Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a broadly used term to describe computer-based technologies that employ complex logic to perform tasks. The potential applications of AI are wide in scope and pose commercial opportunities for companies. As with any opportunity, however, implementing AI can also present significant risks and requires specific governance considerations by company management and corporate boards. In some cases, management, board and organizational practices may warrant changes to adapt to AI. The cultural change and new skills sets required to maximize AI’s use within a company and for the Board can also be formidable.

On March 24 I had the pleasure of guiding and presenting an interactive workshop on “Understanding Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) — A Board Members Perspective”. In Touch Networks held this event and I worked with the President of In Touch North America, Naomi Kent to conduct the workshop. As you can see from the graphic (above) there were many participants, each bringing their knowledge and perspective to many very lively discussions!

The Workshop!

The workshop was very interactive. One aspect of the workshop that I believe really set the stage were the polling that was done. Immediately to understand the background of the participants the first poll asked; What is your experience level with AI/ML? The next poll; When someone mentions AI what comes to mind? This question provided an understanding that most of the participants thought of machine learning (ML) when anyone mentioned AI. This was very telling and during the workshop we examined what AI is comprised of; where machine learning fits within AI as well as how the board of directors need to handle AI issues of ROI, Risks and Ethics:

  • ROI: Executives have struggled to assess the business value of AI. Executives may understand the potential value of AI, however the general lack of institutional AI knowledge has made the evaluation process uncertain.
  • Risks: AI will influence the extent to which businesses ‘let go’ of decision-making processes and entrust them to AI/ML. This will create the potential for mistakes or failures to occur before a business can stop them or even without the business being aware there is a problem. The potential risks are myriad, depending on the nature of the business and the nature of the AI being used.
  • Ethics: AI ethics is a set of values, principles, and techniques that employ widely accepted standards of right and wrong to guide in the development and use of AI technologies. Boards must understand AI ethics and how ethical AI should be incorporated into their organization.

The case studies provided the participants with an opportunity to address AI issues of ROI, Risks and Ethics from a board level perspective given certain corporate scenarios. Here is an example of one of the case studies:


In Your Face (IYF) is an AI Start-up developing Facial Recognition Software. The public has voiced its concerns about the use and results of IYF’s Facial Recognition Software being used by a large retail chain; Shoppers World in all of their stores across the country.

Problem to be resolved by IYF Advisory Board:

IYF is dealing with an ethical AI problem with their Facial Recognition Software, which has caused many issues with the public and IYF has been threatened with legal action.

The Advisory Board: must work with IYF to address the investors, company employees, Shoppers World (IYF’s only client) and public concerns about the use and results of IYF’s Facial Recognition Software.

How, will you address this situation? Feel free to make any assumptions and position your response accordingly. I look forward to hearing from everyone!

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