AI: What does it mean for responsible businesses?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been in the making and evolving for over 70 years, its key feature was analysing data and making predictions while improving efficiency for multiple routine or repetitive tasks. Through continuous research during recent years, combining vast amounts of information and machine learning techniques (neural networks/deep learning) has led to a major impulse in generative AI.
Designed to generate new content, text, code, images, music, videos and replicating human ability to create, generative AI has sparked new discussions around the effects of AI.
And that discussion is inherently polarised, with optimists reporting reduced emissions, enhanced cancer detection, robotic human connections, and predictions of unprecedented economic growth. In contrast, pessimists predict grim outcomes, from widespread unemployment to the rise of machines.
Responsible businesses should consider the positive and negative outcomes
My view is that AI’s most significant risk might not be technological or economic, but rather societal. AI-enabled platforms, from social media to search, have changed our relationships with the truth and trust1 , and have embedded a shift from what we have in common to what makes us stand apart. This polarisation has fed waves of populism2 , harmed our mental health3 and eroded our physical communities4 that have been built on what we have in common, not what makes us unique. Unless we intervene, it’s clear to see how more powerful and creative AI could accelerate this shift5 . Driving us apart and undermining our trust, relationships and even our basic ability to function as a cooperative society.
But we can act.
Responsible businesses should be aware of these long-term consequences while capitalising on short-term productivity boosts. Organisations should ensure that all new technologies are deployed considering their purpose, values, and stakeholder impact.
To help, responsible businesses can consider the positive and negative outcomes of AI in three ways:
- Short-term impact on individuals: AI can boost employees’ productivity6 , help them explore new domains, and learn faster. Studies conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on finance and manufacturing workers showed that AI improved job satisfaction, performance, and wellbeing7. However, businesses should be aware of how unintended bias, AI inaccuracies, data breaches, and the escalating pace of work could counter these benefits8.
- Medium-term impact on businesses: Generative AI can boost productivity, reduce costs, foster innovation and open new markets9. Concerns about job losses loom10, yet businesses are optimistic, and the three previous industrial revolutions haven’t led to much-feared mass unemployment. More likely risks surround employee stress from greater productivity, reputation harm from AI misuse, and perpetuating social inequalities through data bias11.
- Long-term impact on society: AI may well propel economic growth and democratise essential services like healthcare and education, but critics also warn of exacerbating existing inequalities and accelerating the harm to our planet12.
Given this potential impact, positively and negatively, here are three ways that responsible businesses can consider their procurement and deployment of AI:
- Develop an AI Policy that aligns with existing responsible business practices and data protection principles. This policy should include approval and suitability of specific AI tools, data use and ethics, inclusivity and accessibility, transparency, and user control.
- Empower informed individual choice by equipping colleagues with the knowledge to understand both the short and long-term implications of AI on their roles. Foster a culture of responsible decision-making through education and incentives.
- Advocate for responsible AI and recognise that responsible use requires collective action and cooperation across industries. Collaborate with organisations specialising in responsible AI, such as The Alan Turing Institute, to advocate for industry-wide codes of conduct and legislation.
The impact of AI extends far beyond technical realms, influencing communities, businesses, and societies at large. As stewards of responsible business, AI practitioners must navigate these complex opportunities and pitfalls. By developing clear policies, empowering individual choice, and advocating for responsible AI, we can ensure that the benefits of AI are maximised while mitigating its negative consequences.
Only through a concerted effort together can we usher in an era of ethical, inclusive AI-driven growth.
Join our upcoming Share and Learn session alongside other Heads of Responsible Business to meet peers, learn from the approaches taken by other businesses, and work together to ensure a fair, inclusive and sustainable approach to AI.
FAIRER, GREENER, TOGETHER
1 2 Tech-Fuelled Inequality Could Catalyze Populism 2.0, Centre for International Governance Innovation (October 2022).
3 A Psychiatrist’s Perspective on Social Media Algorithms and Mental Health, Stanford University (September 2021).
4 The impact of artificial intelligence on human society and bioethics, National Library of Medicine (October-December 2020).
5 Polarisation and the use of technology in political campaigns and communication, Think Tank European Parliament (March 2019).
6 Lack of AI and automation adoption hinders employee productivity: Slack report, VentureBeat (May 2023).
7 Artificial Intelligence and its Role in Employee Training and Development, BusinessTech Weekly (April 2023).
8 The impact of AI on the workplace: OECD AI surveys of employers and workers, OECD.
9 12 Risks and Dangers of Artificial Intelligence (AI), builtin (August 2023).
10 The economic potential of generative AI: The next productivity frontier, McKinsey Digital (June 2023).
11 Artificial Intelligence and Job Loss Statistics, zippia.com (2023).
12 The effective and ethical development of artificial intelligence: An opportunity to improve our wellbeing, ACOLA (June 2019).
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