Artificial Intelligence

Thoughts on the #EGOS2021 Conference

This month, I attended the European Group on Organizational Studies (EGOS) conference. There were several thought-provoking sessions in the sub-theme on new actors, responsibilities and forms of organizing in the age of digital transformations. In our breakout on accountability, Hedwik Dissenha Giesel presented ideas on using blockchain for business sustainability. Gozal Ahmadova presented research on the relationship between digitalization and environmental sustainability. Tassiani dos Santos talked about public officials using Facebook data to interact with and be accountable to its citizens in providing COVID information. Each paper was based on methodologies principles, analysis, data to support the findings. I talked about organizational, policy, and knowledge gaps related to artificial intelligence (AI) projects.

Working in the decision support and analytic space for more than 20 years, makes it a little hard to get excited about all the hype around AI. Technically, most of the discussion is about machine learning, something that is not new for us. It start with a business question; take some data and prepare relevant aspects of the data to train the models; use analytical, data or text mining methods to build and validate a model or algorithm; and then deploy the algorithm. It feels like there is nothing new.

For that reason, it was a pleasure to hear new questions and the discussion on the implications and impacts of deploying and using AI solutions at the EGOS conferences. For example, Stan Karanasios, Olga Kokshagina, and Pauline Charlotte Reinecke explain that AI is hyped because media attention is mostly directed at incidents that can be narrated and dramatized. However, AI regulatory discussions are around ethics, digital platforms, social media, and AI warfare. Sadly, regulatory changes are enforced only following critical incidents. We can see that the important AI discussion is about how the AI use impacts us as citizens and stakeholders. Given this perspective, I would argue we should continue the AI discussion or hype. Most importantly, regulations should keep pace so we do not all end up in digital prisons.

The conference was held using a virtual platform, and the structure of the sessions offered plenty of opportunities for discussion and interaction.