Illustration by Sir John Tenniel from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, 1871 (public domain).

Where are we in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) race?

In Lewis Carroll’s book Through the Looking-Glass, the Red Queen explains to Alice that her country is a place where “it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

This seems to be the sentiment business and IT executives encounter today as they try to keep up with the rapid pace of technology advancements, particularly when it comes to AI.

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What can Alice (and Wonderland) teach us about artificial intelligence? #TechVision2018

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The semiconductor industry is arguably at the forefront of the latest tech developments and innovation. Yet, in our Accenture Technology Vision 2018 survey, a staggering 90 percent of semiconductor executives agreed AI is advancing faster than their company’s pace of adoption. Other industries raising their hands high on this question include life sciences (85 percent) and downstream oil and gas (84 percent).

Across industries globally, 78 percent of business and IT executives believe AI is advancing faster than their organization’s pace of adoption.

Industry executives’ agreement with the statement: AI is advancing faster than my organization’s pace of adoption. N=6,381. Source: Accenture Technology Vision 2018 Survey, Accenture, 2018.

As the White Rabbit remarks, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”

Despite this perpetual sense of falling behind, organizations working with AI must not get ahead of themselves. Before taking on full-scale AI rollouts, they must confront and address fundamental questions, such as

  • What governance structures are in place for AI?
  • What procedures are needed to ensure appropriate audits of the data used to train and inform AI systems?
  • How much autonomy are you willing to give to your AI systems?

Above all, AI systems need to be explainable and transparent—and we’re not there yet. According to the Tech Vision survey, a mere 16 percent of organizations report that their employees fully understand the general principles (data, criteria, etc.) used to make AI-based decisions in their organization. And, what about customers and citizens who will demand this transparency as well?

“I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, sir. Because I am not myself, you see?” - Alice to the Caterpillar in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

To win the ultimate race, companies must realize that it’s not all about speed. They must build and sustain trust in their AI systems in a responsible manner. Leaders are beginning to recognize this: 72 percent of organizations seek to gain customer trust and confidence by being transparent in their AI-based decisions and actions.

What does your organization seek to gain by being transparent in your AI-based decisions and actions? N=6,381. Source: Accenture Technology Vision 2018 Survey, Accenture, 2018.

In Through the Looking-Glass, the Unicorn says to Alice, “Well, now that we have seen each other, if you believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?” I’d say it’s more than a bargain. It’s the way forward that organizations must embrace to be relevant and thrive. #TechVision2018

To read more about the technology trends impacting businesses, check out the 2018 Technology Vision.

Renee Byrnes

Senior Principal

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