There is always a moment when you sit back, roll your eyes heavenwards, and ask yourself, “WTF Now?”. Especially where the future of AI is concerned.
Brett and Michael often talk about these moments on their podcast. So they chatted to Craig Wing about the future of business, its changing speed, and what it means for you.
Wing unpacks some thinking around trust, biases and the direction that business is headed towards.
And the future isn’t looking too bleak, to be honest.
But nothing is without a few small hiccups. Even more so with data transparency.
WTF Does Business Look Like?
Craig Wing is a world-renowned speaker, entrepreneur and futurist with powerful insights into the current (and future) landscape of business. He focuses much of his thought on the possibilities and advantages of artificial intelligence.
Wing points out that the current state of business will be premised around trust. Do your clients or customers actually trust you?
While we rapidly advance with the emergence of new technology, the power of data often creates polarisation. This leads to picking sides, defining where our loyalties lie and agenda-based decision making.
Whose agendas? Those of politicians, corporations and the many platforms that we engage with on a daily basis.
Business and society has changed drastically in more recent years. With the pandemic, we’ve come to see significant shifts in consumer interaction through the use and adoption of online platforms. In fact, there has been a 3-4 year leap in the rate of people using these platforms since COVID started. And it only seems to be growing.
It goes without saying that these enormous changes have many benefits and might appear as benevolent at face-value. So to look at the pitfalls and ulterior-motives that will inevitably surface through this technology is important.
It’s About the voice of the Customer
Trust, then, becomes a critical factor in business development. Even more so in a future run by AI.
Customers, clients or consumers are certainly becoming the biggest driving force behind better products and services. E-commerce, social media, and other e-services place emphasis on the customer’s experience, changing the way that we approach business.
Wing uses Twitter as an example of this. Before the platform existed, if what you bought wasn’t what you paid for, you were more likely to accept it and move on. Now you’re able to go to Twitter, provide feedback and get what you want, without any issue or hassles.
“It isn’t just about feedback; it’s about the voice of the customer… it translates into transparency, which relates back to faster feedback loops,” says Wing.
The customer’s voice can now be clearly heard. So the experience and satisfaction around the customer’s journey are far more critical than it’s ever been. More importantly, there’s more accountability and transparency culminating from the provider.
Trust has become a huge factor that will ultimately determine how successful your business is and will be. Developing trust is fundamental to the growth of any business, so it’s vital to act in the customer’s best interests.
Wing continues, “the only way you can increase trust with your customer is by having faster feedback loops and being in a place that you can react”.
These feedback loops are essential to figure out the direction to take in your delivery. The experience and product or service you offer will ultimately determine how you should react.
One of the growing concerns around this shift into the new digital paradigm is biases and agenda-based programming. This comes to breach trust, as there’s no objectivity or form of governance to regulate this.
Can AI be Biased?
During the discussion, Wing argues that labelling AI as inherently biased, racist and/or sexist is “silly”. As it solely depends on how you make use of it.
He compares AI to fire. You can use it for either constructive or destructive purposes. It all depends on who makes use of it and what the programmer’s intention is. This means that it comes down to trusting the source of the code and the processes behind AI.
“The AI, the machine, the technology can be biased, but is predicated around two primary things:
- The implicit biases of the program – we all have biases, it’s natural; and
- the paucity of data – you pour the data in and the data says something… that data set is also fundamentally flawed,” says Wing.
AI, as a concept, isn’t subjective or biased. So the concern shifts to the programmer and the data that he/she inputs.
It all boils down to the programmer’s subjectivity. They have the power to decide whether to act based on hidden agendas or in a malicious manner. Take the example of a bank, where data needs to be processed and programmed with the intent of making as much money as possible. Specific patterns will be searched for in a particular data set that will produce that for them.
Ultimately, people manipulate data and have the final say around how the data is interpreted and extrapolated.
AI is here to stay; it’s already a part of the present, and it will be a massive part of the future. Sure, there are a few hiccups, bugs or obstacles to work through, but the advantages far outweigh the pitfalls.
In the same way that we are left with the responsibility to fact-check and ensure that sources of information (i.e. news) are credible and truthful, we have to apply the same logic around the trust that we give to social media platforms, politicians and organisations that make use of AI.
There you have it – AI isn’t biased, but the people who control and use it most definitely are.