and opportunity. With 80% of companies surveyed by Gartner in January 2023 reporting that they were already hybrid working, there is a lack of meaningful data and trend insights for employers. Even large organisations are struggling to get it right, many still operating a trust-based model with informal arrangements in place. As a temporary arrangement has now become permanent, the introduction of technology is the only way to make hybrid working work, for both employees and employers.

Some organisations are leading the way in understanding what employees want and seeing how that can align with the needs of the organisation. Only when that information is gathered and understood can the future of work be successfully created.

Capella uses technology to streamline and optimise the employee experience of hybrid working, while at the same time delivering deep data and insights around workplace analytics and behaviours to employers. Our software uses AI to implement advanced analytics and data-driven decision-making. AI-powered algorithms analyse complex data sets, identify trends and deliver predictions, aiding businesses in making informed decisions with actionable insights and gaining a competitive edge in retaining and attracting talent. Without this kind of information, it’s impossible to get hybrid working right.

Criona Turley, CEO, Capella
Criona Turley, CEO, Capella