Business executives are now seen as the driving force in AI ethics, according to the latest study by IBM’s Institute for Business Value (IBV). The survey saw “a sharp uptick” of 80% from 15% in 2018 of respondents who said that non-technical executives, such as a CEO, are the primary champion for AI ethics.
More than three-quarters of business leaders surveyed this year agree AI ethics is important to their organizations, up from about 50% in 2018.
“Like many companies today use AI algorithms across their business, they potentially face increasing internal and external demands to design these algorithms to be fair, secured, and trustworthy; yet, there has been little progress across the industry in embedding AI ethics into their practices,” said Jesus Mantas, global managing partner, IBM Consulting. “Our IBV study findings demonstrate that building trustworthy AI is a business imperative and a societal expectation, not just a compliance issue. As such, companies can implement a governance model and embed ethical principles across the full AI life cycle.”
IBM defines AI ethics as “a set of guidelines that advise on the design and outcomes of artificial intelligence. Human beings come with all sorts of cognitive biases, such as recency and confirmation bias, and those inherent biases are exhibited in our behaviors and subsequently, our data.”
The IBV study also reveals that 75% of respondents believe ethics is a source of competitive differentiation, and more than 67% of respondents that view AI and AI ethics as important indicate their organizations outperform their peers in sustainability, social responsibility, and diversity and inclusion.
CEOs, business executives
The global study also indicates that despite a strong imperative for advancing trustworthy AI, including better performance compared to peers in sustainability, social responsibility, and diversity and inclusion, there remains a gap between leaders’ intentions and meaningful actions.
CEO top the business executive function as the driving force in AI ethics with 28%. They are followed by board members (10%), general counsels (10%), privacy officers (8%), and Risk & Compliance officers (6%).
About 66% of respondents cite the CEO or other C-level executive as having a strong influence on their organization’s ethics strategy, more than half cite board directives (58%) and the shareholder community (53%).
More surveyed CEOs (79%) are now prepared to embed AI ethics into their AI practices, up from 20% in 2018, and more than half of responding organizations have publicly endorsed common principles of AI ethics.
At the same time, 75% of respondents believe ethics is a source of competitive differentiation, and more than 67% of respondents who view AI and AI ethics as important indicate their organizations outperform their peers in sustainability, social responsibility, and diversity inclusion.
IBM said the time for companies to act is now. The study data suggest that those organizations that implement a broad AI ethics strategy interwoven throughout business units may have a competitive advantage moving forward. The study provides recommended actions for business leaders including:
- Take a cross-functional, collaborative approach. Ethical AI requires a holistic approach, and a holistic set of skills across all stakeholders involved in the AI ethics process. C-Suite executives, designers, behavioral scientists, data scientists, and AI engineers each have a distinct role to play in the trustworthy AI journey.
- Establish both organizational and AI lifecycle governance to operationalize the discipline of AI ethics. Take a holistic approach to incentivizing, managing, and governing AI solutions across the full AI lifecycle, from establishing the right culture to nurture AI responsibly, to practices and policies to products.
- Reach beyond your organization for partnership – expand your approach by identifying and engaging key AI-focused technology partners, academics, startups, and other ecosystem partners to establish “ethical interoperability.”