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You have to let the genie out of the bottle! – Company managers and the MI

2023-10-18 14:21:00

Human errors are amplified by artificial intelligence, but success comes to brave managers who encourage their staff to experiment. This requires openness, and the key to that is higher education, as the participants of the Corvinus Roundtable explained on 16 October.

Budapesti Corvinus Egyetem

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly important, so it is vital that company managers learn as much as possible about it. Will many people really lose their jobs because of AI?  In what areas could it play a major role in the near future? These are the questions that were answered by the experts. 

“In Hungary, everyone knows everything, but the experts we are having here today have collected several years of experience in artificial intelligence,” this is how Dr. Miklós Stocker, Head of the Institute of Strategy and Management at the Corvinus University of Budapest welcomed the roundtable discussion organised by the Institute on 16 October under the title of “What every CEO needs to know about artificial intelligence”. 

Dr Viktor Dörfler, visiting researcher at the Corvinus University of Budapest and associate professor at the University of Strathclyde, recalled that when he first heard the presentation by British AI researcher and businessman Demis Hassabis, he found the whole thing outrageous. Then he himself led the development of an AI software in business. Dr Dörflert has always been interested in human knowledge. He made in-depth interviews with 17 Nobel laureates to find out how they think. He is the author of the book titled “What Every CEO Should Know About AI”, which has not been translated into Hungarian yet, but has been translated into Turkish. He believes that when he was getting the hang of AI, the problem was that he didn’t know yet how to sell it. “I intimidate people and tell them: watch out, the big boom is coming” – he found this to be a good tactic to raise awareness. Dr Dörfler, however, does not believe in the negative future visions associated with AI, but he is sure that “human errors will be amplified by AI”. In fact, AI is not new. Its development started in the 1950s, first with a directly programmed system: chess expert systems, logic rules and a huge amount of data of previous cases were fed into a machine that could beat a world chess champion or world Go champion. The machine was trying to make a rule from the cases loaded in, but it did not know that it was playing chess.  

The presently most popular concepts using neural networks work in a different way. Neural networks consist of digital information processing units, and the way they transmit information is similar to the way neurons behave in the brain. Together, these networks can tackle bigger challenges in more complex and detailed ways that would be impossible with traditional programming. Dr Balázs Lóránd, Head of Continental Autonomous Mobility Hungary, said that they have an outstanding number of experts working on neural networks. The neural networks built into modern vehicles are performing in some ways better at processing the sensor signals and detecting objects in the vicinity of the vehicle, compared to humans. Dr. Lóránd joined Continental in 2018. First he built up the data engineering and infrastructure development team, and then became the Head of the Artificial Intelligence Development Center in 2020. Since the summer of 2023, he has been given global responsibility, too as the Head of AI in the business area for the development of full autonomous mobility. “In 2018, we started this activity from scratch. We are now contributing to global product development projects as part of the Continental Group, which are built into the vehicles available on the market today” said the Managing Director. 

Dr. Tamás Lőcsei is the CEO of PwC Hungary and the head of operations of  the Central European region covering 14 countries. He also coordinates PwC’s innovation activities in Central and Eastern Europe. Under his leadership, PwC Hungary developed a number of products in which AI and machine learning played major roles. One example is the Football Player Valuation tool. Dr. Lőcsei said that Fradi was using this new tool, which allows the coach to get an amazing amount of data about the members of the opponent team: how they run, how they move. “We are getting closer to using AI to produce things in everyday life where we can help people with data, for example. Of course, confidentiality and GDPR compliance are important here,” we heard. Dr Lőcsei added: in such cases, it is essential to ensure protection against data leakage. 

Learn and give others the opportunity to learn 

Then the experts talked about the subject of the book written by Viktor Dörfler: what are the things that every company manager should know about AI. Dr. Dörfler emphasized that AI changes very quickly, it is difficult to predict the outcome of an important decision and our knowledge on this issue is very limited at the moment. How does a director face the fact that he has made a bad decision? How can you ensure that a company manager’s knowledge is always up-to-date? There are still many uncertainties, many open questions. CEOs who don’t move with the times, who can’t develop their own businesses, are obviously falling behind. “If we have the opportunity, let’s learn, let’s buy the necessary licenses and let’s give the opportunity to learn to colleagues who want to learn, even abroad. We should, of course, try to make sure that they come back,” Dr Lőcsei stressed. 

According to Gergely Szertics, managing director of AI Partners Ltd. and lecturer of the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, the moderator of the discussion, there is a widespread belief that the only purpose of AI is to take people’s jobs, and that fear is already present in many people. Szertics said that we need to talk to people honestly, as there are a lot of things we really cannot solve yet. According to Dr Lőcsei, instead of a pyramid structure, we need to think in terms of a diamond model, i.e. colleagues at beginner level will probably be needed in smaller numbers in the future. However, this fear is unfounded at the moment, because there is full employment in Hungary and companies are fighting for good workers. However, the question is how young professionals will learn in this system. After all, if a robot can do the simplest surgeries well, will the newbies start with brain surgery? Dr. Dörfler’s personal experience is that no one has been laid off at a translation company – perhaps this is what you can read most articles about, that these companies will be the first to lose their jobs – where AI helps the work. Now they can do more work in the same amount of time, and now the workers earn more.  

Dr. Lóránd’s opinion was shared by all the panellists: the most important thing is openness, there are many things happening in the world, new people may need to be brought into the company, and leaders should dare to make bold decisions. Motivating colleagues, for example by organising competitions and idea fairs in companies, is a priority. It is important that colleagues experiment, dare to do so and even risk making a mistake, without being afraid. After all, if two out of 10 ideas work, that’s a good ratio, and we need the 8 bad ideas, too, pointed out Dr. Lőcsei. “Let the genie out of the bottle, let everyone be open to the new world!” they said. 

The round table discussion was closed with questions from the audience and the answers to these questions. What is the area of a company that will be most transformed by the use of AI over a 3-year timeframe? Dr Dörfler says it will be  design. However, Dr Lóránd says that the machine is best suited to do very manual, repetitive work. Dr. Lőcsei mentioned improvement in efficiency, mainly in the areas of HR and finance.  

How can we raise awareness in society and prepare people for AI? Man and machine can reach very high levels together, but working with a machine is a test of the human psyche. “Sometimes we close ourselves in, as we do something the way it is traditionally done,” Dr Dörfler pointed out. Openness is essential, and the key lies with higher education: students need to be educated to be open, he added. 

Katalin Török 

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GEN.:2024.03.03. - 18:55:29