Business leaders expect the private sector will fail to provide the governance necessary to keep artificial intelligence in check, and governments will be forced to take over within five years, according to a new global poll of 1350 c-level executives.

Most in the c-suite (65 per cent) said the current level of external AI governance is inadequate for the explosive growth of the technology. 

Over a quarter of top executives said they have no designated AI governance leader and only 25 per cent are managing a formal policy at the C-suite level, suggesting oversight of the transformative technology remains a low priority for most businesses despite continued warnings of its dangers. 

The research was commissioned by Pegasystems, an enterprise software company that uses AI in several of its own products but has cautioned against its “unsupervised” use.

Regulation flip

While most said they currently want a shared responsibility model for regulation, the results flip when the c-suite is asked about five years from now. 75 said they expect the government will be largely or fully responsible for governance by then.

Australian experts have warned that while the transformative potential of AI is very real, it needs responsible, well regulated development. Australian people have also shown a preference for regulating AI, and have little knowledge of or trust in the technology.

So far the Australian government has avoided any heavy-handed approach, with no binding regulations for developing AI. warning it does not want to introduce a “big stick” approach. Instead, it has created an AI ethics framework for developing and using the technology, which big businesses began trialling in 2019 but are yet to report back publicly on.

The Pegasystems global poll shows regulation stifling AI innovation remains a concern for most in the c-suite. But few companies are implementing the necessary governance structures on their own.

“If you want a real competitive advantage, you have to take an active, deliberate approach to adopting new digital technology — now,” said Don Schuerman, CTO & vice president, product strategy & market, Pegasystems. “Technology keeps advancing and is not going to slow down for organisations to catch up. Business leaders who are willing to embrace emerging technologies including AI, XR, extended edge, hyperautomation and distributed cloud will be the most likely to come out on top over the next five years.”

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