Cognizant: best practices for turning data into ROI with AI
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has experienced a new kind of “normal”. Our day to day life has become synonymous with social unrest, economic upheaval, and an overwhelming level of uncertainty. It’s been chaotic, to say the least. Though, it has to be said that every cloud has a silver lining and, amid that chaos, there has been a lot of personal and professional development. Individuals and organisations alike have been desperately searching for answers, to better prepare themselves for the world that we will emerge into post-COVID-19; nobody knows what it will look like yet, but we’ve got a fairly good idea that it’ll be completely different to the one that we’re leaving behind. A new era is coming, and it will be an era that artificial intelligence (AI) truly comes into its own. Experts like Cognizant believe that 2020 will, in fact, be remembered as the tipping point for AI.
is groundbreaking. It was conducted during the outbreak of coronavirus, and it reveals that executives are turning en masse to AI to make better, more intelligent decisions─especially when much of the information and decision models needed are fast-changing or unknown. In the study, Cognizant focused on 1,200 companies, in conjunction with ESI ThoughtLab, and found that “almost two-thirds of senior executives─regardless of industry or region─see AI as highly important to the future of their businesses.”
Man industry-leaders and C-Suite executives came to realise, at the very start of the pandemic, that their businesses didn’t have access to the data that they needed to make “intelligent decisions in the face of chaos.” Unsurprising, really, given that the data they previously relied on reflected a “normal” world as we once knew it. Now we have a new normal, however. Accurate information is one of the most important aspects of modern business analytics, so it’s vital that companies get hold of the most recent, accurate, and relevant data, so that they can successfully interpret consumer demands and produce products and services to suit their needs. Unfortunately, what worked before won’t anymore, and forecast models which were previously “good enough” are now outdated and borderline useless.
“It’s no wonder, then, that businesses have little interest in returning to the old ways of working,” said the report. “Over the next three years, twice as many businesses expect to be in the advanced stages of AI maturity vs today, and annual spending increases will nearly double from 4.6% to 8.3%.”
Cognizant’s findings show that AI is clearly going to offer a great ROI, but it should be noted that it isn’t an overnight transformation or a simple click of the fingers. Right now, “more than half of businesses are seeing positive returns on their AI investments, the average ROI is just 1.3%.” On top of this, it’s worth noting that, with higher upfront costs in data modernisation, adopting tech and developing people, it could take organisations an average of 17 months to see a positive return on their initial investment.
Chinese Firm Taigusys Launches Emotion-Recognition System
In a detailed investigative report, the Guardian reported that Chinese tech company Taigusys can now monitor facial expressions. The company claims that it can track fake smiles, chart genuine emotions, and help police curtail security threats. ‘Ordinary people here in China aren’t happy about this technology, but they have no choice. If the police say there have to be cameras in a community, people will just have to live with it’, said Chen Wei, company founder and chairman. ‘There’s always that demand, and we’re here to fulfil it’.
Who Will Use the Data?
As of right now, the emotion-recognition market is supposed to be worth US$36bn by 2023—which hints at rapid global adoption. Taigusys counts Huawei, China Mobile, China Unicom, and PetroChina among its 36 clients, but none of them has yet revealed if they’ve purchased the new AI. In addition, Taigusys will likely implement the technology in Chinese prisons, schools, and nursing homes.
It’s not likely that emotion-recognition AI will stay within the realm of private enterprise. President Xi Jinping has promoted ‘positive energy’ among citizens and intimated that negative expressions are no good for a healthy society. If the Chinese central government continues to gain control over private companies’ tech data, national officials could use emotional data for ideological purposes—and target ‘unhappy’ or ‘suspicious’ citizens.
How Does It Work?
Taigusys’s AI will track facial muscle movements, body motions, and other biometric data to infer how a person is feeling, collecting massive amounts of personal data for machine learning purposes. If an individual displays too much negative emotion, the platform can recommend him or her for what’s termed ‘emotional support’—and what may end up being much worse.
Can We Really Detect Human Emotions?
This is still up for debate, but many critics say no. Psychologists still debate whether human emotions can be separated into basic emotions such as fear, joy, and surprise across cultures or whether something more complex is at stake. Many claim that AI emotion-reading technology is not only unethical but inaccurate since facial expressions don’t necessarily indicate someone’s true emotional state.
In addition, Taigusys’s facial tracking system could promote racial bias. One of the company’s systems classes faces as ‘yellow, white, or black’; another distinguishes between Uyghur and Han Chinese; and sometimes, the technology picks up certain ethnic features better than others.
Is China the Only One?
Not a chance. Other countries have also tried to decode and use emotions. In 2007, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) launched a heavily contested training programme (SPOT) that taught airport personnel to monitor passengers for signs of stress, deception, and fear. But China as a nation rarely discusses bias, and as a result, its AI-based discrimination could be more dangerous.
‘That Chinese conceptions of race are going to be built into technology and exported to other parts of the world is troubling, particularly since there isn’t the kind of critical discourse [about racism and ethnicity in China] that we’re having in the United States’, said Shazeda Ahmed, an AI researcher at New York University (NYU).
Taigusys’s founder points out, on the other hand, that its system can help prevent tragic violence, citing a 2020 stabbing of 41 people in Guangxi Province. Yet top academics remain unconvinced. As Sandra Wachter, associate professor and senior research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, said: ‘[If this continues], we will see a clash with fundamental human rights, such as free expression and the right to privacy’.