History has shown that after a breakthrough technology hits the peak of its hype cycle, a “trough of disillusionment” follows. The same is about to happen to artificial intelligence (AI), warned chief executive officer of Deloitte Canada, Anthony Viel, as he spoke at the ALL IN event in Montreal last week.
“ChatGPT is our NetScape,” said Viel, “Our canary in the coal mine.”
They both surged with crazy promises, over-excitement and a bullish market. But all that is tempered when the new technology does not immediately meet our wildest needs or match the power of our imagination and our patience, he explained.
“When that happens, we tend to dismiss it or ignore it, and move on to the next thing,” he added, stressing that we cannot get “distracted or get lulled into a sense of inaction.”
Companies that persisted, like Amazon during the dot com crash in the 1990s, reaped “huge, historic rewards” and players like Google that surfaced in the mid 2000s entirely changed the game.
“We don’t know yet what our Google moment will look like. But we know it’s coming. And I believe it’s coming faster than we think.”
He argued that the trough of disillusionment, which will impact companies across the board, will be short, lasting weeks and months, but not years. And, it is during that period of rapid technological change that leaders should commit to a position to not just survive, but thrive and take advantage of the new situation, noted Viel.
His keynote at ALL IN comes as Deloitte released a new report, highlighting the opportunities of AI, but also its numerous risks.
The report notes that a significant 86 per cent of surveyed Canadian companies had concerns about AI’s ethical risks.
Inaction is not an option even amid those risks, underscored Viel.
“Make no mistake, these risks are real, but so are the risks of doing nothing.”
Business leaders, he said, have an obligation to build a foundation for ethical and responsible AI, especially in the absence of regulation. Additionally, they should work with regulators, who struggle to keep pace with technological change, to fast track benchmarks and the boundaries for everyone else to follow.
An ethical rollout of AI also means creating an approach that is fundamentally inclusive, Viel noted.
The Deloitte report, in fact, revealed that 51 per cent of respondents cite the potential for bias in AI algorithms and/or about the potential for low-quality results as notable risks.
Viel said that he is not very concerned about low quality results from generative AI systems, as they will continue to improve, but biases are highly concerning.
“Gen AI tools developed naively or in a vacuum will have hardwired racial, gender, and other biases into their operation, which I think has the potential to further divide us as a society,” Viel said. “Now, this is simply not acceptable. And we have to make sure that this doesn’t happen.”
In his keynote, Viel also dismissed concerns about AI replacing jobs and again referred to history;
“It’s happened before and it’ll happen again, whether it was the steam engines, the telegraph or the internet, all of these advancements created jobs.”
The Deloitte report, as a matter of fact, notes that only a quarter of the respondents are worried about losing their jobs. Additionally, over the last five years, Canada’s cohort of AI talent rose an average of 38 per cent annually, outpacing the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Sweden.
“As AI leads us into the fourth industrial revolution, our purpose remains steadfast, and at the forefront of our words and our actions,” concluded Viel. “I call on all of you to look inward. Never forget the legacy of those who come before you, and the promise, the purpose that guided you to this point today. When we do this, collectively, we can not only be part of an ethical, responsible, and prosperous era for Canada and Canadians, but also right the wrongs of the past and accelerate a better future for all.”