In brief

In brief

  • Artificial Intelligence might just be the single biggest technology revolution the world has ever seen.
  • Staying ahead in the race to scale AI requires executives to have a strong understanding of AI’s game-changing-capabilities and economic impacts.
  • One way to prepare and act quickly: know the AI essentials outlined in this practical guide for executives.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This AI Explained guide was published in 2018, but we believe the content is still relevant to global executives today. If you’re interested in learning more about AI or reading our most recent research, see our latest insights here.

Today, everyone’s talking about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how it’s going to change the way we conduct business, and live our lives, forever.

In fact, it’s shaping up to be the single biggest technology revolution the world has ever seen. It’s a completely new factor of production, capable of driving business growth by augmenting natural human expertise, taking automation to new places, and diffusing innovation throughout society.

In its wake, it’s creating a fast-paced, ever-shifting, competitive investment and research landscape. Private investment is booming, as companies continue to scale and industrialize their AI applications. A new cohort of AI-first businesses is flowing into the market, shifting the competitive landscape for incumbents. And as many as three-quarters of executives say that some kind of AI will be actively implemented in their organization within three years.

It’s happening because AI technologies are finally hitting the mainstream. Thanks to the combinatorial effect of today’s unprecedented levels of technology innovation in so many different fields, today’s AI applications can make use of virtually unlimited cloud processing, exponentially faster custom-designed chips, and ever greater levels of computational efficiency.

The rapid pace of change puts a new onus on business executives. Do you understand what AI is, what it can do, and the ethical questions it raises? Have you truly grasped the game-changing implications for your business, your industry – and for the society you live in?

This practical guide is here to help executives answer all those questions and more.

A constellation of technologies

AI as we know it isn’t really a technology at all. Let us explain.

In reality, it’s a collection of different technologies, each evolving rapidly along its own S-curve. When they come together, they enable a machine to sense, comprehend, act, and learn with what seems like human levels of intelligence.

Using AI responsibly

The benefits of AI don’t come risk free. What kind of innovation does?

So it pays for executives to begin an AI journey with a clear-sighted view of what the risks might be for a business. There are four to consider up front:

  • Trust. How do we demonstrate that AI is responsible, ethical, and safe to use? How do we avoid unconscious biases being written in from the outset?
  • Liability. What happens when AI makes an error – or even breaks the law? Who is legally responsible?
  • Security. How do we prevent unauthorized or malicious manipulation of AI?
  • Control. What happens when a machine takes over a process? How does a human take it back if they need to?

Trust and transparency are key to mitigating these risks. Nearly three-quarters of executives told us their organizations seek to gain customer trust and confidence by being transparent in their AI-based decisions and actions.

Get the lowdown on AI and all it can do

This guide has been developed to give executives a clear sense of AI, its underlying technologies, its game-changing capabilities, and its potentially revolutionary implications. As it continues to gain critical mass, it’s going to change forever how we work and live.

The key takeaway? AI is here. It’s real. And it’s time to sit up, take notice, and take advantage.

Download the full AI Explained guide to learn more.

Ray Eitel-Porter

Managing Director – Applied Intelligence, Global Lead for Responsible AI


Aligning data strategy and digital transformation
Buy, build, partner
Responsible AI: From principles to practice

Frequently asked questions

C-suite executives need to have a deep understanding of AI, the value it can deliver, and how they should lead their organization through the early stages of adoption and beyond. Given the potential risks associated with AI, leaders also need to ensure that the right governance and controls are in place to allow AI to flourish in a responsible and ethical manner.

CEOs across industries are showing a new urgency around adopting and scaling AI. Accenture predicts that AI-influenced revenues are projected to roughly triple between 2018 and 2024. With the rapid growth in AI expected in the coming years, C-suite executives need to understand that AI is the key differentiator that will keep their business competitive, profitable and resilient for years to come.

AI can help executives tackle a wide range of sustainability challenges by improving performance against ESG metrics (environmental, social governance). Take environmental metrics as an example: AI can optimize procurement processes to reduce supply chain waste and improve profitability. It can also help monitor natural ecosystems and environments like the coral reef and recommend opportunities for preservation. When used strategically, AI has the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions and positively impact communities and the planet.

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