People can surprise you. I knew will.i.am was a man of many talents – front man and founder of the hugely successful Black Eyed Peas, music producer, talent show judge, entrepreneur and philanthropist, but I didn’t have him down as a novelist. Now he’s just penned his first novel with futurologist, Brian David Johnson.
‘Wizards and Robots’ is based on the premise that a teenage girl joins forces with robots to change the past and secure the future. Publicising the book this week, will.i.am talked about his optimism for the power of AI to close the gap between those who have benefited from industrial and technological advancements, with those who have been left behind. He suggested that educating people in the developing world with new technology skills will empower them to solve their own problems. Will and his co-author also talked about the need to change the story about AI so people can see the opportunities AI brings rather than focusing on the potential threats. They argued that in designing new technologies, if we place people at the centre, then we can build technologies that work for everyone and think about how we educate the next generation’s workforce. I applaud this optimism and the spirit of embracing new technologies to help improve society for everyone, not just the lucky few.
There is no doubt in my mind that some of the seismic political and social changes we’ve witnessed in the western world in recent years can be attributed to the fact that globalisation and technology innovation have widened the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. This has also changed society’s expectations of business. And it’s not just celebrities like will.i.am talking about these changing trends and demands. Last month, BlackRock Chairman, Larry Fink said in his annual letter to shareholders:
“Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance but also show it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers and the communities in which they operate.”
At ReputationInc we believe that companies need to listen and respond to stakeholder needs and expectations. Profit is vital but must be matched by purpose.
So AI presents huge opportunities for businesses in the technology space to act with purpose and develop AI technologies that improve lives for all societies and bridge current gaps. Those companies that think and act in this way will reap the reputational benefits, driving business success. As a Black-eyed peas fan, I have to say Boom Boom Pow to those companies that get this and show others the way!