ASK any executive today on the driving force of innovation and the most probable answer you may get is artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence, or AI, is now everywhere in the business sector.
Erika Fille Legara, a scientist and an associate professor at Asian Institute of Management, said she cannot imagine a sector that will not be impacted by AI in one way or another.
“The economics of AI is really in its predictive power. If prediction is something that is important to you, your organization…you can imagine AI would have a huge impact,” Legara said.
Legara works with analytics institutions and organizations to design the right AI product used by companies.
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One of the clients is the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, which had to review financial statements from institutions that they regulate—the banks.
The BSP typically spends 20,000 man hours per month to scour through about 500 accounts, to find patterns in the data.
“So we introduced AI, of course, working closely with them. And from 20,000 man hours for a month, we reduced it down to 11 minutes. So that’s more than 99 percent reduction time,” Legara said.
Karl Kendrick Chua, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary during the Duterte administration and now with Ayala Corp. as managing director for data science and AI, said his company’s engagement on AI was mostly on the business unit level.
For those using GCash, the mobile payments service owned by the Ayala group, there is this scoring system that is AI-driven to understand better what the users’ activities are, and how that could guide the company help the users in terms of accessing other services.
The application is also being used by Ayala-led lender Bank of the Philippine Islands. It uses AI to understand what have its customers been paying for or saving for, and input and output of cash. It analyzes how the bank can help its customers plan their savings and investment better.
With AI being so efficient in doing things that a company usually takes hours to do, many have been led to conclude that it could lead to the death of many jobs.
When he visited the Philippines in September, Sanjay Sarma, president, CEO and dean of the Asia School of Business in Malaysia, said that AI presents an existential episode in mankind.
Simply put, he said, speech is what separates man, or human beings, from animals: the power to talk and communicate.
“But suddenly, speech has been automated. Language has been automated. Actually, speech is easier than language. And this is a very existential moment, because a lot of our jobs are about language. Language and comprehension,” Sarma said.
“This is a very unique time in human history. For the first time, a very fundamental aspect of the uniqueness of human beings is being taken [over] by machines,” he said.
Sarma likens this episode to the introduction of automated teller machines, or ATMs, to dispense money during the late ’60s.
“The immediate concern people had was that bank tellers, the human beings, would lose their jobs. That did not happen. In fact, bank tellers did something more advanced, which is selling mortgages and things like that. The job changed. Yes. So they had to become cognitive. They did the more cognitively advanced tasks,” Sarma pointed out.
Sarma, also a professor of mechanical engineering at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said AI is developing at an unprecedented pace and will be everywhere soon.
“I’m telling you. It’s not 10 years; it’s one or two years. The reason is that for these transforming technologies, there are now lots of companies working. And there’s millions, hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on it,” he said.
While older and successfully adopted technologies such as automated teller machines took about 15 years to be widely accepted, people no longer have the luxury of time with AI.
Chua said AI should be used by humans as a tool and not the other way around.
“When you’re asked to write a speech, in the past, before ChatGPT [an AI application], you probably will stare at your paper for apathy; don’t know even where to start right. Now, you probably could use these tools to improve your productivity,” he said.
“So what this basically means is that these tools are available for us to be used to improve our present productivity. I think we should be open to them in the future,” he said.
Like many executives, Ramon del Rosario, chairman and CEO of Phinma Corp., was worried about the intended purpose to misuse the technology; to sow wrong information to the public.
“One of the problems is technology has been bought, some were misused; and one of the most evil [forms of] misuse, evidence of misuse of technology, has been the spread of disinformation in our society. I guess my question really is, can artificial intelligence be used to overcome the effects of disinformation? And if so, is that not something that is worth looking into and pursuing, so that we can correct the impact of this massive effort to spread disinformation?”
According to Legara, that’s where one’s values would come in.
“Because yeah, at the end of the day, you’re right, it’s a tool. I can choose to use it for good. I can choose to use it to worsen things,” she said, but gave little answer to del Rosario’s queries.
Sarma said the Philippines, which still values the family and network system, should lead the world on how to properly use AI.
“AI is going to replace jobs. So let’s accept that. So you have to take the bull by the horns. You can’t wait for the bull to run you over. Yes, you’re going to get run over; so you might as well try and right it,” he said.