Companies Embrace AI, but Senior Executives Cite Challenges on Alignment, Ethics
December 09, 2019
New survey data from GLG reveals that most businesses do not coordinate AI use across departments or take key measures to manage ethical concerns.
New York, New York; DECEMBER 9, 2019 – A new survey of senior executives issued today by GLG shows that corporate America is increasingly using AI, and executives anticipate that they will use it even more in the years ahead. But they also have significant concerns: 60% of executives surveyed do not feel that their organizations are fully aligned on how they should develop and use AI. And while more than 70% of executives say that their companies have adopted AI in the last three years, only a quarter say that they have taken steps to prevent bias that can result from AI. A third are not taking any steps to establish ethical practices for AI use.
The research is from a new GLG survey of more than 160 C-suite executives across three sectors – financial services, healthcare, and consulting – conducted between September 9 and November 13, 2019. This data reflects responses from CEOs, COOs, CFOs, CMOs, CTOs, and CHROs. More than 50 respondents lead companies with revenues in excess of $1 billion. This is one of the first quantitative surveys on attitudes toward AI at a senior level.
Artificial intelligence has sparked debates on everything from data privacy to bots taking jobs from humans to algorithms that perpetuate racial and gender bias. These issues have been widely reported, yet respondents in the survey reported that their companies have not taken steps to deal with them. For example, the survey found that:
- Only 26% said they have put measures into place to mitigate potential AI bias;
- Only 25% said they disclose the data AI collects and what is done with it;
- Only 16% said they have a dedicated committee within their organizations to oversee AI use; and
- Only 13% said they identify intelligent agents or chatbots as non-human entities.
The vast majority of corporate leaders believe that AI use will keep growing: 90% or more of executives in healthcare, consulting, and financial services believe AI will transform their businesses within the next five years and 98% plan to continue or expand their AI development. But many are worried about AI’s effects on the workforce: 50% of consulting executives and 49% of financial services executives say that they are very or somewhat concerned about AI replacing workers.
“Executives clearly believe that AI is here to stay, but they’re far from aligned on how to use it effectively and responsibly,” says GLG CEO Paul Todd. “This is new ground for businesses to explore – and navigating it will require coordination, a sense of purpose, persistent research, and a commitment to acting ethically at every turn.”
Along with quantitative data, the report contains comments from survey respondents reflecting the mixed perspectives of executives on AI’s future:
- CHRO, financial services: “Among fintech competitors, [AI] is essential to stay in the game in the future as customers are demanding it and business processes can’t keep up without it.”
- CMO, consulting: “Employees are (rightly) worried about being replaced by AI solutions. They should be worried, frankly, because if I can replace a $125K resource with a piece of software, I will. And so will everyone else.”
- CHRO, consulting: “A frequent complaint is that we took the human out of human resources; however, once employees/managers experience the benefits of AI, we have noticed a shift in perceptions.”
- CFO, healthcare: “AI in my world tends to lead to outcomes that just don’t make sense. And then they get defended to the death. I just want a spam filter that works. Even that is a stretch. How can we automate a decision on a $20m loan?”
“The data from our GLG survey is among the first from a broad cross section of senior executives,” says JP Lee, GLG’s Head of Surveys. “These executives recognize AI’s promise, but also have concerns and doubts about its long-term effects. For better or worse, they’re figuring AI out as they go.”
To read the report, click here.
About GLG (Gerson Lehrman Group)
GLG is the world’s knowledge marketplace. We connect decision makers to insights from experts, so they can act with the confidence that comes from true clarity. Our network of 700,000 professionals is the world’s largest and most varied source of first-hand expertise, and we recruit hundreds of new experts every day. We bring the power of insight to every great professional decision. Visit glginsights.com.