When reading the media, one could be forgiven for thinking that there are two main trends in Artificial Intelligence (AI). Either it is a powerful tool with the potential to solve many problems of our society (from curing cancer with precision medicine to solving hunger in the world by applying AI to farming), or it is a peril that should be taking into consideration very carefully (AI robots with their own goals destroying humanity). Actually, both are valid positions, and consideration should be given to them, but the immediate need is for more nuanced conversation. Indeed, many people do not have any clear opinion on the future with AI, or even on the current state of the technology.
It is this lack of knowledge, which is quite often found amongst boards of directors that the World Economic Forum is concerned about. On the one hand, companies are not extracting all the potential that AI can have in their businesses and, on the other hand, may not be paying enough attention to the risks and responsibility that accompanies it. (We should not forget that most of the companies using AI belong to traditional industry sectors and just a few of them are tech companies.) However, in scoping for the AI Board Toolkit, the Forum also found that boards are willing to learn more, to understand more and that most of them believe that the impact of AI will be huge.
As boards of directors gain awareness of the importance of understanding AI, more companies are starting to use it (for example, chatbots are being used for customer service and robo-advisors), but the opportunities of AI go far beyond such use.
This Toolkit aims to be a reference for boards of directors to develop the use of beneficial AI in their companies. It has been conceived as an interactive tool, personalised according to the industry, the geographical area of interest or the role in the different committees of the boards.
Although it is still a work in progress, the first draft will be presented at the AMNC 18 in China. The final version will be ready to be piloted at Davos 2019. We are looking for companies to pilot the Toolkit and give us feedback during January through to June 2019. Once that has been done, the Toolkit will be made freely available.
The Toolkit will be a source of educational material for any board member to deep dive into AI applicable to their board role. It can also be use by the chair of the board or in any board committee as a way to start a debate or to raise appropriate questions on AI use in their company.
The content will be aligned with the main functions of a director and related to the diverse range of stakeholders of a company, from customers to shareholders, society, employees and the supply chain.
Resources contained in the Toolkit include:
- Case studies: Examples on how companies are using AI.
- Best practices: How AI was used in a particular situation, resulting in a benefit for the company (in can be in terms of profits, but also brand recognition, benefits for employees or for the environment etc.).
- Examples of pitfalls/failures and lessons learnt from them: When AI did not work as expected and what the consequences were for the company.
- Suggestions for your company.
- Guidelines and principles: A basic guide to ensure the application of AI in a conscious and ethic way.
- Red flags and alert signs for a company to take into consideration.
- Videos with expert opinions and comments.
- Articles and a bibliography.
- Decision Tools to help the board member move the company in the right direction.
Artificial Intelligence is already around us and companies will play a significant role in its development and on the impact it can have in our society. The aim of the Board Toolkit is to enable board directors to navigate that future.
Participate in a short World Economic Forum survey on AI and board directors
The World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial is offering chairs and board directors the opportunity to participate in a 10 minute survey on artificial intelligence (AI). The purpose of the survey is to help the Forum understand the educational needs of board directors regarding AI, how boards currently provide oversight and stay informed on AI, and what information and tools would help them to fulfil their oversight duties.
The Forum will use the data to develop information and tools on AI specifically designed for directors. Survey findings may be reported in future Forum publications.
The survey is available here.