Companies embrace AI, but execs cite challenges on alignment, ethics

by | Dec 18, 2019 | Marketing, Public Relations

Corporate America is increasingly using AI, and executives anticipate that they will use it even more in the years ahead. But they also have significant concerns, new research fromknowledge marketplace GLG finds. Sixty percent of executives surveyed do not feel that their organizations are fully aligned on how they should develop and use AI. And while more than 70 percent of executives say that their companies have adopted AI in the last three years, only a quarter say that they have taken steps to prevent bias that can result from AI.

Artificial intelligence has sparked debates on everything from data privacy to bots taking jobs from humans to algorithms that perpetuate racial and gender bias. These issues have been widely reported, yet respondents in the survey reported that their companies have not taken steps to deal with them. For example, the survey found that:

  • Only 26 percent said they have put measures into place to mitigate potential AI bias;
  • Only 25 percent said they disclose the data AI collects and what is done with it;
  • Only 16 percent said they have a dedicated committee within their organizations to oversee AI use; and
  • Only 13 percent said they identify intelligent agents or chatbots as non-human entities.

The vast majority of corporate leaders believe that AI use will keep growing

Ninety percent or more of executives in healthcare, consulting, and financial services believe AI will transform their businesses within the next five years and 98 percent plan to continue or expand their AI development.

Companies embrace AI, but execs cite challenges on alignment, ethics

But many are worried about AI’s effects on the workforce

Fifty percent of consulting executives and 49 percent of financial services executives say that they are very or somewhat concerned about AI replacing workers.

“Executives clearly believe that AI is here to stay, but they’re far from aligned on how to use it effectively and responsibly,” says GLG CEO Paul Todd, in a news release. “This is new ground for businesses to explore—and navigating it will require coordination, a sense of purpose, persistent research, and a commitment to acting ethically at every turn.”

Companies embrace AI, but execs cite challenges on alignment, ethics

Along with quantitative data, the report contains comments from survey respondents reflecting the mixed perspectives of executives on AI’s future:

  • CHRO, financial services: “Among fintech competitors, [AI] is essential to stay in the game in the future as customers are demanding it and business processes can’t keep up without it.”
  • CMO, consulting: “Employees are (rightly) worried about being replaced by AI solutions. They should be worried, frankly, because if I can replace a $125K resource with a piece of software, I will. And so will everyone else.”
  • CHRO, consulting: “A frequent complaint is that we took the human out of human resources; however, once employees/managers experience the benefits of AI, we have noticed a shift in perceptions.”
  • CFO, healthcare: “AI in my world tends to lead to outcomes that just don’t make sense. And then they get defended to the death. I just want a spam filter that works. Even that is a stretch. How can we automate a decision on a $20m loan?”

“The data from our GLG survey is among the first from a broad cross section of senior executives,” says JP Lee, GLG’s Head of Surveys, in the release. “These executives recognize AI’s promise, but also have concerns and doubts about its long-term effects. For better or worse, they’re figuring AI out as they go.”

Companies embrace AI, but execs cite challenges on alignment, ethics

Read the full report here.

The research is from a new GLG survey of more than 160 C-suite executives across three sectors – financial services, healthcare, and consulting – conducted between September 9 and November 13, 2019. This data reflects responses from CEOs, COOs, CFOs, CMOs, CTOs, and CHROs. More than 50 respondents lead companies with revenues in excess of $1 billion. This is one of the first quantitative surveys on attitudes toward AI at a senior level.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter