Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Artificial intelligence (AI) may be super clever but, asks Regenesys Business School chair Marko Saravanja, does it have judgment? If, in an emergency, a self-driving car is going to hit either an elderly couple or a young woman with a baby, which of them does it aim at?

This predicament, usually with a human protagonist, is an oft-quoted example of moral dilemmas. Saravanja uses it to highlight the fact that AI, despite all its advantages, remains artificial. It is neither human nor perfect.

That doesn’t stop some people agitating for its inclusion in almost every facet of life.

Regenesys dean Penny Law, however, thinks that at some stage we should pause and consider where to go with AI. “We don’t understand it enough,” she says. “It has advanced beyond our understanding.”

Both Saravanja and Law believe AI, which is already part of many people’s daily existence without them realising it, has great potential benefits. Saravanja, for example, suggests mining companies can solve safety issues by sending robots underground instead of humans. The humans would be retrained as above-ground controllers and technicians to oversee the new workforce.

Whether unions would accept the inevitable job losses remains to be seen. Some industries are already fearful of AI technologies for this reason.

Regenesys CEO Leoni Grobler says: “Some people in the construction industry say they are seven or eight years behind the world in technological and AI innovation, even in things like safety, because they don’t want union confrontation.”

Law says there is considerable ignorance of the scope and potential of AI, so Regenesys has run forums to help companies understand the impact on them and their industries.

“Every industry has a different challenge,” Saravanja says. “It’s up to us to help them recognise it and then prepare for it.” That’s easier said than done when even those at the forefront of AI development admit they don’t know where it’s going.

That’s reflected in the Regenesys forums, says Law. “There are two schools of thought. One is that AI is transforming everything, while the other is that change is happening far slower than we thought.” As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Regenesys, based in Sandton, has grown rapidly in the 21 years of its existence. Besides its SA activities, it has expanded into West Africa and India. However, an attempt to create a Dubai campus has been put on hold after SA education authorities declined to accredit degrees offered in the emirate.

This, they say, is because they are not allowed to approve qualifications offered outside SA. Law, a board member of the higher education quality committee, says discussions are under way on possibly changing this. The committee has not had the resources to do so before but Law says: “It recognises the challenge and is trying to create policy around SA degrees in a foreign country.”