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What will be the Impact of AI on Rural Communities?

27 March 2023

The hot topic of the day seems to “Artificial Intelligence” or “AI” for short. More specifically “ChatGPT”.  When it comes to this topic, I am reminded of a quote by Thomas Jefferson, when he said, “I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it”. When it comes to AI, one can’t help but ask the question, how will AI impact smaller or rural communities in the future? Regardless of where you stand on this, make no mistake, it will take hard work and not luck to maximize this tool. As for luck, Guy Tasaka, a good friend of mine, and co-founder of MediaFlowAI, recently said when discussing AI, “You can be on the train, or under the train”.


The impact of AI on smaller communities will depend on various factors such as the availability of resources, infrastructure, and the community's readiness to adopt new technologies. However, there are several potential positive and negative impacts that AI could have on smaller communities. Here are just a few.


On the positive side, AI will allow for much improved access to healthcare. AI can help diagnose diseases more accurately and quickly, especially in areas where there is a shortage of healthcare professionals. AI will lead to increased efficiency in agriculture, it will help farmers optimize crop yields, reduce waste, and increase profits.  AI can lead to a much better education, it can help create personalized learning experiences for students, regardless of their location or socioeconomic status. AI can lead to more job creation, it could potentially create new job opportunities in fields such as data analysis, software development, and robotics.


On the negative side of the equation, like many things, it can be a two-edged sword. While AI can create jobs as we mentioned above, it can also potentially automate certain types of jobs, thus leading to job loss in certain industries.  AI can widen inequality, this because smaller communities may not have access to the same resources and infrastructure needed to fully adopt AI, potentially leading to a wider digital divide. AI can intrude on one’s privacy, it requires vast amounts of data to operate effectively, and this data could potentially be used for purposes that do not align with community values. AI can create a dependence on technology. When we have an over-reliance on AI, it can potentially lead to a loss of critical thinking skills and decision-making abilities.


Overall, as one might expect, the impact of AI on smaller communities will depend on how it is understood, implemented, and integrated into the community. It is important that communities carefully consider the potential benefits and risks before they select which aspects of AI to adopt or embrace. This allows them to adopt AI where it makes sense, thus ensuring the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks.


Lastly, understand that fear of something tends to paralyze. We can’t afford to fear AI, there are far too many positive aspects to AI.  It is important that in lieu of ignoring or fearing AI, we strive to understand the many values and positive uses that can be derived from it. Ignoring or fearing AI simple places us under the train. Learning to understand, utilize and even embrace it assures we have the right tools to succeed. 


John Newby, from SW Missouri, is a nationally recognized Columnist, Speaker, & Publisher. He consults with Community, Business & Media. His “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” column is read by 60+ communities around the country. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists communities, media and business leaders in building synergies that create vibrant communities. He can be reached at: John@Truly-Local.org.