Ethical challenges of AI in leaders’ sights

Ethical challenges of AI in leaders’ sights

Business leaders are increasingly taking steps to ensure ethical and responsible use of artificial intelligence (AI) within their organisations, a new study finds.

Most AI adopters, which now account for nearly three quarters of organisations globally (72 per cent), conduct ethics training for their technologists (70 per cent) and have ethics committees in place to review the use of AI (63 per cent).

So-called AI leaders – organisations rating their deployment of AI ‘successful’ or ‘highly successful’ – also take the lead on responsible AI efforts: almost all (92 per cent) train their technologists in ethics compared to less than half (48 per cent) of other AI adopters.

The findings are based on a global survey among 305 business leaders, more than half of them chief information officers, chief technology officers, and chief analytics officers.

The study AI Momentum, Maturity and Models for Success was commissioned by SAS, Accenture Applied Intelligence and Intel.

The report states that AI has a real impact on people’s lives which highlights the importance of having a strong ethical framework surrounding its use.

“These are positive steps; however, organisations need to move beyond directional AI ethics codes that are in the spirit of the Hippocratic Oath to ‘do no harm’,” said Rumman Chowdhury, responsible AI lead at Accenture Applied Intelligence.

“[Organisations] need to provide prescriptive, specific and technical guidelines to develop AI systems that are secure, transparent, explainable, and accountable to avoid unintended consequences and compliance challenges that can be harmful to individuals, businesses, and society.”

The fact that companies are taking steps toward ethical AI and ensuring AI oversight, is understandable the report notes, as they know that faulty AI output can cause repercussions.

Of the organisations that have either already deployed AI or are planning to do so, three fifths stated that they are concerned about the impact of AI-driven decisions on customer engagement, for example, that their actions will not show enough empathy or customers will trust them less.

Other key findings from the survey include:

More than half (51 per cent) of AI adopters indicated their deployment of AI has been a real success – citing more accurate forecasting and decision-making, higher success at acquiring customers, and increased organizational productivity as the primary benefits;

Many organisations see an advantage for their workforce by way of elevated roles. Two thirds of respondents (64 per cent) strongly or completely agree they are already seeing the effects, as employees focus on more strategic tasks rather than operative ones, thanks to AI.

Commenting on the findings, Rialto Consultancy director, Richard Chiumento, reckons the focus on ethics shows that artificial intelligence is becoming more embedded in organisations as well as leaders’ thinking. “It is also welcome news that some organisations are realising the espoused benefits of AI enabling individuals to add value to their role by being more strategic,” he said. “This is extremely empowering for employees and has clear benefits for business.”

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