Artificial Intelligence

“Artificial Intelligence has the potential to greatly enhance competitiveness and the growth prospects for many local businesses,” he said. “However, directors who bury their heads in the sand may face disruption that wipes out their enterprise.”

Professor Beer was speaking at a May Australian Institute of Company Directors event in Adelaide. The event heard that one of the biggest threats facing local boards is a lack of awareness and an unwillingness to embrace the AI revolution.

Professor Beer said much public debate on AI until now had centred on the perceived threats to employment. “Yes, there are signs of AI taking on human-like roles,” he said.

“In May 2014, the Hong Kong based investment firm Deep Knowledge Futures gave an AI algorithm called Vital a place on its Board. But there is more to this story than just gloom and doom. The Productivity Commission has indicated that we’re likely to see more jobs created by the AI and robotics revolution than destroyed.

“AI will boost the efficiencies of many established industries and it will open up new horizons in science and technology that are only now emerging.

“Mechanisation, the computing revolution, the rise of the Internet and disruptive business models such as Uber and Airbnb have all had knock-on effects for the labour market. But in the end, they have made us more prosperous, more resilient and better able to invest in those things we value.”

Professor Beer said companies should consider either appointing a director with AI experience, engage with external experts in the field and/or charge an existing director with developing an AI portfolio.

“While a director may not personally possess high-level AI skills and knowledge, they need to be open to asking questions, good at listening and be able to bring important matters to the board’s attention.”