Board Agenda‘s Corporate Leadership in AI & Emerging Technology Survey has been launched today in partnership with Mazars, the international auditing and accounting firm, and in association with the INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre.
The survey aims to offer significant insight into the complexities of AI and how board members and corporate leaders across Europe are confronting its integration into their businesses.
It comes at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has driven a greater reliance on technology and an increasing interest in the role AI has to play.
But there is also greater awareness of the risks presented by artificial intelligence. Last year research from the Institute of Business Ethics noted that data protection and privacy had driven significant growth in technology-related “ethics lapses”.
Research from Forbes and law firm Clifford Chance reveals 44% of company directors see big data—a significant component of artificial intelligence—posing the “biggest ethical challenge” in their businesses.
A key aim of the Board Agenda AI survey will be to uncover how board members and senior management believe AI will shape the future of business and the action they are taking to provide effective oversight of AI for their organisations.
Recruitment by algorithm
There seems no area that AI cannot influence. Unilever has used game playing and video interviews to conduct an “all-digital” graduate recruitment process using algorithms to select candidates. Uber, Lyft and Deliveroo have used AI to evaluate workers and even automate redundancy programmes for underperforming staff.
The healthcare sector has seen numerous AI solutions; AI is also handling insurance claims; and supply chains are being transformed by the technology. Even the use of face masks and social distancing is being monitored by AI.
There are issues, of course. In a recent article for Board Agenda, Nada and Andrew Kakabadse, of Henley Business School, highlight the risks. Boardrooms may lack knowledge of competitive advantages, and AI may throw up unintended consequences, depending on the underlying datasets.
“It is clear that AI systems introduce bias, as well as a lack of accountability and transparency,” write the Kakabadses. “Even for the technologically competent that bias is hard to correct. In addition, underlying data sets may have flaws and programming errors potentially compromising the output.
“One of the most intriguing elements of this brave new world is the degree to which data can be used and misused in many ways without the majority of directors’ even being aware of the legal risks—an area which has the potential to mushroom.”
Risks and opportunities
And yet AI is widely viewed as potentially transformative, despite signs that its adoption may have slowed. The Board Agenda survey asks whether companies have accelerated their move to AI as a result of Covid-19; whether boards have assessed the risks and opportunities stemming from AI and what they may be; and whether boards are conscious of the ethical implications.
The survey also seeks to understand the level of boardroom knowledge in relation to AI and whether the appropriate investment is being made in the talent needed to introduce and lead with AI.
New technologies like AI will increasingly provide solutions to business. The question is whether boards and managers have a firm grip on how they work and the risk and opportunities involved. This survey will hopefully provide some answers.