Emerging Technologies

Artificial intelligence will transform decision-making. Here's how

Artificial intelligence already plays a crucial role the decision-making processes.

Artificial intelligence already plays a crucial role the decision-making processes. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Philip Meissner
Professor ESCP Business School, Founder & Director European Center for Digital Competitiveness
Yusuke Narita
Assistant Professor of Economics, Yale University
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  • Effective use of artificial intelligence in strategic decision-making will be one of the biggest determinants for future competitiveness.
  • The interaction between humans and AI, as well as the ability to choose which decisions to delegate to AI, will be among the most important skills for decision-makers.
  • Trust, access and integration will shape the scale and speed of AI adoption in future decision-making processes.

Artificial intelligence already plays a crucial role in the decision-making processes of many companies and is increasingly used to inform policy and public sector decisions around the world. Supervised learning, for example, is already used by some governments to detect potential criminals and terrorists.

Yet, so far, only 7% of companies use AI in big strategic decisions, such as strategy development or financial planning. At the same time, the importance of the technology for the future is enormous: 75% of business leaders believe that what will set companies apart from their competitors in the future will be determined by who has the most advanced generative AI.

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Especially in the area of decision-making, we already see AI’s power today. Indeed, it has already arrived in many board rooms. More than 40% of CEOs say they use generative AI to inform their decision-making processes. There are many benefits of such AI tools, from better compliance to less biased and more inclusive strategic decisions. At the same time, as AI becomes more advanced, we will have to develop strategies for how to use these systems in important decisions. We will have to decide how to best interact with AI, and more importantly, which decisions we can completely delegate to AI.

In fact, we think that future competitiveness may not only be about who has the most advanced AI, but also how this technology is used for strategic decision-making. This will ultimately influence the competitiveness of companies and countries in the age of AI.

Two types of AI-based decisions

Some decisions today are already made entirely by AI. For instance, at Ant Financial, AI is approving loans and will now be increasingly used in wealth management. Also, tech companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Netflix allocate digital content by reinforcement learning algorithms.

While fully autonomous AI decisions may still be the exception, most decisions executives and consumers make are already informed by AI. At Amazon, for example, 35% of revenue is driven by AI recommendations. Government services are also increasingly influenced by the technology. In Singapore, citizens can get information about government services 24/7 by using “Ask Jamie” or the new VICA bot.

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This human-AI interaction has important implications for decision-making. A recent study found that decision-makers arrive at completely different decisions using identical AI recommendations based on their individual decision-making styles. This suggests that it may not be enough to develop a perfect AI. If there is a human in the loop, we will still have to think about the psychological elements driving decision-making.

These developments leave us with many questions that are crucial for the future of decision-making. Which decisions will we still make in the future? Could AI automate more and more decisions in our everyday lives? Will it make these decisions better than we do? In any case, we will have to think about which decisions we are comfortable for AI to make and which ones we would rather make ourselves. The answer will likely differ around the world.

Main drivers of AI-based decisions

In our view, there are three main drivers that will shape the speed and scale to which AI will be used in decision-making and, as a result, influence competitiveness.

1. Trust

A recent global study showed that trust levels in AI differ quite substantially around the globe. While 75% of people in India are willing to trust AI, only 15% would do so in Finland and 23% in Japan. We believe that the adoption of AI in decision-making will depend significantly on the level of trust in the system. Will we see a world of multiple speeds in AI-based decision-making? In a competitive setting, such developments could significantly influence the competitiveness of nations in the tech space.

2. Access

Will the world’s leading AI systems be open ones that essentially give everyone access to an individual AI, or closed systems that enable companies and nations to differentiate themselves and control access to the technology? In a world in which closed systems dominate, strategic AI-based decisions might be a luxury of the few.

3. Integration

The third factor we predict will determine the scale and speed of AI adoption in decision-making is the way in which both companies and governments are able to manage the AI-human interface. Being able to effectively utilize AI input in strategic decisions and mitigating the effects of human biases in the process will be crucial.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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