World Economic Forum Jumps on the AI Hype Train
Thu, April 22, 2021

World Economic Forum Jumps on the AI Hype Train

The WEF released an AI toolkit for corporate boards / Photo Credit: Andrey Suslov (via Shutterstock)


David A. Teich of business news website Forbes reported that the World Economic Forum (WEF) announced an AI toolkit for corporate boards last Friday. It pointed to “Empowering AI Leadership,” a section of their website. The toolkit was well laid out and some of its well-produced pdfs are available for download. In Teich’s perspective, the AI toolkit is top notch. He noted that boards of directors have broad but shallow oversight over enterprises. Hence, there is no need to focus on details. The description of AI is “very nice,” containing many definitions of the technology. Teich pointed out the definition of AI and machine learning (ML) continue to change and have different meanings to many. However, the problem in the toolkit is one that many individuals miss about ML.

The WEF claims in its introductory module, “The breakthrough came in recent years, when computer scientists adopted a practical way to build systems that can learn.” The organization supports it with a link to an article that defined ML incorrectly. The breakthrough cited in the article, the level of accuracy in an ML system, is more driven by a non-AI breakthrough than a particular ML model. Teich was also amused about the WEF’s list of  “core AI techniques” where deep learning and neural networks are “listed at the same level as the learning methods used to train them.” Boards don’t need to know the difference to start, but they have to be introduced to the terms. Glancing at the glossary, Teich commended the high-level definitions of some of the terms to help interested board members. 

 With regard to ethics, the WEF says at the beginning of the module that  tech companies, government agencies, NGOs, etc. have developed many AI codes of ethics and professional conduct. For Teich, the section minimized governmental regulation, meaning it’s all up to the ethical, Fortune 500 companies. Overall, he lauded the WEF for taking a strong look at AI, presenting it as a seemingly “very good, introductory, toolkit for boards of directors.” However, there is a need for the WEF to take a stronger stand on ethics. It will be interesting to see how the WEF will position themselves in this issue over the next several years.