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27th Apr 2023

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Senior Leaders Breakfast Briefing: Generative AI

IMI hosted the second in a series of Breakfast Briefing events for senior leaders, taking place on the IMI campus.

An informative panel discussion was chaired by Gary McCarthy, joined in conversation by author and podcaster Chris Johns; former lawyer and automotive industry CEO Catherine Guy; and digital expert and IMI faculty member Larry Stapleton.

Artificial intelligence has been turbocharged in the past six months, but it’s important to remember that the basis for AI has been around for a long time. Even the seemingly “overnight” success of ChatGPT has been in the making for more than 70 years.

The concept of using a computer to reason like a human dates back to the 1950s. One idea was to take human knowledge in decision making, and programme a machine to do it. Systems that could automate decision making emerged by the 60s, and by the 80s there were business cases where this technology was being deployed – for example in the work of doctors and manufacturers. But by the 90s, automated decision making hadn’t really taken off in the way that was expected. And the reason behind this? To deploy successful AI technology, you need huge amounts of data and processing – and we simply didn’t have the data.

In 2018, there was a big jump in AI technology. Being able to access the web as a learning data set allowed the technology to learn much faster than before. When AI was attracting a lot of attention in 2018, a total of $400 million was invested – in stark contrast to last year, when $4.5 billion was invested.

Which brings us back to the much talked about ChatGPT. Even if you’ve used the technology, you probably haven’t thought about what the name means. So let’s break it down. First, GPT – Generative Pre-Trained Transformer. It can generate original content; it’s a learning machine that learns more based on the inputs we give it; and it’s a transformer – it converts the inputs we give it into new outputs. But perhaps the most significant aspect of this technology is the “chat” part. The fact that you can sit down and have a chat with this technology (as opposed to the user experience of a web browser) is the real game changer here.

Generative AI is, however, just one part of artificial intelligence in general. AI has a number of applications in the automotive industry, which Catherine Guy gave us some insights into. In fact, the car you’re driving today probably already involves a significant level of AI. A Tesla, for example, largely drives itself, and roads in the US are starting to play host to self-driving HGVs. But it goes beyond this – companies are starting to use AI across areas as diverse as generating website content, and streamlining vehicle tracking.

The replacement of workers with automation is nothing new – it was the basis of the Industrial Revolution. The financial sector, an area of expertise for Chris Johns, has been using tech and AI for a long time. While banking was once people-driven, over the years, mergers and acquisitions have used technology to decrease the number of workers, and increase their revenue.

About three years ago, it was estimated that the opportunity for AI by 2035 would be valued at $14 trillion. Now, in 2023, that number has been brought forward by five years, with more and more industries entering the ring.

As AI becomes more ubiquitous, we need to think about what might happen when AI goes wrong. In the US, it’s been said that AI technology turbocharges fraud. A technology that’s capable of generating original content, makes it very difficult to differentiate from human-generated content. And if you do spot it, the AI will learn, and do a better job next time. The most important thing to understand is how to interact with the tech, and how it’s getting the answers and content that it’s serving you. Another potential issue with AI is internal bias. For example, if we use a narrow data set to programme the AI, the data won’t be diverse or representative enough to produce accurate results. This has already been seen where AI is used to recognise humans.

What about intellectual property law? Can AI technologies invent something totally new, and patent their discoveries? At the moment, the answer seems to be “no”, but no one can be 100% sure where this conversation might go in the future. Where does the liability lie if, for example, a self-driving car causes the death of a person?

State side, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of regulation when it comes to AI, which might be a big mistake. By next year, there will be EU regulations in place for AI, with the aim of protecting the rights and freedoms of EU citizens. And the hope is that with these regulations, will come room for Europe to innovate when it comes to AI.

Finally, the AI conversation needs to be framed around humans, and where we can add value. Humans can bring aspects of emotional intelligence and social intelligence to the party, helping to create a symbiotic – or mutually beneficial – relationship with technology. We can leverage the technology available to us by automating existing processes, connecting and streamlining different functions, transforming and adapting business processes, and finally by the game changer that is the paradigm shift. This is how you can truly change the future of your sector, and make a massive jump in your competitive advantage.

IMI’s flagship Senior Executive Experience is now open for enrollment, with programmes for c-suite leaders beginning in May and September 2023.

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