As directors, you are under pressure from your executives to leverage emerging technologies. Technologies such as blockchain, the internet of things and artificial intelligence. All offer exciting opportunities. All are being explored by your competitors.
The challenge when adopting emerging technologies is the lack of governance in the form of regulations and in the form of company policy. This is why you, as a director, must care about emerging technologies.
Your executive will focus on delivering their objectives, often without taking the time to understand and manage risk fully.
Let’s use artificial intelligence, or AI, as an example. AI means we are entering a world where machines make more decisions. Tasks performed by machines will have less human oversight. As AI delivers better outcomes, we will give machines more responsibility and more autonomy.
But AI introduces several risks that may result in poor outcomes. There have already been cases, such as reported by the BBC in October 2018, when Amazon scrapped an AI recruitment tool as it was sexist. Or, as reported by Reuters, when Microsoft’s AI-driven Twitter bot made racist and sexist tweets. With AI, you need to think about how you will govern it, what policies need to be in place, and who in the organisation is responsible.
Consider what action your organisation will take when AI makes a recommendation or takes an action that is wrong. After all, AI is not infallible. Is anyone accountable for that decision within your organisation?
What happens if AI makes a recommendation, a person chooses to ignore the recommendation, and that person is wrong? Penalise that person, and you are driving behaviour where no one will question what the machine says. Is that a culture you want?
What if there’s an expectation that you can provide external parties, such as regulators, transparency into how the AI made decisions? With AI, it can be very difficult to understand how it got to its conclusion. The more data AI can access, the more it learns, and that may change its decisions.
The AI example is not intended to strike fear in you. These emerging technologies offer amazing opportunities to serve our customers better. These examples are to show why you need to ask your executive how they plan to govern them.
Remember, new technology almost always precedes governance. Should your organisation be looking to emerging technologies, consider governance in parallel.
Are you helping your organisation move at pace while managing the risk?