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Now, it’s about artificial general intelligence. Is the Middle East paying attention?

We’re on the quest for human-like intelligence. But what’s the path forward?

Now, it’s about artificial general intelligence. Is the Middle East paying attention?
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Before we talk about the concept of artificial general intelligence, let’s talk a little about artificial intelligence. At this point, to mention that it’s groundbreaking and can potentially transform societies might be stating something obvious. 

The global artificial intelligence market was valued at $196.63 billion in 2023 and is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37.3% from 2023 to 2030.

But while the public eye is focused on how AI can simplify our day-to-day lives, the biggest tech giants in the world – Meta, Google, Microsoft/OpenAI – are dumping resources into a different goal – artificial general intelligence. 

The long-term scientific goal for AGI is simple. Machines becoming as intelligent as humans. But how simple is this goal?


Khalid Alhosni, CEO & Chief Consultant at KA Consultants, suggests that AGI could transform various industries beyond traditional AI realms. In agriculture, it could optimize crop management for higher yields and sustainability through data analysis. In hospitality, AGI-driven personalization might improve customer experiences by predicting preferences and tailoring services in real time. Also, in manufacturing, AGI-powered automation could enhance production processes, cutting costs and enhancing quality control.

AGI’s capacity to swiftly analyze extensive data holds the potential to revolutionize healthcare by facilitating personalized treatment plans and expediting drug discovery. This transformative potential extends across industries, offering unparalleled efficiency, innovation, and value creation.

Mohamad Maaz, an Artificial Intelligence Researcher at the Arab Scientific Community Organization, suggests that AGI’s impact on industries can be substantial and wide-ranging. In the government sector, AGI could integrate data from public institutions, improve data accessibility, and establish a technologically advanced government sector. In the energy sector, AGI could enhance efficiency and capacity through software and algorithms for optimal management of power supply chains. Also, in the transport and communications sector, AGI could develop new information systems utilizing smart technologies for transportation management, leveraging daily available databases.

While AGI shows promise in transforming industries, it’s crucial to approach discussions critically due to current AI limitations, says Aliah Yacoub, Artificial Intelligence Philosopher at Synapse Analytics. Current AI systems are narrow and far from human-level intelligence. Sensationalism and overhype can lead to unrealistic expectations and detract from addressing immediate challenges. Prioritizing incremental advancements and responsible integration of AI across industries is essential.

We can explore its speculative potential once we move past sensationalism around AGI. If machines approached human-like intelligence, they could revolutionize industries, liberate from labor exploitation, predict disasters, and discover cures, she adds. AGI might reshape every human experience, redefining our sense of self and existence.


The Middle East presents a unique landscape for the development and adoption of AGI, characterized by challenges and opportunities, says Alhosni. Despite facing hurdles such as political instability and varying levels of technological infrastructure, the region’s governments and businesses are increasingly investing in AI research and development. 

Countries like the UAE are positioning themselves as a global AI hub, attracting talent and fostering innovation through initiatives like the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence. 

Additionally, the region’s wealth of data, particularly in sectors like energy and finance, provides fertile ground for AGI development and application. 

He points out cultural considerations and ethical frameworks must be carefully navigated to ensure responsible AI deployment. Collaborative efforts between governments, academia, and industry stakeholders will be crucial in harnessing the Middle East’s potential to become a significant player in the AGI landscape, driving innovation and economic growth while addressing societal challenges.

Dr. Abrar Abdulnabi, Head of AI at Saal.ai, sees AGI as a significant contributor to the Middle East’s sustainable development goals, improving human life in various ways. She says, “It’s essential to approach the integration of various AGI technologies into the Middle East with careful control, governance and considerations, especially ethical and societal implications. It’s also important to ensure the potential benefits are distributed equitably and the AI technology is used responsibly in different areas.”

Estimates suggest the Middle East could receive $320 billion by 2030 through AI integration, influencing manufacturing, education, and business across traditional economic sectors, notes Maaz. While this lags behind East Asia, it marks a substantial milestone for the region, considering population, geography, and politics.

When discussing the Gulf states, it’s crucial to recognize their leadership in AI, exemplified by implementing their own AI strategies. The region’s first strategy was introduced in 2017, focusing on integrating AI and attracting global companies to establish hubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The goal is not only to invest in AI capabilities but also to participate actively in policy discussions. 

A single country won’t dominate the Gulf region’s pursuit of general artificial intelligence. All Gulf nations are investing in AI development, with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 leading. Like the UAE, Saudi Arabia is also working on creating large Arabic models.

Saudi Arabia aims to boost its GDP by $135 billion through AI, a notable figure given its total GDP of about $830 billion. The country has partnered with American firms like NVidia to establish AI development centers, focusing on education and empowerment within the Kingdom.

North Africa has become a significant player in AI development, with countries like Egypt and Morocco actively pursuing AI programs and strategies. Cities like Cairo and Rabat have established tech companies, boosting the region’s AI landscape. Although Egypt and Morocco may have lagged behind Saudi Arabia and the UAE in AI, their talent, startup culture, and entrepreneurial ecosystems have propelled them to the forefront of AI development in Africa.


For Maaz, AGI brings economic benefits by boosting productivity and fostering innovation to address global challenges like poverty and climate change. It also enhances societal well-being through education, healthcare, and entertainment while promoting diversity. In science, AGI accelerates research by solving complex problems and analyzing data, expanding our understanding of intelligence.

But from Alhosni’s perspective, AGI technologies promise productivity gains and competitiveness, particularly in sectors like oil and gas. Socially, they will reshape labor markets, requiring reskilling programs. AGI can enhance public services and healthcare, improve societal well-being, and position the Middle East as an AI innovation hub. However, addressing ethical and regulatory concerns is crucial for responsible deployment and inclusive growth. 

But while the potential impacts of AGI technologies on the Middle East, whether economic, social, or technological, might look different than in the rest of the world, adds Yacoub. 

AGI holds promise for driving economic growth and innovation but also presents socio-economic challenges such as job displacement and exacerbation of inequality. Addressing these demands proactive interdisciplinary research and education to equip the workforce with the necessary skills for the changing labor market. Additionally, ethical considerations must guide AGI deployment to mitigate potential harms and ensure equitable access and benefit-sharing, particularly for women and other vulnerable or marginalized communities.


Alhosni says AGI holds immense potential to contribute to sustainable development goals in the Middle East by addressing key challenges and driving progress across various domains. 

AGI-powered technologies offer substantial benefits for environmental sustainability in the Middle East, optimizing resource management for water and energy efficiency. They also enhance disaster preparedness through predictive analytics, mitigating natural hazards. Economically, AGI drives job creation, entrepreneurship, and inclusive growth. Also, AGI applications improve healthcare and education access, supporting sustainable development goals. Harnessing AGI’s capabilities can accelerate progress toward sustainable development, fostering prosperity and resilience for future generations.

On the other hand, Yacoub says AGI’s contribution to sustainable development goals in the Middle East hinges on a nuanced understanding of the region’s socio-economic and environmental challenges. 

AGI holds promise for enhancing resource utilization and efficiency across sectors, but its deployment must prioritize ethical principles and social responsibility. Interdisciplinary research and education are crucial in preparing for AGI adoption, empowering stakeholders to address its complex ethical and social implications effectively.


Yacoub contends that achieving AGI hinges on a profound shift in the AI research conceptual frameworks. While current methodologies advance narrow AI, they fall short of AGI due to limitations in accounting for embodied and embedded intelligence aspects. AGI remains elusive without an evolution in AI research paradigms to integrate corporeal experiences and contextual understanding. 

However, the uncertainty of achieving AGI depends on the convergence of technologies like big data, neural networks, and quantum computing, highlights Maaz. Regardless of when AGI emerges, prioritizing beneficial alignment and responsible governance is crucial. With careful consideration and preparation, AGI can propel humanity into a new era of growth and exploration. However, without adequate readiness, its impacts could be destabilizing.

And that’s why the development of AGI presents both an opportunity and our most significant challenge as we progress.

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Karrishma Modhy is the Managing Editor at Fast Company Middle East. She enjoys all things tech and business and is fascinated with space travel. In her spare time, she's hooked to 90s retro music and enjoys video games. Previously, she was the Managing Editor at Mashable Middle East & India. More

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