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What Makes Responsible AI?

April 10, 2024

Today, your business is built on data, technology and cybersecurity that is being rapidly transformed by the creation and use of artificial intelligence (AI).  

Now, the question facing virtually every business owner today is… 

Are you ready? 

To help you find answers, we’ve engaged Sarah Walker-Leptich, Partner Development Manager, Amazon Web Services for a keynote speech and fireside chat at our Member Luncheon on April 18.

But we wanted to offer a glimpse for members who can’t make it, plus give a little insight into the woman behind the keynote. So we caught up with Sarah and asked her about her journey into tech, her first impressions of AI, and what’s on her must-read list for business leaders.

Please enjoy the following Q&A with Sarah Walker-Leptich.

Q. Hey Sarah, please start by telling us a little about yourself and how you became interested in tech?

A. When I first got out of college I was passionate about retail and ended up getting into technology as a fluke. I was interviewing for a couple places and got two offers, one of them being a retail head office and one of them for a small technology company.

Even though the retail job was more aligned with what I thought I wanted, I was drawn to the tech company, mainly because of the COO, I was drawn to her passion and leadership. I knew nothing about tech, and it was a large learning curve. But the one thing I love is learning. I am constantly reading and I think that’s why tech is a great industry for me because its constantly evolving and changing other industries.

We’ve seen major shifts in retail over the last couple years and will continue to see even more technology completely shift the retail experience, for example, “Just Walk Out,” the tech behind Amazon Go stores, where you just pick up what you need and walk out and it automatically charges you. That technology uses artificial intelligence and machine learning and it will completely transform the way we interact with physical stores.  

Q. What was your reaction when AI started blowing up in pop culture these last few years?

A. For the longest time, it was hard to explain to people why I was so passionate about AI. The majority of people knew about it, but couldn’t really interact with it or see for themselves the capabilities it had. It was almost like a fictional ‘sci-fi’ novel of the future, or something so far away that most people didn’t need to think about it. And now with public facing generative AI like ChatGPT by OpenAI, it is tangible, people can experiment with it and understand its benefits.

One of the first things I explored was getting it to make me a meal plan for the week, and then giving me a grocery list off the items. I also use generative AI to edit blogs and I use ‘business-grade generative’ to edit work proposals and emails.

“I use the words ‘business-grade’ because I think a lot of people are using free open-source generative AI because their companies don’t have their own set up yet — which poses security risk to their sensitive data.”

So yes, absolutely it will revolutionize the way business operate, but businesses are currently having to pivot to generativeAI at alarming speeds to keep up with employees using free generative AI tools – we call this shadow IT – when employees search for free or unauthorized IT programs because their employer doesn’t yet have a policy or tool in place to replace it.  It is imperative that businesses understand that employees are using it already and that they need to prioritize their generative strategy. 

Q. Can you define “responsible AI” for us? How can business leaders use AI more responsibly? 

A. The scope of responsible AI is massive but to me, it’s building AI with not just technical folks, it’s building AI in teams of philosophers, psychologists, business leaders, and a diverse group of people.

Philosophy comes into play from autonomous vehicle perspective – if a child runs in front of an autonomous car – the AI in that car needs to recognize the risk of swerving and hitting something else in order to save a life. An example of psychology, is digital humans or video chatbots; different cultures may use different facial expressions that have different meanings to individuals or groups of people. We need to take that into consideration when creating digital human therapists – and yes we are starting to see come to life already. 

Responsible AI also involves being transparent when a piece of writing or an image was created by AI. There is a lot of misinformation in the world already and generative AI can really complicate that, especially with image creation, it will get harder and harder to differentiate between a real photo versus a created one. Companies creating generative AI already recognize this problem. For example, Amazon Web Services created Amazon Titan, a generative AI image creator that uses an invisible watermark to help us tell if the image is real or not.   

Q. What are some of the warning signs of irresponsible AI?

Some of the early warning signs are already news in our daily life. A recent example is the graphic images of Taylor Swift that were created using generative AI. In the past, people could use Adobe Photoshop and create something of a similar nature – but now every single person has access to create what we call ‘deepfakes.’ [Deepfakes are synthetic media that have been digitally manipulated to replace one person’s likeness convincingly with that of another]

With every new technology comes various risks, just like the internet with cyberattacks and scams, we will also see people use AI for bad. But just like the internet, it changed our world in a powerful and positive way too.  

Q. Your bio mentions your love of Lego, exploring the night sky with your telescope, and burying your head in a book. Can you tell us what’s on your must-read list 

A. My favourite book is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margeret Atwood. I read it in high school and fell in love with dystopian novels and her writing style. I also love Atwood’s The MaddAddam Trilogy Series because I used to think her ideas were wild and outrageous and yet now, alarming plausible.   

Another series I highly recommend to all business leaders is the Insights You Need to Know by Harvard Business Review, I read every single one that comes out and it touches on so many interesting topics, from remote work, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, climate change, and even cryptocurrency. If you want the short version of these books, I write summaries of some of them here: www.walkrinthecloud.com/blog 

What can people expect to learn from you at our April Luncheon?

A. People can expect to learn how AI can simplify everyday tasks, organize meals or act as a personal work assistant. I will illuminate the practical applications of generative AI, emphasizing its potential to assist in both mundane and complex life scenarios while cautioning about its limitations and how every single one of us can be part of making sure AI is used responsibly.  

Thank you, Sarah, we look forward to it!

To connect with Sarah directly, visit her LinkedIn here.

Click here to register for Sarah’s Luncheon or to stay up to date with all our Chamber Luncheons, check out our event calendar here.

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