Artificial intelligence vs genuine stupidity

What key questions CEOs should be asking as they assess AI's transformative potential
Rohit Talwar, futurist and CEO of Fast Future Research.
Rohit Talwar, futurist and CEO of Fast Future Research.

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Rohit Talwar, futurist and CEO of Fast Future Research explores the key questions CEOs should be asking as they assess and invest in AI's transformative potential.

On 24 May 2017, at CommunicAsia2017 Summit, Rohit Talwar will deliver an address titled “Artificial Intelligence vs. Genuine Stupidity – Navigating Exponential Technologies to Create a Very Human Future”.

Looking at the pace of development and potential of AI, Talwar predicts that it is perhaps the most important area of decision making that business leaders will face over the next few years, and the effective implementation of AI will be a crucial differentiator between success and failure of firms in a fast changing world.  He says the core challenge is to help organisations embrace and adapt to accelerating change and prepare for a world that we can’t yet see but is just around the corner.

What's the fuss about?

AI may well drive the most important changes in the philosophy, practice and management of business. AI draws on and is combining with exponential developments in technologies such as computer hardware, big data management, IoT and the fields of machine learning, neural networks, and robotics. As a result, AI is beginning to fulfill its true potential of transforming businesses and even replacing senior management and leadership roles. CEOs have to make sure they are investing the time and attention to understand what AI is, why so much is being invested, and where the opportunities are.

What is its potential?

The place to start is to undertake internal analysis of where it could be deployed and what competitors are doing. Medium to large enterprises in particular are bringing in AI experts and creative future thinkers to take a broader perspective of the potential roles AI could play, from smarter production management, to customer targeting and broad-based decision making.

Who should lead?

The temptation is to see this as just another IT project and hand responsibility to the CIO (Chief Information Officer. However, some see it having a much broader role and are making it the responsibility of the CEO, COO or business transformation head to drive the identification, piloting and application of AI solutions across all aspects of the business.

What would success look like?

With AI, there are likely to be unsuccessful experiments – up to 90 per cent might go under as promising ideas fail to yield viable solutions. The mantra should be to "fail fast and cheap" – bringing in suppliers, customers and other value chain partners early on to see if there is commercial merit in an idea. There can be as much learning from a failed project as a successful one.

How do we address social impact?

There is a growing concern that if every firm replaces a large part of its human workforce with smart software and robots, unemployment levels could rise on a permanent basis. Estimates vary from 30 to 80 per cent of all current jobs that could be automated out of existence in the next five to 20 years. As a CEO, how should we address this and the potential criticism that we are creating a two-tier society? Should we support the idea of a guaranteed basic income for all, as is being explored by Canada, Finland and the Netherlands?

About Rohit Talwar:

The founder of Fast Future Research, Talwar is a global futurist, entrepreneur and specialist advisor on business transformation, disruptive strategies and radical innovation.

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