Dr Mathew Donald (pictured below) specialises in leadership, management and organisational change. Hess the principal of Dr Mat – The organisational Health Doctor and author of Leading and managing change in the age of disruption and artificial intelligence. In this guest post, the goodly Doc argues, forget about AI “coming” because it’s already here and here’s what you need to do…
It is clear that the business environment is now characterised with fast paced change, filled with uncertainty and risk, while change is transmitted easily through a globalised world trading environment. In just a few short years apps, voice recognition, GPS and mobile phones have been combined with logarithms in order to market and sell. The apps and logarithms have moved so fast that there are now allegations of corruption, influence in USA elections and the selling of private data for commercial gain.
AI will soon emerge further so performing many routine tasks currently performed by people where the transformation will arise either from cost, efficiency or improved time and efficiency. This AI transformation is likely to aid the introduction of robots that will then take on physical activities of operations, car driving, planes and many routine tasks.
The tasks performed by staff in a whole range of industries have been historically based on policies, procedures and practices, each being learnt and passed down in organisations. AI will, over time, be challenged to replicate and improve many of these once human set of rules and practices.
It is not yet clear how fast and exactly when AI will emerge into modes that can replace human work on a mass scale.
Current proliferation of apps and mobile phone technology indicates that we are in an accelerating technology age, where the AI transformation may already be emerging.
Any new technology, app or AI already emerges and is adopted widely across whole industries and competition in very short periods of time. The integration and high use of social media and internet easily allows new technology advancements to be seen widely and quickly, so aiding their adoption into other organisations.
While new AI will likely have exceptional speeds, accuracy and replication qualities in the initial stages, it may be some time before it can create exceptions, be creative and understand on moral grounds. The new age of disruption will move fast, creating new products and scenarios not previously thought possible in quick succession, where these new scenarios will challenge staff and managers alike.
If the new scenarios and options are left purely to AI, there is potential for the AI to optimise and ignore morality and society impacts. At the same time policies, procedures that are the current mainstay for humans, may be too slow to react if AI find new ways of working or transacting. If we open up AI and just let it run, there is potential great harm to society if it is left unchecked or left to purely historical rules and regulations.
In the fast pace of change, where new possibilities may present to both staff, management and AI the organisation will not be served by just waiting for new regulation.
If an organisation allows new activities to take advantage of the poor, the ill or the disadvantaged, will the stakeholders be satisfied with knowing that the new activity was legal or possible. There appears to be a need for ethical behaviour in this emerging world of disruption, ethics that is connected to society and human values may be in order. In an environment dominated by ethics it will matter not that a process or activity is purely possible and has advantage attached, the ethical standard of understanding human harm, advantage and power imbalances would come into play.
If a business wants to take advantage with AI and yet preserve its standing in society and with customers it will not want poor publicity, staff being gaoled or value loss as an effect from a new transaction that is in hindsight frowned upon.
Until and unless the human and society values and beliefs can be woven into AI there may need to be stronger overview and governance of organisations, where the stronger overview is based on ethics rather than merely policies and procedures. Historically policies and procedures may have been quite slow to recommend, review and implement, perhaps even slower to change, so relying on these in a disruptive fast-moving world may no longer be appropriate.
Business may find that an ethical framework that is well connected to society and reasonable staff values may better fit this fast-paced world. Decisions on new transaction types developed in AI may need fast decisions when presidential social media announcements arise, waiting for an update of a policy or procedure may be too slow. Placing ethical frameworks and communicating to a wide variety of staff may be better at converting decisions into new opportunities or refraining due to their risk and associated harm to society.
Without an strong ethical framework the business community will be left with AI that may be excellent at speed and replication, where the ensuing tools may harm society and expose the organisation to untold reputational harm and financial losses.