Directors need to focus AI governance more on how AI will be used in their organisations in the next three to five years and less on “quick wins” for the next quarter, says AI expert Dr Radhika Dirks. 

    The FOMO (fear of missing out) element initially drove moves to embrace generative AI, with organisations rushing into the space during the past 18 months. Now many are pulling back to investigate a broader, more long-term AI strategy that assists their core missions, according to global AI adviser Dr Radhika Dirks.

    Companies eager to jump on the bandwagon need to recognise brands can be taken down overnight with the power of AI, which is one reason why governance of how an organisation uses the technology needs to be decided and communicated, but continue to adapt and evolve. There is reputational risk, but also risk in not participating. “You don’t want to run the risk of sitting this one out,” says Dirks. “The underlying infrastructure of the world has entirely changed.”

    Formerly co-founder and CEO of XLabs and Ribo AI, Dirks was at the forefront of AI development a decade ago as founder of Seldn, an AI startup that accurately predicted global socio-economic disruptions. She is currently CEO of Icons AI helping Fortune 1000 companies adopt AI.

    Dirks is an advocate for having a board member with AI expertise across industries as well as a chief AI officer in the business. “Stick to your main business and be AI second,” she says. “You need someone on your board with hands-on AI experience, who has managed teams and has the business and technology skills.”

    The important questions boards must ask include: Are we upskilling our people? What is our AI strategy? How are we navigating AI security and negative considerations such as hallucinations and bias? Where is the data coming from?

    “Upskilling is really important and nuanced, because it’s not about training our people in AI,” says Dirks. “People are using AI, even if businesses aren’t officially adopting it, so why not [teach] them how to do it the right way? You bring the issues of AI to the forefront instead of them figuring it out. This is where you can develop a safeguard.”

    The second thing is AI strategy. “The executive team and the board need to ask, where are we headed with this and what do we really want to get out of it for the company?”

    The big issues

    Teams are excited by AI, but also “feeling very challenged” by it, says Dirks.

    One of the challenges is to engage and discover how to extract the value from the technology. When deciding the purpose for using AI, organisations must also investigate the many negative considerations. All boards need to be aware of three big issues in AI so they can keep asking the same question: “How are we navigating the dangers of AI?”

    The first issue is hallucinations. AI can spew out complete misinformation. The second is bias. “Bias is really insidious, because we are talking about hiring or using these systems in finance, so there can be massive implications,” says Dirks.

    “The third is data, by which I mean copyright and IP. If you’re using AI to create your new business plan, strategy or product, you could unintentionally infringe on copyright from competitors or other businesses. On the flip side, if you’re using these systems, whatever data you input will become fodder for the next version that someone else might develop.”

    AI security is another growing concern, with the technology being capable of infiltrating data to present to the outside world as representing you or your company. Deep-fake audio and video are other examples of this.

    Dirks says we have had a glimpse into a tool that can deal with problems. It is a new kind of intelligence, with huge potential for elevating humans to flourish, but perhaps the biggest risk of AI is rushing it to make quick wins purely for commercial gain.

    “Directors have to master a fine balance,” says Dirks. “They need to push for AI in the businesses, but also to be their biggest sceptic in the boardroom. Each organisation needs to find that internal balance and determine what is the right speed for adoption.”

    AI adviser Dr Radhika Dirks is CEO of Icons AI, helping Fortune 1000 companies successfully adopt AI.

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