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The Benefits and Risks of Using AI for Your Business
Written by: Sean McAlindin
Sean McAlindin, a business and arts writer, has a decade-long experience in music and culture journalism and recently ventured into business writing.
Edited by: Sallie Middlebrook
Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.
Updated on October 3, 2023
The Benefits and Risks of Using AI for Your Business
If you’re like most business owners, you’re always on the lookout for ways to do things differently, more efficiently, and with increased productivity. When your goal is to make money, anything that promises to give you the slightest advantage should get your attention.
With all the hype surrounding AI, you’re probably wondering how it’s possible for you to leverage these advancing tools to improve your business. Before you start test-driving platforms and investing in experimental technology, let’s talk a little bit about the potential value, and real danger, of bringing AI on board your entrepreneurial venture.
Welcome to our comprehensive guide to the benefits and risks of AI for your business.
From saving money to turbocharging creativity, the potential benefits of AI in business are wide-reaching and potentially lucrative. But you have to know how to leverage the technology to your advantage to find the value you are looking for.
Like any new tool, AI is having its growing pains. There are many potential pitfalls to using AI, so it’s important to plan ahead if you want to avoid them.
If approached with knowledge, open mindedness, and a healthy dose of caution, AI has the capacity to make your business more efficient, productive, and profitable, but first you need to be informed.
The benefits of using AI in business
When it’s used the right way, the potential benefits of incorporating AI into your business model are almost great to quantify. While it will take time to discern the best tools for you, and to learn how to get the most out of them, with the right approach their practical applications are essentially boundless.
Let’s look at the most common benefits of incorporating this technology into any business venture.
1. Saved time and costs
AI has the potential to automate multiple aspects of your business, especially those that are repetitive and predictable. Outsourcing mundane tasks frees up you and your employees to focus on more complex demands that propel your business forward.
The bonus, besides not having to pay workers for tasks they no longer need to spend time on, is that AI can work around the clock and at a faster clip, which helps forward-thinking entrepreneurs decrease their workforce, cut costs, and deliver a consistent product in less time.
Why write another sales email, or answer a routine customer service call, when AI can do it for you?
2. Increased efficiency and productivity
The truth of the matter is there are many jobs that AI can do better and faster than humans. From searching the web and translating documents, to manufacturing cars, to making complex medical diagnoses, in certain cases, AI is demonstrating its edge over human workers.
Take a stroll around an Amazon warehouse and you’ll notice robots sorting and preparing packages for delivery. Surveillance, cybersecurity, and fraud detection are now almost exclusively the domain of bots.
More and more digital content is being produced exclusively by artificial intelligence.
NFL and college football coaches are incorporating virtual reality technology into their practices to prepare and train for games. NASCAR drivers and soccer teams are using it to retrace their steps, to learn from mistakes. These are just a few examples from thousands of possibilities.
Across the economic spectrum, AI engineers are discovering new and better ways to do things with AI every week. It’s only a matter of time before this technology will be incorporated into almost every aspect of our lives and business practices.
3. Improved accuracy
AI is trained on a set of parameters that excel at repeating rote tasks. As a result, there are many areas in which they are less likely than humans to make errors. From reinforcement learning, the tools are able to analyze and optimize their approach to complex tasks, thereby leading to more consistent products.
For example, University of Oxford studies have shown that AI can predict changes in the stock market with as much accuracy as seasoned financial analysts. From fulfilling purchase orders, to facial recognition, to analyzing dark matter, AI is outperforming humans in more areas every day.
I still remember when the IBM computer, Deep Blue, defeated chess world champion Gary Kasparov in 1997. It seemed like a watershed moment. At this point, no chess player has defeated a top-performing chess computer under normal tournament conditions since 2005.
4. Enhanced worker productivity
One major benefit of AI is its ability to assist workers in a wide variety of tasks from drafting emails to prioritizing leads. Junior associates or newer workers who are still gaining experience can learn from and with AI to gain the skills they need to succeed. It’s kind of like having a personal assistant or job coach by your side supporting your every move. With AI at their disposal, even novice team members can have access to high-level tools and skill sets.
Not a great writer? Ask ChatGPT to help you. Struggle with prioritizing leads? Use a platform like Pipedrive to upscale your knowledge and perspective. These tools aren’t always there to replace workers – more often than not, they perform best by assisting them to work smarter.
5. Heightened creativity
Surprisingly, the fastest-growing sector for AI at this time is not in engineering and manufacturing, but in the creative arts. While most of us probably imagined artificial intelligence would look like human-shaped robots completing manual labor and other unappealing tasks, the current windfall of new technologies has found itself on the other end of the intelligence spectrum.
Through deep machine learning, AI technologies have developed the ability to create stunning prose, poetry, paintings, music, film, and digital art. From content writers like Copy.ai to image generators like Stable Diffusion, the ability of generative tools to come up with original, thought-provoking work is exponentially growing.
Just look at the ongoing writer’s strike in Hollywood to see how seriously the creative community is taking the arrival of AI. As it turns out, imagination and inventiveness are not solely confined to the realm of the human mind, after all. And Hollywood studios and streaming giants like Netflix are planning to use this to their advantage to save as much money as possible.
6. Competitive edge
In the next few years, companies across a broad spectrum of industries are going to begin implementing AI to streamline and improve their business processes. Those who don’t could be left behind.
Working without AI is going to become the equivalent of trying to run a newspaper without a website. Or like FedEx trying to compete with DHL by delivering mail on horseback.
Can you imagine a car manufacturer staying competitive these days without robots to assist in their production processes? Or any major brand staffing their customer service department without some form of chatbot to assist in fielding calls?
Once AI tools like these go mainstream, there’s no going back. They become a requirement for any venture that hopes to keep up with the competition.
7. Better decision-making
We all like to think of ourselves as capable of analyzing our options and making the best decision in any given situation. But our intellectual capacities are limited and instinct can only be trusted so far.
AI, on the other hand, has the power to gather, organize, and interpret vast amounts of data without breaking a sweat. The ability to make business sense out of huge data sets in just seconds gives AI a serious advantage that is slanted in favor of wise business owners who learn to use it strategically.
This logical approach to reasoning and decision-making presents a huge advantage when it comes to developing an entrepreneurial strategy in the complex and ever-shifting business world. While there is still something to be said for human intuition and the value of a “gut feeling,” AI’s analytical capabilities are simply far superior to ours.
8. Emerging business models
As AI becomes more popular and accepted, and as it is adapted to fit an increasing number of practical applications, the market for forward-thinking entrepreneurs is going to blow wide open. As frightening as it sounds, eventually, whole industries are going to collapse and be replaced by AI-driven visionaries.
While this will spell pain for those reluctant to change, it will also lead to infinite business opportunities for creative thought leaders willing to take a chance on the next great innovation. However you feel about emerging AI, you are going to have to adapt to it if you want your business to remain relevant in the coming decades.
9. Accelerated research and design
As AI becomes exponentially intelligent and self-aware, it’s going to vastly increase its ability to solve complex business problems. The emergence of sentient technology will undoubtedly lead to new breakthroughs across global industries. For example, Dow Chemical Company recently used machine learning to accelerate its R&D process for Polyurethane formulations by 200,000x — from 2–3 months to just 30 seconds.
Once it proves its superior ability to synthesize information and think creatively, we may see AI developing and leading the strategic vision of whole companies. While current developments are being led by humans designing AI, it will soon be the AI itself that will be orchestrating its own evolution and coming up with new ideas we’d never even considered before.
10. Equity and meritocracy
With the power of AI at its fingertips, any enterprise, regardless of its size, now has access to game-changing tools that can open doors to previously inaccessible business prospects. Some are even calling AI “The Great Equalizer” because it offers high-powered tools to everyone at a reasonable price, or, in ChatGPT’s case, for free.
Rather than struggling to attract top talent and invest in expensive solutions, many small businesses are turning to AI to fill the gaps they couldn’t otherwise plug. Whereas, in the past, you’d have to employ a small army of data scientists to develop the insight and tools to draw benefit from AI, now anyone with basic skills, patience, and a healthy dose of curiosity can derive serious value from this technology.
It will be interesting to see the rags-to-riches stories that emerge as ambitious entrepreneurs come up with new and innovative ways to leverage the AI revolution.
The potential risks of AI in business
Just like any new business venture, investing in AI doesn’t come without its risks. Before you add AI to your operational processes, it’s important to consider the possible drawbacks of trusting your blood, sweat, and tears to this pioneering technology.
Let’s take a look at the most common pitfalls of artificial intelligence that every business is going to have to watch out for as we move ahead into the brave, new world.
1. Over-reliance on technology
Do you remember Y2K?
For those of you who are too young, this was when people predicted a technological apocalypse at the moment the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, 2000. News flash – the collapse everyone feared did not happen.
But can you imagine what would happen if the whole world actually lost its internet connection at once? Or if everything that’s stored on the cloud was suddenly and inexplicably deleted?
The more we rely on technology, the more susceptible we are to negative consequences when things go wrong. If you turn your entire business over to AI, where do you turn if it stops working the way it’s supposed to?
Just like those who are wise enough to invest in a home generator for the times when the power goes out, it’s essential to be prepared for contingency plans if you hit some inevitable technological bumps along the way.
2. Workforce reorganization
According to a report by Goldman Sachs, it’s predicted that AI could replace up to 300 million jobs. While saving on payroll is a bonus for most employers, this could have unknown implications on the overall economy.
A McKinsey report predicts that by 2030, AI-related advancements may affect around 15% of the global workforce.
The good news is that these job losses will be at least somewhat offset by the new occupations created by AI. In the age-old act of “creative destruction,” the old ways will be torn down to build something new.
According to World Economic Forum research, AI is projected to create around 97 million new jobs, potentially countering workforce displacement concerns.
No matter what happens, we are going to see a global reorganization of the way we approach work. It’s essential to plan ahead to end up on the right side of this revolution.
3. Need for expertise
AI programs don’t run themselves. They require human oversight and guidance to achieve the best results. You may be able to replace one of your workers with AI, but who is going to run the AI?
You’ll need to train your workers or find the talent who has already acquired these new skills. As we move forward with the AI revolution, there is going to be a new class of workers created who specialize in operating it. This could offset some of the savings presented by AI by requiring businesses to invest in a competitive talent pool in order to see the benefit of these tools come to life.
4. Employee anxiety
Because AI has the potential to replace many of our jobs, bringing this technology into your business operations could have the unintended consequence of increasing your employees’ anxiety. Be mindful of the psychological impact these tools can have on regular humans who are depending on their salary to pay their mortgage and put food on the table. Before you introduce any new plans for AI, think carefully about how you want to present this to your staff team.
I’ve been reading stories about workers who are essentially being tasked with teaching AI to do their jobs. The ultimate result will be that they are out of work and possibly facing the need to start a new career. These prospects aren’t going to make anyone feel good about their job situation, and can even lead people to question their existential worth, leading to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
5. Misinformation and bias
AI platforms are being taught to identify misinformation, but in a world where fact and fiction aren’t always clear, these tools are never going to be perfect. ChatGPT, for example, is only trained on information through 2021, so it’s not up to date on the latest trends and changes. For that reason, it’s important to fact-check AI before you rely on its hallucination-prone responses.
There has also been criticism directed at leading AI companies that they are already teaching their AI to think along political lines. Many people are concerned that “woke” ideologies are being implanted into the platforms in an attempt to brainwash the population into controversial views. Regardless of your viewpoint and cultural values, there’s potential for these powerful tools to be misused across the political spectrum.
6. Data security breaches
The popular AI programs millions of people use every day are being trusted with immense amounts of data, some of which is extremely sensitive, confidential, or personal. In the hands of the wrong person, or a misguided bot, this information could be used or disseminated in destructive ways.
Unfortunately, government regulations are lagging behind the international AI “arms race” that is taking over our world. It’s only a matter of time before we begin to see the real-world consequences of AI mismanagement and negligence.
7. Privacy and copyright concerns
As AI gathers more and more information about our habits, preferences, and lifestyles, people are concerned that we may be giving away too much. Laws and regulations around AI are still being developed, so it may be some time before we are protected from the potential negative consequences created by this new technology.
However, lawsuits, such as the one brought forth by actress and comedian Sarah Silverman, are already being filed on behalf of writers and artists who claim major AI platforms have repurposed their material without requesting consent. Hopefully, we will see the major companies held accountable for the ethically-questionable way they’ve trained and deployed these tools to the masses.
8. Negative impact on customer relationships
We’ve all been on the wrong end of a call with a bot, right? There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to communicate with a human to get the answers you need. Thankfully, most chatbots let you request to speak with a human which is what I usually do.
Until chatbots reach more consistent and adaptable levels of performance, there are always going to be customers who are turned off by the lack of an available human to help them with their concerns. It’s a fine line of cost-benefit analysis that you’ll have to consider to meet your company’s specific goals and needs.
9. Scam potential
Because AI has the ability to write, speak, look, emote, and reason like a human, they are the perfect tool for scam artists. We’ve all experienced the ubiquitousness of robocalls and the impact of partisan social media bots during elections. Until we get the AI revolution regulated and under control, consumers and businesses must be on the lookout for AI fraud and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves from harm.
10. Visibility on websites
Some companies are concerned that AI could limit their visibility on the world wide web. Once we turn search capabilities completely over to the bots, can we trust them to be equitable and reliable when it comes to representing all possible results? While the effects of AI on search engine optimization (SEO) and website visibility have yet to be seen, it’s something marketers and entrepreneurs are keeping a close eye on.
11. Increasing expense
While free programs like ChatGPT provide great value options for businesses of all sizes, most quality AI programs cost money to acquire and run. Implementing AI in your business model could be cost-prohibitive depending on what you are aiming to use it for. Options are going to become more affordable as the market saturates, but there is always going to be a groundbreaking new tool that a competitor can afford, but you can’t.
The incredible computing powers of Intelligent machines rely on an array of high-end processors. These computer chips are made with rare earth materials like selenium and lithium. The increased mining of these rare materials is irreversibly damaging our environment at a sharp pace.
Furthermore, AI itself consumes huge amounts of power to function. As it becomes more mainstream, we’ll have to find a way to meet this demand, possibly at the expense of our environment.
13. AI aversion
It’s easy to see that, no matter how you feel about AI, it’s going to change the world in the coming years. For good reason, many people fear the impacts of this technology on their livelihood and way of life. Others simply hate the whole concept and would gladly burn it to the ground if they could.
Whenever you adopt AI to run critical aspects of your business, you are going to have customers who view that as a net negative. It’s necessary to be strategic and mindful about how you use these tools to avoid driving away business in an attempt to cut costs.
So there you have it – the tremendous benefits and possible consequences of bringing AI on board your business. Before you buy into this pioneering technology, take the time to consider what you hope to see as a return on your investment. Think about the risks and potential downsides of replacing human workers and how AI could fundamentally change the way people view your business.
Building public trust requires transparent communication about AI usage, privacy practices, and the benefits it brings to customers. Additionally, involving customers and employees in the development process, gathering feedback, and addressing concerns can help foster trust and loyalty.
Rather than adhering to practically non-existent regulations, design an ethical and customer-centric AI use policy that will give your audience peace of mind that you’re using this technology in a safe and conservative way. Communicate these procedures to your customers so they understand you’ve got their best interest in mind.
Businesses may face legal challenges related to data ownership, intellectual property rights, and liability for AI-generated decisions. Additionally, complying with evolving AI regulations and ensuring transparency in AI-driven processes can be legally complex and the rules are constantly evolving.
Any time you use new technology, you are opening yourself up to potential risk. Keep abreast of the most current regulations and guidelines and consider hiring AI legal services to protect your business from potential litigation.
Establishing clear guidelines and protocols for AI’s behavior and ensuring transparency with customers about the presence of AI in interactions can help manage ethical concerns. Additionally, offering customers the option to speak with a human agent when needed can provide an added layer of comfort and trust.
At the end of the day, you can’t install this technology and expect it to run itself. Actual people are required to troubleshoot issues as they arise and make important decisions about how to safely and ethically use these tools.
Possibly. AI can contribute to environmental sustainability by optimizing energy usage, reducing waste in production processes, and improving supply chain efficiency. Additionally, AI-powered smart systems can monitor and control energy consumption in real time, leading to a more eco-friendly approach to operations. However, you’ll need to look into the real costs of developing, producing, and running this technology to get the full picture of its environmental impact.
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