I believe business leaders owe ourselves, our customers, and our industries the same. The company I co-founded, Affectiva, is in the A.I. space, and 2019 was an exciting year of growth for the industry. But as with any emerging technology, there's still much progress to be made, and it's important for us as leaders to spearhead that charge.
Here are three resolutions for founders working with and building A.I. in 2020.
Consider the human before the artificial when developing or deploying A.I.
This year has shown a range of exciting A.I. applications across industries like health and wellness, advertising, automotive, and customer service. That shows no signs of slowing down -- in fact, a recent survey from found that 80 percent of CIOs plan to increase their use of A.I. in 2020. But as A.I. becomes more ingrained in our lives, we need to take a human-centric approach to how it's developed and deployed.
Today A.I. has a lot of IQ, but no EQ, no emotional intelligence, and that's an issue. Emotion is such an important part of who we are, and yet for all that A.I. can do, our devices are emotion-blind. So in 2020, any business leader developing or deploying A.I. will need to consider how the technology can better communicate with people in a way that's more relational, and not just transactional.
Take voice assistants for example. Beyond the rapid growth of assistants like Alexa in our homes, automakers are beginning to introduce voice assistants in cars. But it can be incredibly frustrating when the assistant doesn't understand our request, and in an automotive setting, that can become distracting, even dangerous. These assistants need to be able to understand the nuances of our communication -- how we're feeling, the context of the interaction, and other signals beyond the words we say -- and respond accordingly. This is crucial to not only improve the user experience, but to ensure A.I. is effective.
Do your part to accelerate progress for women in tech and beyond
As a female, Egyptian-American CEO of an A.I. start-up, I'm definitely in the minority. The tech industry (like many others) has struggled with diversity and inclusion, and the stats on women in tech are especially dismal. Women make up fewer than 20 percent of tech jobs, and female-founded companies receive significantly less VC funding than their male counterparts.
That said, I've been heartened to see that start to shift. VC funding for female-founded companies doubled last year. Anecdotally, the topic of diversity and women in tech is coming up in nearly every conversation I'm a part of, regardless of whether it's with men, women, investors, other start-ups, or customers. There are also organizations such as the nonprofit All Raise, and Melinda Gates's fund, Pivotal Ventures, that are making strides in empowering women and people from diverse backgrounds.
Now, as business leaders, we need to build on these foundational elements to support a full ecosystem of women and diverse leaders. At a macro-level, our resolution should be to continue to improve representation for female founders and funders. And at a micro-level, we need to give young girls more role models to look up to--stepping up to the plate and helping elevate others.
Lead the conversation on actionable, thoughtful regulations
There are so many ways that A.I. can improve our lives. But as with any technology, A.I.'s impact -- positive or negative -- will depend on how it's used.
Unfortunately, over the past few years, we've seen examples of A.I. deployed in ways that are harmful or violate people's privacy, including A.I. systems that are biased against minority groups, and use cases like government surveillance that many would agree are unethical.
While we've started to see some consensus on ethical principles for A.I., the next step needs to be thoughtful regulation to enforce and uphold those ethical standards. As business leaders, we can't wait or rely on regulators to make this happen -- we need to be partners in providing the necessary expertise that will drive that movement forward.
Industry luminaries need to lead the conversation on thoughtful regulation, meaning structures that prevent use cases that may be harmful, while still leaving room for the use cases that will truly benefit people's health and wellbeing, their productivity and their relationships.
If leaders can stay true to these resolutions, I truly believe that 2020 will be another banner year for A.I. -- and our businesses will be better as a result.