Is this another text created by chatGPT?! Since its release in November 2022, we have seen thousands of examples that leave us stunned and unable to tell if it is the result of a human or an algorithm...! A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to be in Silicon Valley and have access to business transformation classes with contents that seemed to have come out of futuristic Hollywood films. On my return I was clearly aware that, among other learnings, “science fiction was becoming science fact”. chatGPT is another one of those cases.

I usually say that digital transformation is not about digital, it's about transformation. And transformation it’s about getting clarity on the “why’s”. So, it's about purpose -why are we going to transform and into what. . The point investing in of AI (or in digital transformation processes) is not to become digital, but to generate value and how it impacts the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profits It is in this context that I believe in the incredible role of AI.

We have heard, read, and begun to see (without need for great imagination) that chatGPT will disrupt almost every industry and profession. From teaching to arts, from health to law, from marketing to programming, what for some will be a risk, for others it can be (it will be) a performance and impact accelerator, in the sense that it will allow to increase productivity in some professions by developing tasks that take time more quickly. It complements the human being in some cases, but inevitably replaces him in others.

Basically, what chatGPT does is take massive pieces of available information (since 2021), combine, and relate them into complex sentences that sound intelligent, and carry on a structured written conversation. There are those who call chatGPT a “fancy parrot” without conscience, who does not know what he is writing, neither distinguishing between true and false (it is important to train the AI with correct data…). In this line of thought, Amit Katwala, editor of Wired, says that chatGPT “is a reminder to humanity that language is a poor substitute for thinking and understanding, and that in a world where silliness is gaining ground, chatGPT it's just another voice in the cacophony”. Others, less caustic, say it’s a “futuristic Q&A machine”.

Whatever it is, despite the differences, I believe that we look at the advent of chatGPT (and generative AI) with the same expectation that existed when the first computers or the first robots appeared. Regardless of expectations, we know that nothing will remain the same, as Prof. Filipe Santos, CATÓLICA-LISBON Dean. Therefore, there are transformation processes ahead. And where there is transformation, there are opportunities.

Focusing mainly on the triple bottom line, there's an immense opportunity for companies that capture the value of data to drive more sustainable solutions. McKinsey & Co. estimated that the value unlocked by AI in helping design out waste for food, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems, could be up to $127 billion in 2030. The global impact on the world economy will reach, it is estimated, close to $16 trillion in 2030.

AI for Good, a United Nations year-round digital platform where AI Innovators and problem owners connect to identify practical AI solutions to advance the UN SDGs, is a great example of how businesses, governments and civil society can cooperate to accelerate AI’s positive impact on SDG’s. And if we believe, as we do, that sustainability is the only possible development strategy, then AI has a central role addressing each SDG. There are extraordinary things happening worldwide showing the importance of cooperating to reach SDGs targets. Take for instance the recent US and EU agreement to speed up and enhance the use of AI to improve agriculture, healthcare, emergency responses, climate forecasting and risk and the electricity grid, by exchanging data fed into a common AI model. It Is an unprecedented structural step towards decision making processes that can lead to smarter policies. Year after year climate changes is having significant impacts on environmental, economic, and social ecosystems around the world. If we want to reinforce the efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, AI is “the” tool to help manage these complex problems due to its capacity to gather and interpret huge and complex datasets, supporting stakeholders to take data-driven approach decisions on building, hopefully, a more responsible and sustainable society.

So, the discussion should not be if chatGPT will be successful per se (or good or bad), but how to fast scale AI to create massive competitive advantages, using it as transformation lever for people, planet, and profit. According to BCG, the companies that have scaled AI across the business and achieve real value from their investments invest twice as much in people and processes as they do in technologies (10% of their AI investment went to algorithms, 20% to technologies, and 70% to embedding AI into business processes and agile ways of working).

As generative AI is expanding to images, voice, music, with big investments from major stakeholders, we should not forget that, although unstoppable, at the end of the day it must be about achieving a greater good and helping people thrive! My final take on this by sharing a Yuval Noah Harari thought: “Technology isn't bad. If you know what you want in life, technology can help you get it. But if you don't know what you want in life, it will be all too easy for technology to shape your aims for you and take control of your life”.

Have a great and impactful week!

Nuno Vaz Neto
Executive in Residente
Center for Responsible Business & Leadership

This article refers to edition #178 of the "Have a Great and Impactful Week" Newsletter and covers SDG 9 and 16.
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