Discourse 28 Jan 2018 Doing things intelli ...

Doing things intelligently

Published Jan 28, 2018, 3:40 am IST
Updated Jan 28, 2018, 3:50 am IST
The last principle is of special importance as any conversation about AI inevitably turns to the highly emotive topic of job elimination.
The purpose of AI has never been to replace human experts.
 The purpose of AI has never been to replace human experts.

Take a good look around and you will find examples of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in use in daily life everywhere-from the time you fire up your smartphone to share updates on social media, to when you order that special “world cuisine” meal for lunch, or the next time you are making travel plans for a long weekend getaway. Social media platforms around the world use AI to learn more about you, curate news and messages, and offer you targeted products, services or places of interest to you. A myriad virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa use AI to constantly learn from your interactions and serve you better. These are just a few obvious examples. Dig a little deeper and most people will be surprised by how much AI is enmeshed in our daily lives without us even realising it. Clearly, AI is not just hype, but already very much a reality today.

Accenture’s research on the impact of AI in 12 major developed economies reveals that AI could double annual economic growth rates by 2035, boosting labour productivity by up to 40 per cent, enabling people to make more efficient use of their time. Specific to India, the research found that AI has the potential to add $957 billion to the economy, lifting the country’s income by 15 per cent in 2035, by changing the nature of work to create better outcomes for business and society.


Besides being an exponential factor of growth, AI can create immense value in improving lives and society. In healthcare, for example, scientists are using AI to study a person’s internal age and lifestyle, and subsequently determine the person’s risk of developing dangerous diseases.

In another example, Accenture introduced Drishti, an AI-powered solution that improves how the visually-impaired experience the world around them. Using just a smartphone, Drishti can narrate text from books, recognise obstructions like glass doors and detect people in a room as well as their ages, genders and even emotions and provide visually-impaired people better context of the world.

In other fields, police and security personnel are adopting AI to study patterns of crime and accidents and develop measures to prevent them. Disaster-management organisations are adopting complex AI techniques to better forecast weather patterns and equip authorities with better decision-making ability.

As AI becomes more and more pervasive, questions are being raised about its adverse effects, especially around labour displacement, human safety and data privacy. This is where it becomes crucial to define and adopt an approach Accenture calls “Responsible AI”, which establishes principles on the design and use of AI. Responsible AI means incorporating human-centricity, accountability, fairness, honesty and transparency into the design of AI for the benefit of humanity.

Accenture’s approach to Responsible AI is rooted in four key principles: an ethics framework to govern intelligent systems; design that incorporates privacy, trust and security from the ground up; adequate mechanisms to monitor for accountability, bias, cybersecurity; and finally, ways to reskill humans to work in collaboration with machines.

The last principle is of special importance as any conversation about AI inevitably turns to the highly emotive topic of job elimination. This anxiety is understandable given the progress made in robotics and AI. The truth is that AI will take away many of the repetitive tasks that people do today. However, we believe that by adopting a people first approach and investing to reskill people, AI will augment the workforce by applying the capabilities of machines so people can focus on higher-value analysis, decision-making and innovation. In the process, AI will help create jobs that do not exist today, while also transforming existing jobs. Governments, policymakers, businesses and researchers need to come together to further develop and promote Responsible AI. We are already seeing good progress with the formation of alliances like the partnership on AI, which aims to advance understanding of AI among the public, and discuss the influence of AI on people and society. Eventually as AI matures and its adoption
increases in various fields, we will see that AI will transform what people can do; reinvent how businesses compete and thrive; and improve the way the world lives. AI is here to stay and should be embraced, but the only way to achieve its real promise is to put it to work with people.

Most common AI applications today, and in real time:

  • Sales and marketing: Customise the sales process, personalise communications to prospects and clients, match sales staff to buyers and offer personalised pricing.
  • Service: Offer virtual customer assistance and triage, predict maintenance and upcoming repair needs, connect service staff to customers.
  • Supply chain: Discover and correct data errors, discover risks in the supply chain, elevate insights from Internet of Things (IoT) devices and plan logistics.
  • Banking: Help customers access their bank accounts using chatbots.
  • Healthcare: Follow up with patients post-discharge using
    virtual nursing assistants.

(The author is group chief executive, Accenture Technology Services, with overall responsibility for the Accenture Application Services business and is a member of the Accenture Global Management Committee.)