For B-Schools, Is AI A Threat Or An Opportunity? Here’s What Deans Think – Poets&Quants

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The AACSB panel on AI: A Threat Or An Opportunity. From left to right: Dutta’s fellow panelists—Asian Institute of Management Dean Jikyeong Kang, Oxford Said Dean Sumatra Dutta, Asian Institute of Management Associate Professor Erika Fille T. Legara, and Bauer College of Business Dean Paul A. Pavlou from the University of Houston

Is artificial intelligence a threat or an opportunity?

These days it’s a highly topical question on the minds of many in higher education and other fields. If yesterday’s (April 16) presentation on AI at AACSB’s International Conference and Annual Meeting in Atlanta is any indication, the future could be quite scary.

Soumitra Dutta, dean of the University of Oxford’s Said Business School, kicked off a fascinating session on AI by asking the 1,200 business school officials in attendance a series of provocative questions.

WHEN WILL AI-DRIVEN MACHINES BECOME MORE INTELLIGENT THAN HUMAN BEINGS?

“Sometime in the next ten years do you believe AI will equal humans in intelligence?”

Widely skeptical, only 30 people in the audience raised their hands.

“How many of you believe that AI will never in our lifetimes equal human intelligence?,” asked Dutta.

Another ten hands went up, not much more than 40 in total.

Dutta would later recall a chilling conversation over a recent dinner with Geoffrey Hinton, the computer scientist who is often called the “Godfather of A.I.”

‘IN NATURE THERE IS NO EXAMPLE OF A LESS INTELLIGENT BEING CONTROLLING A MORE INTELLIGENT BEING’

Hinton, Dutta says, believes that machines will become as intelligent as human beings in the next five years.

“Geoffrey’s point is that in nature there is no example of a less intelligent being controlling a more intelligent being. If a machine becomes more intelligent than a human being, you can’t turn the machine off. The machine will talk you into keeping the thing alive.”

The implications of that intelligence threshold being passed are enormous. “Unless the powers come together and have an international agreement on curtailing AI, Geoffrey believes the future is bleak,” says Dutta. “The example he gives is the nuclear bomb. Until that agreement happens, there will be a very bleak future.”

‘THE NEXT TEN YEARS WILL BE A GLORIOUS PERIOD WITH AI FOMENTING ALL KINDS OF WONDERFUL THINGS’

Dutta says he has a different view, believing that the next ten years will be “a glorious period with AI fomenting all kinds of wonderful things.” 

Dutta’s fellow panelists—Asian Institute of Management Dean Jikyeong Kang, her colleague, Associate Professor Erika Fille T. Legara, and Bauer College of Business Dean Paul A. Pavlou from the University of Houston—largely agreed.

Pavlou believes that AI is both a threat and an opportunity. “It is similar to the Internet and other technologies. We have seen a dot-com boom and a dot-com bust, and we have seen some AI winters where the technology did not come out as expected. However, there have been billions of dollars of investment in AI. Will we be replaced by AI? The answer is yes, probably over the next ten years. For all of our jobs, whether as a dean or someone else, many tasks will be automated, displaced, and hopefully augmented.”

Legara shared practical ways to leverage AI and “get us excited about how to use this technology. She focused on the use of AI to help faculty design courses and student assignments by using clear, concise, and specific language in prompts.

‘WE ARE NOT CHANGING OUR CURRICULUM FAST ENOUGH’

“It is vital for us to immerse ourselves in these technologies,” says Legara. “We need to use them and understand their limitations and their strengths. We have to get our hands dirty. It’s critical. Professors need to be involved in that conversation. Many of us still don’t know how to navigate these technologies.” 

Dean Kang, noting that the U.S. Army is exploring whether it can use generative AI for smarter battle planning, expressed the thought that most business schools are lagging in their preparation of students for an AI future.  “I don’t think in general we are changing our curriculum fast enough,” she says. “There is not enough on creativity, communication, and critical analysis.” 

Yet an ominous sense of this technology’s power and influence filled the room. Dutta made clear the speed of progress for AI technologies in recognizing patterns in both images and data, learning and understanding natural languages, and performing creative tasks. 

MACHINES CAN NOW SURPASS HUMANS ON MANY TASKS

“Since 2017-2018,” he exclaimed, “machines became better than human beings in recognizing patterns in datasets. What about answering questions on images? Again what you see until 2021 is that machines were not as good as human beings. Since 2021-2022, machines have become better than human beings.”

On natural language, making sense of text that is being read, the performance of AI was very poor only one or two years ago, added Dutta. “Machines are now inferring some natural language higher than human beings.”

And when it comes to creativity, machines are gaining ground as well, noted Dutta. “Increasingly across a number of domains, you are now finding machines that are suggesting options to human beings, and in many cases, machines are proposing full designs themselves. Well you might say fine, but emotions are the real domain.” 

600 MILLION CHINESE MALES HAVE FALLEN IN LOVE WITH A BOT GIRLFRIEND

Dutta noted that an AI bot in China launched in 2014, a year after the science fiction movie Her in which a man develops a relationship with an AI female virtual assistant. “This bot is the girlfriend of more than 600 million Chinese males,” said Dutta. “This capability of AI—to form emotional bonds—is now being used in the counseling of teenagers and mentally disturbed patients where technology is forming bonds with patients.”

“In data analysis, natural language, creativity, and emotional bonds, machine capability is exceeding or very close to exceeding all these domains,” explained Dutta. 

“What about the future? We have to realize that we are living in the hockey stick part of the capability of this technology. And what to keep in mind is that AI is not just one technology. It is a collection of technologies and this collection is really improving and coming together in our future.”

DON’T MISS: The AI Boom In Executive Education: What You Can Study Right Now At The World’s Top B-Schools or GenAI At IMD: Personalized Learning Beyond The Classroom 

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