8 Things executives should know about Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the buzzword currently doing rounds in the business world today. There are numerous examples of AI in the modern world including autonomous vehicles and voice assistants in phones. Artificial Intelligence movies like Terminator and TV shows like Westworld are appearing more realistic by the day. AI boom is being described as the new Gold Rush and is also being compared to the rapid spread of the internet in the ‘90s. More and more businesses are recognizing the power and potential of AI. In this information age, it is hard to separate what is really useful about AI, what is merely hype, what is more important and what is not. Therefore, we have identified 8 things that are most important for business leaders to realize about this rapidly growing field.

1. In some cases, Artificial Intelligence is better than Humans

Computers are already better than humans on some dimensions. For example, AI already beat the chess world champion, Garry Kasparov, in 1997. More recently, the world champion in the extremely complex strategy game Go was beaten by the computer program AlphaGo. This means that, as executives, we can delegate more and more business processes to machines in the future. However, in order to be careful in such processes, taking the “trust but verify” approach will be the right approach for executives about Artificial Intelligence.

2. Human Experience combined with Artificial Intelligence is superior to Intuition

The human mind is able to absorb and make sense of more detail than we are cognizant of. This is the reason intuition mostly serves executives well. As Daniel Kahneman says in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, we can trust our intuition in matters where we have sufficient experience. However, in matters in which we do not have sufficient experience we are better served by making deliberate decisions and thinking slowly. Also, prejudice and the natural tendency of humans to do wishful thinking distorts our judgement sometimes. Therefore, insight produced by machines can help us avoid such blind spots. Machines can produce insight which either agrees or disagrees with our intuition. If they agree with the intuition of executives then they can proceed with their decision. If not, it is advisable for them to deliberate on their decision some more. As an example, Artificial Intelligence can help executives identify a revenue driver in their business which they had been ignoring.

3. Artificial Intelligence will not solve all of your problems

Business leaders need to understand that all of what is being said about AI is not true. They need to separate hype from reality, and fact from fiction. The fake news in the media is real and it will be a mistake for CEOs and CTOs to make up their mind by just listening to the media. Taking expert opinion in this regard will be a good way to go about it. AI will definitely solve a lot of business problems but not as much as is sometimes hyped in the media. For example, we are not getting robotic flying cars anytime soon.

4. Labor Markets will be transformed

There will not be mass unemployment as is sometimes hyped in the media. However, there will be transformation of tasks that humans will do. For example, at the time of mechanization of farming, there was a fear of mass unemployment with the advent of tractors and other machinery. However, instead of causing mass unemployment, the role of workers was transformed. They had to learn new skills to use the machinery and do less manual labor. Whereas some jobs will be lost, especially those which are mundane and repetitive, other new jobs in the field of AI will be created as well. Therefore, the challenge will be to adapt to this new technology and a lot of people will have tough time in adapting to these new jobs.

5. If there is no prior experience, business leaders can start by experimenting

Because many firms think that the costs and risk of failure are too high, they do not try artificial intelligence in their businesses at all. Even the biggest companies are making mistakes in this rapidly evolving technology and they understand that when trying a new strategy, you cannot always get it right the first time. The way to go about it is to identify one or two areas in your business where there is minimum risk and try artificial intelligence there.

6. Artificial Intelligence is not limited to tech companies

Artificial Intelligence has the potential to transform industries where there is no technology involved. A comparable example in this regard is how the advent of computers impacted every industry in the 1980s. For example, a clothing shop owner can use pattern recognition to better understand the preferences of customers and tailor his products accordingly to boost his revenue streams. It will likely impact every other industry so if you are a business leader of any sort, Artificial Intelligence is worth paying attention to.

7. Safety concerns regarding AI

It is true that machines are getting better than humans at more and more tasks. However, there are many edge cases, that is low probability situations which could have massive consequences if machines make a mistake there. For example, in the case of autonomous vehicles, there can be cases like what should the car do in a situation which has not been programmed into that car and has fatal consequences. Whereas if a human was driving that car, he would have been able to make that decision easily in the right manner and avoid dire consequences.

8. Artificial Intelligence bias

Some executives assume that machines will not be biased. They think that racial and gender discrimination will be rooted out in tasks where machines have control. However, this cannot be further from the truth. For example, humans are biased when selecting candidates from job applications. AI too, which is programmed by humans can have the same bias that bias will be reflected in its selection of candidates. For example, Amazon used an expert system to review and rank job applications. Surprisingly, it was found out that the system was biased against women and the project was abandoned.

As new information and insights are rapidly emerging in this evolving field of AI, executives will be well advised to keep reading articles like this one to stay updated on important developments in this field. We try to ensure the separation of signal from noise and concisely present the most important information. Looking forward to you reading our next article on the subject of AI.

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