Lens one: Partnering with AI
Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) continue to gain traction across industries. We are seeing rapid adoption in use cases that range from automating everyday operational processes, to augmenting strategic decision-making. By better understanding the respective strengths and limitations of humans and machines, businesses can develop balanced and productive partnerships between their people and AI to extract maximum value from emerging technologies, while remaining mindful of the potential ethical implications.
Through the Looking Glass
To truly partner with AI, we can’t view it as a tool to solve every business problem. Instead, we must understand where it excels, where it requires human agency to fulfil its potential and where it might prove ineffective.
Some business problems – for example those that necessitate leveraging historical data or fast digital feedback loops – can be addressed by applying AI to completely automate processes or decision-making. However for others – especially those that require creativity, intuition and slower strategic feedback loops – AI’s role is best structured as augmenting human talent.
As AI-supported techniques become more mainstream, they can touch on more areas of our lives and their impacts need to be considered from an ethical perspective. This is driving research and tooling to support explainable AI (XAI) and more robust governance processes, including automated compliance.
A continued surge of investment in AI research and applications. Research firm IDC estimates the worldwide AI market will exceed US$500 billion by 2024
Continued high demand for ML, AI and data specialists in the job market. According to LinkedIn, AI specialist was the fastest-growing job category in 2020, while Glassdoor ranked data scientist as the number two best job in the United States in 2021
Increased growth in ML/AI start-ups, specialized products, IPOs, and acquisitions. In October 2021, Exscientia – a UK company that put the world's first three AI-designed drugs into phase one human testing – went public on the NASDAQ with a valuation of US$3 billion
Changes in existing jobs and roles. The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labor between humans and machines, while 97 million new roles may emerge
- Increased public awareness of situations where AI had unintended consequences. For example, facial recognition has repeatedly been in the news due to privacy concerns, and racial bias has been found in Twitter's image cropping AI. Despite that, there are concerns that ethical AI design will not be the norm within the next decade
Most enterprises understand automation can improve workforce productivity, by automating repetitive, mundane and data-crunching tasks. This can fundamentally change or even remove the need for some jobs, but new roles will also be created where people are shifted to higher value activities that require judgement and creativity. Typical areas that can benefit from automation include dynamic pricing, recommendation systems, anomaly detection and supply chain optimization.
In other cases, the work of humans will benefit from AI/ML augmentation, with human and machine performing combined or complementary roles. These tend to address problems that require creativity, intuition, experience and holistic thinking. They involve important strategic decisions that don't get made very frequently — e.g. "What product should we sell next?" or "How can we achieve net-zero emissions?" — but can benefit from machines helping simulate and explore different outcomes or even to generate ideas that humans can then evaluate. Examples include AI-first drug or product development and dynamic simulations for planning complex scenarios like climate change.
All these applications demonstrate how AI can deliver value across the entire organization: by improving internal operations and informing better business decisions, all the way to product innovation and improving customer experience.