AI use not the ‘Wild West’, company executives warned

AI use not the ‘Wild West’, company executives warned

AI use not the ‘Wild West’, company executives warned

More than two-thirds of Australian organisations have embraced artificial intelligence but many executives are largely ignorant of existing laws governing their use, according to a new report.

Artificial intelligence is fast becoming an essential part of business across all sectors in Australia, but most companies are not managing the commercial, regulatory and reputational risks posed by the technology, a new report from the University of Technology Sydney says.

“AI systems are not operating in a ‘regulatory Wild West’,” one of the report’s lead authors, Lauren Solomon, said.

“AI systems are subject to privacy, consumer protection, anti-discrimination, negligence, cyber security, and work, health and safety obligations, as well as industry-specific laws.”

It comes as dozens of international experts signed a letter warning artificial intelligence could cause the extinction of humanity as part of a statement published on the Centre for AI Safety website.

“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war,” the letter says.

The UTS report, The State of AI Governance in Australia, was put together in December last year using surveys, interviews and workshops with more than 300 Australian company directors and executives and expert legal analysis.

Executives see AI as having the potential to boost productivity and improve customer service, but while they were happy to invest in bringing AI into their business, those funds were often not matched by funds for system management and governance.

“AI systems are increasingly essential to how organisations create value but they introduce new risks and exacerbate existing ones,” another of the report’s authors, Professor Nicholas Davis, said.

The systems are more complex and require specialist attention including from senior staff, Prof Davis said.

Without guardrails, companies are at risk of providing false information to their customers, treating consumers unfairly, unlawfully discriminating against individuals – especially through service denial – causing psychological harm, or leaking personal data.

The report made four recommendations, including that executives are involved in building AI expertise in their organisations, they create company-specific AI strategies and governance systems and create a culture around AI that puts workers at its centre.


Phoebe Loomes
(Australian Associated Press)

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