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Where is that pot of gold that AI promised?

This article is for informational purposes only – please read our Terms and Conditions.

Somewhere over the rainbow…

While those who bought certain tech stocks last year might say more fool you, at the coal face it can feel rather challenging. Your Board suggests to your investment team that the process of collating data from various sources into digestible collateral for decision-making, something perfected over many years in your investment process, should be outsourced to some AI bot which will transform efficiencies and probably do away with jobs to boot.

Daggers aside, it makes sense. Furthermore, the arrival of AI in an accessible and useable form suggests that simple automation of data processing isn’t quite enough. As so publicly demonstrated by the generative AI sites such as ChatGPT, AI poses the opportunity to learn from data being processed and the results it generates, so to improve the outcome. Machine learning, operating on the fringes of machine thinking perhaps.

Unsurprisingly, it has grabbed public attention. I suspect many readers will not have difficulty in remembering the experiences of first using desktop computers and mobile devices, laptops, face to face calls on your phones, nearly all the stuff of science fiction when we grew up. It wasn’t that long ago that email took hold of our lives and transformed the work and home environment for ever.  And if like me, you took some pride in staying on top of the rapid iterations of the day-to-day word processing and spreadsheet software which we now rely on, well, you also probably gave up a long time ago and just use and appreciate it for what it is. AI is another of these quantum leaps forward on an already steep innovation curve.

However, it is much more than the public face of search engines; it is all about efficiency and productivity, streamlining processes, better customer interfaces and improved data analysis. Providers like Microsoft and Google are layering AI functionality into their products, making our day to day lives easier.  The use of chatbots is proliferating, although you might agree that the output of some well-known customer facing brands has some way to go. Companies are building private search engines for internal or specific industry use. The opportunities seem endless.  Beware though, there are tools that can tell you how much of your content is AI search derived!   

There are of course serious moral and ethical aspects of the rollout of AI to be considered, as highlighted by the public clash of the Board of ChatGPT, its CEO and founder, and backer Microsoft last year. Is industry self-regulation sufficient, can we trust the outcomes and how does society manage the risks posed by potential bad results, errors and data protection especially in sensitive areas of our lives? Business structures and employee engagement will be impacted. Leading on from that, the societal impact of any job losses, of which there could be many in time, will need to be considered. And potentially on a more positive note, what does AI mean for carbon targets and the adoption of sustainable, ESG driven business practices?

These questions do need answers in due course but AI is set to be a key strategic driver for business going forward. The providers and enablers of AI currently lead market sentiment, but in time investor attention will shift to those harnessing this new technology. The hype may be subsiding but the momentum of these changes is just getting going.