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AI is very positive, but you need to know how to use it correctly.

Not a silver bullet: What executives get wrong about AI

Patrick Glauner, Full Professor of AI from Deggendorf Institute of Technology

Managing AI is just as important as the technology itself. But many executives don’t understand either well enough to execute successful AI projects.

Gavin: Recently, everything seems to be AI. What does it mean to you? 
Patrick: To me, it means automating human decision-making. We make about 30,000 decisions a day, both in private and at work. AI aims to automate debt, so we can make decisions faster, better, and cheaper.

Gavin: When studying AI, your students work with companies, correct? 
Patrick: It’s a university of Applied Sciences, so we're very close to the industry. To be hired as a professor, you need to have real-world experience in addition to your academic background, usually at least three years outside of university. 

I bring in companies for guest lectures. We do term projects and lab projects together with the industry. But our students also need to do a mandatory internship during their studies.

Gavin: How does that benefit them? Is it just about getting hands-on experience?
Patrick: There's obviously a huge gap between academia and the real world. We try to bridge that gap by working closely with the industry. So our students first get the theoretical framework, and then they see how it actually works in the real world. 

They benefit a lot: employability goes up, as do entry-level salaries.

Gavin: You run a program on ‘Innovation Management for AI.’ What's unique about that?
Patrick: Most AI projects in the industry fail or don't add any value. Some reports say 80% of AI projects are, in the end, just prototypes and don't work out. That's a huge problem. 

I couldn’t find any teaching material on how to bridge that gap. There were some AI introductions for business people, but most AI courses were extremely technical.

I came up with a unique course, “Innovation Management for AI,” in which I show students real-world management problems in addition to technical ones. For example, how to manage AI experts, what roles you need in a company, how to handle budgets, as well as AI regulation, and how to transform a company into an AI-driven business.

Gavin: Why is AI’s corporate failure rate so high—80%? 
Patrick: Executives think AI is a silver bullet. But often, they don't really know what to do with it. They say, “Let's do an AI project, but there is no business goal.” 

Gavin: Rather than a silver bullet, it’s a bullet people use to shoot themselves in the foot.
Patrick: Sadly, that’s often true. AI is very positive, but you need to know when to use it, when not to use it, and how to use it correctly.

Gavin: What do you think the challenges are ahead for AI in terms of governance?
Patrick: First of all, we need to take advantage of AI and be positive about it. However, the European Union is quite negative. It’s driven by fear, not opportunity. 

That's one of the main problems of the AI Act, proposed by the European Parliament two-and-a-half years ago. The current draft contains 140 pages with just requirements on how to manage AI’s risks, but there's not a single page on how you can actually take advantage of AI, and how to invest in it as a government. I think we should shift that. Obviously, we need some rules, but maybe we can narrow them down to two pages that people can actually understand.

Gavin: What would you say are the biggest opportunities for using AI in industry or across society?
Patrick: We have an aging population in both Europe and China. AI can be of tremendous benefit there. For example, in health care, we are not aiming to replace doctors, but maybe we can make health care more accessible and deliver it better. 

AI also has enormous potential for sustainability. We can use resources more efficiently. I think we're just scratching the surface of what is actually possible.

Gavin: When it comes to our future with AI, are you a glass-half-full optimist or a glass-half-empty worrier?
Patrick: I’m very positive about AI, and I'm really excited about the coming AI innovations that will help us have a more sustainable, prosperous, healthier future. 

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