Intelligent Automation: Transformation in a Time of Uncertainty
April 13, 2023 | Chicago
Companies large and small are faced with an uncertain economy brought about by rising prices, higher wages and fears of shrinking growth rates. The Bloomberg Intelligent Automation roadshow stopped in Chicago for a program focused on ways in which organizations can offset economic pressures and thrive by implementing intelligent automation systems that enhance operational efficiencies and stakeholder value. At this roundtable dinner, business and IT executives gathered to share their experiences and insights about the workforce of the future. The potential benefits and daunting risks created by AI were all very much on the participants’ minds. If there was a consensus, however, it was that AI will be widely adopted: the benefits–and the temptations–are just too strong to be resisted.
Pratik Gupta, Chief Technology Officer, IBM Automation
Stacey Riley, Director of Data, AI & Automation, IBM
Talvis Love, Senior Vice President & Chief Information Officer, Baxter
Mike Mahaffey, Executive Vice President, Chief Strategy & Corporate Development Officer, Nationwide
Ray Boyle, Vice President of Data & Analytics, Hyatt Hotels
Jarrod Anderson, Global Head of Artificial Intelligence, ADM
Matthew Kelly, Senior Vice President, Digital & Automation, Northern Trust Asset Management
Rahul Trivedi, Vice President, Intelligent Automation, TransUnion
Mary Purk, Executive Director of AI & Analytics, Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
Brandon Sutcliffe, Americas Financial Services Sustainable Finance Leader, EY
Ziyad Nazem, Manager of Data and Analytics, AbbVie
Suzanne Kovass, Manager, Intelligent Automation, Exelon Corp
Shanthi Gudavalli, Executive Director, Applied Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Janet Wu, Anchor & Reporter, Bloomberg
Ritika Gupta, On-Air Reporter & Producer, Bloomberg
Janet Wu, Anchor & Reporter, Bloomberg, asked attendees to describe the common concern they hear from clients. Pratik Gupta, Chief Technology Officer, IBM Automation, said that many of his company’s clients had struggled with disruptions following the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, companies that had automated were better situated to deal with labor shortages. Another area he reported was cyber threats: “The threat environment only gets more complex, and the rate at which the attack happens is faster and faster. So how do you use threat intelligence and automation to eliminate cyber threats?”
Gupta’s colleague, Stacey Riley, Director of Data, AI & Automation at IBM, added that her customers are concerned about their cloud exposure. They want to “rightsize their presence in the cloud and protect their data.” She said her clients want a return on investment that will pay off in 12 months, allowing them to move on to their next investment. They also want to make the best use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools such as Chat GPT for both internal and customer service tasks. “It’s using AI in a customer-service environment, but automating what they’re asking for, so it’s all about customer experience.”
Mary Purk, Executive Director of AI & Analytics, Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, said she thinks the popularity of Chat GPT is a positive step because it allows customers to become familiar with AI and learn to trust the technology. “You need to encourage people to use it.” However, Talvis Love, Senior Vice President & Chief Information Officer, Baxter, said he has mixed feelings. “Bad actors can find every single opportunity and every point of leverage they can…having that type of power in their hands is scary to me.” He is confident that security issues will be addressed, but for the time being he has blocked access to Chat GPT on his network “not for what you get out of it but what you put in.” In particular, Love expressed concerns about financial and network data that might be sent to the AI system and then misused.
Mike Mahaffey, Executive Vice President, Chief Strategy & Corporate Development Officer,
Nationwide, added that the speed with which thousands and then millions of users will adopt technologies like Chat GPT is worrying. But he predicted that competitive pressures will ensure the technology spreads. “The cat’s out of the bag. It will be adopted.”
Pratik Gupta described how AI systems can perform tasks that had been done by white-collar workers, such as developing business processes. A bank official, for instance, could ask AI to outline a loan-processing procedure that accounts for new regulations. Matthew Kelly, Senior Vice President, Digital & Automation, Northern Trust Asset Management, brought up proposals to pause the development of AI, arguing that much of the motivation for the “pause” is the threat that AI poses to white-collar employees. Jarrod Anderson Global Head of Artificial Intelligence, ADM, pushed back, saying that the implications of AI were still not fully understood.
Anderson continued to outline the disruptive nature of AI: “Entire industries and professions are going to go, which is just a terrible thing to happen. But I also suspect we’re on the verge…of a huge increase in innovation, new ideas, new things that will transform humanity.”
In practical terms, AI has already proved itself extremely useful, said Suzannes Kovass, Manager, Intelligent Automation, Exelon Corp. She described how Exelon uses AI to manage its utility lines. AI is helping the company develop test cases and contingency plans for solar events–and even predict when parts will need to be replaced. Pratik Gupta described how he asked AI to create a vacation itinerary. “It gave me better suggestions than I would have written myself.” Ray Boyle, Vice President of Data & Analytics, Hyatt Hotels, said he wondered whether AI could be used to solve larger issues like climate change, the condition of cities, or hunger.
Mike Mahaffey painted a best-case scenario “This is where we have the transition to the Gene Roddenberry-Star Trek universe.” As he sees it, artificial intelligence could relieve material and mental scarcity globally, leading to sweeping societal changes. But he also saw a paradoxical problem: A reliable AI should give similar answers to similar conditions, but when large numbers of people adopt the same practices, they create a systemic risk–a miscalculation or unexpected development could have catastrophic results as companies or communities worldwide experience the same failures simultaneously. Pratik Gupta suggested in which AI is designed to provide different models for individual situations. This restores the resilience, as long as the individual models are well designed.
Brandon Sutcliffe, Americas Financial Services Sustainable Finance Leader, EY, was concerned with how regulators would respond to widespread AI adoption. Regarding systemic risk, Sutcliffe would prefer that governments develop a playbook based on principles rather than detailed instructions, allowing organizations to take different approaches. But Mike Mahaffey suspects that governments will continue to be more prescriptive and rules-based. Mahaffey also fears that wealth will be more concentrated among a relatively small number of developers.
Looking at the balance of risks and opportunities, Talvis Love concluded that businesses will need to take the lead while government lags behind: “Government processes are tied down by politics…if companies can band together to create some frameworks–some rules of the road–it’s going to make the technology that much better.”
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