There’s really no doubting it now – we’re in the middle of an Artificial Intelligence revolution. Ok, maybe not as much a “revolution” as a “great awakening,” I suppose. A revolution would require what is being done to be a dramatic change, a quantum leap forward. I don’t believe that’s what is actually happening.

On the other hand, tools previously available only to developers are now being made widely available to the public. While I speculate that the motives of the companies sharing these tools are far from pure, it’s happening, and the general population is getting exposed to the capabilities of artificial intelligence like never before. Hence, the “great awakening” part.

While some of the newest AI tools are eye-opening in their own regard, the availability of tools like ChatGPT and Dall-E is causing us to look at existing tools with fresh eyes. We’ve suddenly realized that we have slowly been adopting earlier versions of these “AI” systems for years – from voice assistants like Siri and Alexa to the self-correcting GPS systems in our cars. Now, we wonder, how much better can these existing systems be made by combining them with the newer tech?

And as we wonder, businesses everywhere are trying to figure out how to improve their systems by incorporating more AI. On the other hand, individual employees are also seeking ways to use AI to streamline their roles or improve the quality of their output.

As AI continues to grow and evolve, businesses must be prepared to embrace and adapt to these changes. To stay ahead of the curve, it’s essential to establish clear AI use policies and incorporate generative AI and other AI tools as part of acceptable use policies.

Why Businesses Should Adopt AI Use Policies

Aside from the general notion that a business should probably have policies in place for any predictable use of company property (in this case, company computers or devices and company data, whether confidential or not), there are several reasons why businesses should adopt policies for the use of AI.

  1. Enhancing Efficiency and Productivity

AI has the potential to revolutionize the way businesses operate, with machine learning algorithms and data analysis tools providing valuable insights that can streamline processes and improve decision-making (or at least make it faster). However, changes don’t have to be revolutionary to be useful, and the bottom line is that the most effective use of AI will likely be incorporating it into existing workflows in small ways rather than using it to wholesale replace workers. Any improvement through AI should be explored.

But bear in mind, whether a company endorses the exploration or not, people will explore anyway.

For instance, AI-powered tools can analyze large datasets and identify trends, enabling businesses to make data-driven decisions and optimize their operations. AI can also automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks, allowing employees to focus on higher-value work that requires critical thinking and creativity.

By adopting AI use policies, businesses can effectively harness the power of AI to enhance efficiency and productivity while taking steps to make sure that no aspect of the business itself is compromised through the use of AI tools.

  1. Ensuring Ethical and Responsible AI Use

As AI becomes increasingly sophisticated, businesses need to consider its ethical implications. AI use policies can help establish parameters and rules to help employees use AI responsibly and ethically, minimizing potential negative impacts on society and the environment.

One thing that companies might want to look at, particularly regarding the “environmental impact” of AI, is the significant water use needed for the cooling operations of these AI systems. I’m just giving you a heads-up!

AI use policies can help organizations establish fairness, accountability, transparency, and privacy guidelines. These guidelines can help limit AI’s potential to perpetuate biases and discrimination and ensure that AI systems are designed and deployed with the well-being of users and the broader community in mind.

Of course, for any AI use policies to effectively combat things like algorithmic bias, those same concerns must also be made a part of any selection or onboarding policy for AI systems. Users can’t eliminate the bias that was programmed into the algorithm if they don’t know about it.

  1. Protecting Intellectual Property and Confidential Information

Even the fastest, easiest-to-use AI tool can be bad for your company if it exposes confidential information or trade secrets to the public.

AI technologies, such as natural language processing and deep or machine learning, can process vast amounts of data quickly. While this capability can benefit businesses, it also raises concerns about protecting intellectual property (IP) and confidential information.

Adopting AI use policies can help businesses protect their IP and safeguard sensitive data by establishing clear guidelines for using, storing, and sharing information. Additionally, AI use policies can help businesses set rules concerning the extent of AI’s access to data and identify potential risks to information security.

All vendor contracts with companies offering AI solutions must contain provisions holding the vendors to the same privacy and cybersecurity obligations that any other vendor would need to meet. During a period of great hype, it is not uncommon to throw caution to the wind. Make sure that your or your employees’ excitement over the latest AI-supported tool doesn’t cause you to rush into agreements that don’t meet your company’s standards.

  1. Legal Compliance and Risk Management

Currently, most AI tools operate like we were living in the proverbial Wild West. As I suggested earlier, it is starting to appear that many of these AI tools were rushed into public availability to take advantage of the market before any significant laws or regulations could be implemented.

Like Uber, many appear to be doing things that are likely violating existing laws or rules but which were written for different situations. They seem to hope that, as Uber did, they can generate enough popular support for allowing the tools to function that governments will be reluctant to enforce them.

The results thus far haven’t been perfect (Italy, for example, banned ChatGPT until it complied with GDPR), but overall, the AI companies’ bet appears to be paying off. That honeymoon period might be coming to an end.

As AI technologies advance, governments and regulatory bodies will increasingly scrutinize their use and implement new rules and regulations. AI use policies can help businesses navigate this evolving legal landscape by ensuring they comply with relevant laws and regulations.

For example, AI use policies can guide data privacy and security, ensuring businesses adhere to regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States. By staying compliant, businesses can minimize legal risks and avoid costly fines and penalties.

  1. Employees Know What They Can Use

All four of the previous reasons for adopting an AI use policy are irrelevant if your employees don’t know what systems they are allowed to use or are prohibited from using. Based on my experience, one of the best reasons to create one of these policies is to give your employees clear, affirmative guidance on what systems they can use.

That’s a key step – by telling them what systems are allowed, those who are inclined can start to boost their proficiency with that tool. In a short time, numerous employees will gain significant productivity through the tool (as discussed above) and likely identify new ways the tool can be used in your business.

Without effective guidance, you risk employees using tools without your (or your IT department’s) knowledge, which is a significant problem with any system. You also have employees gaining proficiency using tools that you may eventually need to prohibit for several reasons.

I put this question to you: what do you think is worse, your employees losing productivity due to having a tool they are proficient in being taken away or your employees continuing to use a tool that you have prohibited because they find the loss of productivity that would result to be unacceptable? At least one of those scenarios will happen if you don’t actively establish AI use policies, and neither are good.

Incorporating AI Tools as Part of AI Use Policies

While your company is busy trying to develop AI rules that should apply to the use of AI, stop for a minute and think about whether those same AI tools may help you improve the application or enforcement of your existing policies. For example:

  1. Enhancing Cybersecurity

AI and machine learning technologies can play a crucial role in enhancing cybersecurity by identifying and responding to threats more efficiently. AI-powered tools can analyze large volumes of data in real-time, detecting anomalies and potential security breaches that might otherwise go unnoticed.

By incorporating AI tools into information security policies, businesses can ensure that AI tools can improve the protection of the organization’s digital assets and maintain a secure online environment. Make sure that your applicable security policies allow for the adoption and use of AI-supported tools.

  1. Facilitating Communication and Collaboration

Generative AI and natural language processing tools can improve communication and collaboration within businesses in ways automated chatbots that have existed up to now simply cannot. AI-powered chatbots can help employees quickly access information and answer questions, while AI-driven translation tools can break down language barriers and facilitate communication between team members from different parts of the world.

Make sure that you have thoroughly investigated any tool that seeks to perform these tasks, though. Especially tools that seek to translate across multiple languages and may need to be able to properly translate idioms and vernacular. (Do they have the Urban Dictionary in every language? That could potentially be useful in this context!)

Don’t make a mistake like the one recently discovered in the translation software used by the US government, which mistranslated a singular pronoun to an inclusive one (“I” to “we”). In one situation, an individual’s asylum application was denied because her report of having arrived alone was inconsistent with her written statement because of the mistranslation.

Incorporating AI tools into acceptable use policies can ensure that employees use these technologies effectively and responsibly, maximizing their potential to enhance collaboration and productivity.

  1. Improving Customer Experience

AI tools like chatbots and recommendation engines can significantly improve customer experience by providing personalized support and suggestions. For example, AI-powered chatbots can quickly handle routine customer inquiries and resolve issues, freeing customer support representatives to focus on more complex issues.

AI chatbots should not be considered a replacement for human customer support/service representatives! Based on my anecdotal experience and numerous published reports, the switch from human to automated customer service systems almost always results in a significant decrease in the quality of the system’s assistance.

By actively incorporating AI tools into the customer engagement system, businesses can ensure that employees use these technologies ethically and responsibly, providing customers with a seamless and engaging experience.

  1. Supporting Employee Development and Training

AI-driven tools can also be instrumental in employee development and training. Provided with the appropriate information, AI systems can offer personalized learning experiences tailored to individual needs and preferences. AI-powered learning management systems can analyze employee performance data and recommend customized training programs, helping employees acquire new skills and knowledge more effectively.

Even more importantly, at least as far as the quality of training an employee receives is considered, effectively programmed and trained AI systems can optimize training to acquire and maintain the employee’s attention by providing more true-to-life or more interactive experiences. Even the best training system fails if it doesn’t have the attention of the people it is intended to teach.

Conclusion

Organizations must adapt and embrace these changes as the AI revolution transforms the business landscape. Adopting AI use policies and incorporating generative AI and other AI tools as part of acceptable use policies can help businesses harness AI’s full potential while addressing potential risks and ethical concerns.

By leveraging AI responsibly, businesses can enhance efficiency, improve decision-making, protect intellectual property, and ensure legal compliance while providing a better experience for customers and employees. It’s time for businesses to embrace the AI revolution and establish clear policies to guide its responsible use within the organization.

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