Here’s how some leading CIOs are using AI – right now

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As a health check on what CIOs are thinking, from across industries, is one site to bookmark. When the consensus at the beginning of 2019 is that this will be the year of AI, then you simply have to read an article on what CIOs are doing with AI right now. How cool can it be?

The problem is that, while the range of things CIOs are doing seems pretty wide and pretty useful, they are not, well, very leading edge or wind swept.

You would expect top CIOs to be using AI for widespread transformation, sustainable and responsible growth, a more eco-friendly approach to humanity’s problems, a win-win deal with customers, partners, the earth and themselves.

The truth is that most are just automating stuff. There is nothing wrong with that, automating stuff reduces costs and increases efficiencies.

At Walmart, for instance, they have deployed bots to match orders with customers, purchase orders with invoices.

The savings will be significant, without a doubt, but it hardly triggers the ethical ‘fight or flight’ reaction of many AI observers.

At Western Digital, the chip maker, AI is being used to ‘optimise the test processes’ which can save hundreds of millions in capex.

7-Eleven is using chatbots to optimise its customer experience through the use of a Facebook Messenger app that, it seems, manages a loyalty programme efficiently.

At education company Pearson the CIO Albert Hitchcock is using AI to…nope, more efficiency and customer experience stuff here as well.

Pearson does say that he is looking at AI for a range of education enhancing programmes such as ‘personalised education’ (which does sound very cool) but he is just looking at it.

The most exciting entry for what CIOs are doing with AI seemed to be Bank of America. On closer inspection, however, their actual use of AI is in the, wait, yes, efficiency space – with its Virtual Banking Assistant. BoA is also looking at AI to combat fraud and money laundering.

The bank is, however, in conjunction with Harvard, teaming up to create the Council on Responsible Use of AI. They plan to get Government, education, commerce and observers involved.

You have to ask the question: to do what? Discuss efficiencies in the back office?

If we are not on the brink of being taken over by robots then is the establishment of the Council on Responsible Use of AI and many other such ethics committees, from the ITU downwards a little bit over the top?

We do not know what the future holds or where AI will be in five to ten years’ time. At some point we might be discussing how to teach our robot overlords to empathise and not just use logic in all things.

Judging by what the most powerful Information Officers on the planet are doing with AI right now, we do not have to overly worry just yet.

In fact we probably need to come up some extra acronyms for AI – from automating stuff, through making repetitive but important decisions, to teaching robots to think for themselves while giving them guns.

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