Unleashing the potential of AI

More than 60% of the 2,500 consumers and business decision makers in the US, who took part in a PwC survey on attitudes to AI, believe that it can help provide solutions for many of the most important issues facing modern society, ranging from clean energy to cancer and disease[1].

At the heart of the opportunity for businesses is the ability to turn data into intellectual property (IP) – more than 70% of business leaders in our survey believe that AI will be the business advantage of the future. We’re currently analysing how AI could enhance the quality, personalisation and value of hundreds of different products and services across eight prominent sectors – we’ll be publishing the overall and sector-specific findings over the course of 2017.

Uncertainty holds back innovation

The burning question is how to realise this potential. Netflix offers a textbook example of how a business can use accumulations of data to create a virtuous circle of ‘machine learning advantage’. The disruptive results have changed the way we access media content and led to a complete rethink of business models in the entertainment sector. In the global economy as whole, however, progress on AI has been mixed. Many organisations are still at the beginning of the journey – less than 40% of the business leaders taking part in our latest Global CEO Survey have begun to explore the impact of AI on their future skills needs[2], for example.

67 % of CEOs think that AI and automation (including blockchain) will have a negative impact on stakeholder trust in their industry over the next five years.

Other organisations risk finding themselves strategically hamstrung. In part, this stems from the difficulties of choosing from such a bewildering array of technologies, innovations and vendors. Many others are finding it difficult to evaluate, mitigate and manage the ‘black box’ reputational as well as technological risks of using such new and largely untried technology. Key challenges include determining whether the data is valid and what safeguards are needed to ensure that machines carry out human orders as intended. Related ethical considerations range from is it acceptable to influence human choices to do consumers understand enough about how their data is used and who has access to it? While some companies are keen to press ahead with AI, they can often find themselves chasing too many opportunities or failing to adequately assess the full business case and associated risks – the current landscape is littered with too many abandoned proof of concepts.

Robust evaluation and execution

These challenges underline the need for a new model of strategic evaluation, governance and delivery – without it, the uncertainties surrounding AI mean that it will either remain stuck in the lab within many organisations or they will find themselves facing unacceptable and potentially damaging risks.

At the heart of this framework is the need for trust and transparency in creating responsible AI. The adoption of AI may be met with scepticism from a variety of stakeholders, both within the organisation and clients, regulators and others outside. It’s therefore important to consider how we can build trust among all the affected stakeholders. The key to this is increasing transparency and awareness around how AI is being used, the jobs it performs, the decisions it makes and the opportunities it brings – we believe this is the essence of ‘responsible AI’.

Artificial intelligence needs both more robust governance and a new operating model to realise its full potential.

While no one can guarantee good behaviours from complex autonomous agents, there’s a series of best practices that include designing and monitoring controls, which would minimise risk and encourage responsible adoption of AI.

In this paper, we explore the challenges that such a framework would need to address, the opportunities it would open up and set out how it might work. The objective isn’t to stifle or slow down innovation, but rather to accelerate it by giving boards the assurance and platform for execution they need to deliver the desired outcomes.

[1] ‘Bot me: A revolutionary partnership: How AI is pushing man and machine closer together’, PwC, April 2017 (https://www.pwc.com/us/en/press-releases/assets/img/bot-me.pdf)
[2] ‘20 years inside the mind of a CEO…What’s next?’, 20th Global CEO Survey, PwC, 2017 (ceosurvey.pwc)

Contact us

Chris Oxborough
Partner, Emerging Technology Leader, PwC United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)7711 473 199

Laurence Egglesfield
Director – Technology Risk (Emerging and Disruptive Technology), PwC United Kingdom

Euan Cameron
UK Artificial Intelligence Leader, PwC United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7804 3554

Rob McCargow
Director of Artificial Intelligence, PwC United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)7841 567264

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