Question: How can technology be used to serve humanity rather than the other way around? Billy Seabrook, Global Chief Creative Officer at IBM shared his thoughts at Pausefest 2019 in Melbourne.

It is no surprise that the pace of technological change is creating a myriad of developments in humanity. These changes are being driven by the convergence of data, unlimited storage, Artificial Intelligence (AI) capability and processing speeds. This is creating the perfect storm for humanity to flourish or destruct.

It is estimated that only 1 per cent of the world’s data is currently being collected and analysed.

Considering how far we have come with data analysis, we still have a long way to go. This presents tremendous opportunities as well as challenges.

Introducing the AI paradox…

In this context, the AI paradox is basically the double-edged sword of technology. As the growth and expansion of the technology continue, the opportunity to solve issues or create bigger ones becomes evident.

Example: Predictive AI

There are various capabilities of AI. Predictive AI uses current and historical data to make predictions about future behaviours or trends.

The good:

Delta Airlines is using AI to predict turbulence across flight routes. This allows planes to be rerouted which saves money, fuel and creates a smoother ride for customers. Turbulence costs the airline industry $100million every year.

Read more about the Delta’s flight weather viewer app here.

The bad:

Courts in the United States are using AI to predict repeat criminal offenders based on historical data. They are also using the technology to make decisions about bail, sentencing and early release.
The formula has unfortunately created a machine bias which means that black defendants were unfairly treated and sentenced.

Read more about it from Propublica here.

The good and bad of predictive AI (Delta on the left and US courts on the right) 

Ok. But how does this relate to social innovation?

As seen above, the rise of emerging technology means that things can go right but also really wrong. Critical thinking and ethics are imperative now to ensure justice and equality in the world of AI usage.

As businesses begin to test and experiment with AI capability, there needs to be a strong sense of ethical intent to ensure there aren’t negative consequences. Using emerging technology should be foundational for all businesses to drive innovation and can be an enabler of identifying new social issues to solve.

So, how is IBM designing for humanity so tech serves humanity?

Billy spoke about IBM’s approach to ensure AI will create opportunities for humanity rather than challenges.

IBM’s 3Ps: Principles, People and Purpose

1. Principles

IBM has an overarching values system that guides employees to make a decision. This feeds into a culture of critical thinking which helps them to plan for the best and the worst.

2. People

This is IBM’s approach to bringing the human component of tech.The changing nature of work means people need to be upskilled and empowered to understand emerging technology. They are also looking down the education system chain and educating kids early through public and private partnerships.

It is also manifesting in their product development where they recently created an AI talent management tool that matches people to the best jobs for them based on their CV and experiences.

3. Purpose

This is IBM’s approach to developing purpose through design. Billy spoke of the intent to bring the ‘why’ into the ‘what’ and how important the brand is to communicate this.IBM uses design to focus on learning about unmet needs and ensuring feedback loops are embedded in processed for qualitative data.

You can read more about IBM’s trust and responsibility here.

Key insights

  • The data revolution is only just beginning and will create sensors to measure things we have not even thought of yet.
  • AI can be used to identify social issues that can be solved with business models. More NFPs and Government need to be working with AI companies to collaborate and solve these social issues.
  • Leaders, employees and advocates with strong intent, ethics and critical thinking will be the difference between flourishing and destruction.

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