Artificial intelligence (AI) and the data economy together form one of the four grand challenges in the UK Industrial Strategy. Many, if not most, companies are now using AI systems in their daily operations and business processes including, for example, HR function (talent acquisition, employee engagement), customer relations, business intelligence, logistics and supply chain. The increasing commercial interest in the area has led to a deepening awareness that AI raises some serious ethical and business risk issues. For example, many AI-based HR systems for talent acquisition use machine learning to make initial shortlists of applicants using the data from previous recruitment campaigns. However, this will tend to lead to the selection of predominate stereotypes based on historical precedents, exposing the company to the risk of creating an unbalanced workforce, possibly incurring severe brand damage and potentially breaching equality law. Many similar issues have been identified over recent years including AI-based medical systems designed around Caucasian health and life styles, adverts appearing next to inappropriate content on social media and databases for image recognition systems that are racially biased.

In addition to these recognised issues, it is highly likely there are other currently unidentified issues from the deployment of AI systems that could emerge many years after implementation, potentially causing brand damage and increased legal risk. Once these issues come to light, they could be difficult and very expensive to correct as the AI system concerned is likely to have become deeply embedded in the company’s IT architecture. All of these potential risks can reduce business confidence and trust in AI systems.

The business community has started to get to grips with these issues, seeking to introduce standards and regulations which minimise the risk of deploying AI based business solutions. At Oxford Brookes University, we are seeking to support businesses in this endeavour, helping them to understand and plan for both the opportunities and the risks that AI technology presents. We are particularly interested in exploring how AI systems can embody the values of an organisation and operate within its brand. To this end, the university is bringing together a diverse group of world-leading experts who together blend knowledge and skills from technology, business, social science and the life sciences. We seek to offer expertise in areas that include AI and machine learning, psychology, business development, economics and accounting, marketing, gender based law, equality and diversity, coaching and mentoring, digital health and wellbeing. This support can be given to businesses in a number of ways including consultancy, contract research, CPD and training,  funded PhD studentships, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (Innovate UK), and research projects funded by Innovate UK, the research councils and various charities. Come and visit our stand at Venturefest Oxford 2018 where we can discuss these opportunities with you.

Prof Nigel Crook  BSc (Hons), PhD, PFHEA, MIEEE
Associate Dean: Research and Knowledge Exchange, Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment
Head of the Cognitive Robotics Research Group
Oxford Brookes University