The Essential Eight technologies Board byte: artificial intelligence

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What should corporate boards know about artificial intelligence (AI)?

AI enables computers and other devices to perceive, analyze and adapt to their environments and perform tasks that would normally require humans. AI enables machines to think, learn and respond on their own, becoming increasingly autonomous. In effect, AI allows machines to contribute more intelligently to business activities.

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AI in action today – and down the road

AI is transforming all industries. CEOs agree that AI will impact every facet of business, offering unprecedented ways to innovate and grow.

  • Jeeves goes digital – Digital assistants – AI programs that help people get answers to questions and perform tasks and services – are most commonly used at home, through mobile devices or computers. They can interpret language to search vast amounts of information for answers to questions, make changes to your calendar and even control some household appliances and smart home devices with verbal commands – part of the IoT. 
  • Never forget a face – Uploading your pictures to social media and tagging your friends? Often, their names pop right up, thanks to AI. But there’s more to facial recognition technology today than what you see on Facebook. Companies in the advertising, security and automotive industries are using image recognition, machine learning and deep learning to better serve customers. 
  • AI in the sky – Some researchers are looking to AI to develop a “smarter” autopilot that does more than fly pre-planned flight paths. The autopilot can learn how to adapt to changing conditions, such as bad weather or engine failure, by studying pilot actions and sorting through flight data.

Questions boards should ask management about AI:

Boards will want to understand AI’s opportunities, and its risks. Here are some questions boards can ask management about how AI will fit into the company’s strategy:

  • Have we considered how AI can transform our products or services and which aspects of our business could benefit from increased automation or machine learning?
  • How might AI fit with other emerging technologies we are investing in?
  • Do we have the computing power and infrastructure to support the use of AI? Do we have the digital skills and talent to move forward?
  • How will we gain the trust of our stakeholders if we use AI?
  • Have we thought about how we will use data collected by AI? Have we considered cyber risks and data privacy issues?

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Paula Loop

Governance Insights Center Leader, PwC US

Barbara Berlin

Managing Director, Governance Insights Center, PwC US

Vicki Huff Eckert

New Ventures & Innovation Leader, PwC US

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