Despite highly publicized risks of data-sharing and AI, from facial recognition to political deepfakes, leadership at many organizations seems to be vastly underestimating the ethical challenges of the technology, NTT DATA Services reveals.
Just 12% of executives and 15% of employees say they believe AI will collect consumer data in unethical ways, and only 13% of executives and 19% of employees say AI will discriminate against minority groups.
Surveying 1,000 executive-level and non-executive employees across industries in North America in early 2020, the results indicate that organizations are eager to increase the pace of transformation.
AI and automation technologies play a vital role, helping businesses improve decision-making, business processes and even workplace culture. In fact, 61% say that AI will speed up innovation, and respondents say the technology is beginning to support improvements to efficiency (83%) and productivity (79%). Yet, there are many challenges with adoption and implementation, with ethical considerations and data security among the top few.
“AI presents one of the great leadership opportunities and challenges of our time. Leaders must be diligent in striking the balance, but they don’t have to go it alone,” said Eric Clark, Chief Digital Officer, NTT DATA Services.
“Our study outlines how businesses can take full advantage of emerging technologies and accelerate transformation, while taking necessary precautions on the path to responsible and secure adoption of artificial intelligence.”
Ethics and effectiveness of AI
For AI to be effective and avoid ethical pitfalls, businesses need to ensure that AI isn’t being programmed with biases that could lead to ethically charged decision-making or that cause AI to malfunction in some way.
One-quarter of executives and 36% of employees say they have experienced AI ignoring a command, and about one-fifth of both groups say AI offered them suggestions that reflected bias against a marginalized group.
Organizations do not have money or time to waste on technology investments gone wrong—so they must pivot their organizations to focus on agility, talent, change management, ethics, and other pressing issues.
Automation’s impact on the modern workforce
Modernizing the workforce means giving all employees access to the data and technologies that help them achieve optimum productivity. Most executives and employees believe that AI and automation will help improve employee effectiveness.
71% of executives say AI will make employees more efficient, 69% say it will improve employee accuracy, and 61% say it will speed up innovation. For this to happen, leaders need to invest in reskilling their workforce to get the most value out of emerging technologies.
Empowering the workforce through technology not only helps improve the bottom line, it helps drive employee retention – with 45% of employees responding they would be motivated to stay by education opportunities.
“The study overall paints a realistic picture of what we are seeing in the market,” said Tom Reuner, Senior Vice President at HFS Research.
“Going forward, enterprises will have to manage talent, organization, culture and provide the right environment for the new workforce, which seeks interesting projects and looks for meaning and motivation. AI technologies and methodologies are a critical enabler on that journey.”
AI adoption to create culture of speed, reinvention
Businesses and entire markets are being remade in terms of opportunity, operations and customer expectations, and there is no going back to the old pace of innovation. In fact, 47% of those surveyed believe failing to implement AI in some way will cause them to lose customers to competitors, and 44% think the bottom line will suffer.
However, few employees at companies surveyed think the pace of change at their organization is fast enough. In fact, less than one-third of executives and employees describe the pace of technology change, process change, or executive decision-making at their company as fast.
Even fewer—just 18% of employees and 19% of executives—say culture, which plays a major role in determining how workers respond to adjustments in technology and processes, changes quickly. This creates an opportunity for AI to drive sweeping change and speed up the pace of innovation and technology adoption.