The human side of artificial intelligence

The world is awash in data. There is more information available now than at any time in human history and we’re creating more of it faster than ever before. Powerful, artificial intelligence-driven algorithms analyze that data not just to understand what’s already happened, but to also predict what’s likely to happen next—with transformative implications for human health, prosperity and economic growth.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already helping companies manage risk and financial matters, while also helping better meet customer needs. Yet as with any transformative technology, AI presents its own risks, including the potential for unintended consequences. By focusing too heavily on how to use it, businesses and governments risk overlooking a subject of equal or greater importance—how do they ensure that it is used wisely?

AI with a conscience

The answer won’t be found in an algorithm; it can only be provided by people, and requires reframing how we think about artificial intelligence. According to Cathy Bessant, chief operations and technology officer at Bank of America, it’s critical to understand that AI is a subset of human intelligence, not a replacement for it.

Technology is not the destination, and AI will not create better decisions on its own.” —  Cathy Bessant, chief operations and technology officer at Bank of America

As the power of AI continues to grow, political, business and social leaders will need to ensure that algorithms are endowed not just with intelligence, but also with the wisdom to understand and reflect the diversity of human culture and experience.

To do so, these leaders must work together to create firm and transparent governance processes. Amid consumer concerns about privacy and security, businesses can help ease fears about AI by being open about what data they are collecting, the reasons for collecting it and how the data is being used.

Rather than resisting regulation and oversight, private business in particular have the opportunity to lead the way in creating strict ethical frameworks for the implementation and growth of responsible AI.

Joining forces for a better future

The nature and scope of these challenges is such that no single actor can ensure that AI will be a force for good. To help address these issues and help society as a whole find the necessary answers, in 2018 Bank of America became the founding donor of the Council on the Responsible Use of Artificial Intelligence at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

The Council is bringing together leaders from private business, education and government on a multidisciplinary approach aimed at capturing the growth potential of AI while taking a deliberate approach to minimizing the risks.

As we consider the future, the question is not whether we should continue to develop AI or retreat to a pre-AI world. If human history tells us anything, it’s that knowledge will surely advance, and so will the awesome capabilities of artificial intelligence.