Better corporate governance of AI, ChatGPT & deep learning implementations

MARTHA Lane Fox helpfully reminds us that in her experience many tech and innovation companies – whether long-standing or frightfully new and iconoclastic - remain in the stone ages when it comes to well-known, long-standing corporate governance basics. 

The normal stuff of good corporate governance and effective independent non-executive director led board discussions – whether it is visiting operations, meeting board members off site, thoroughly reading board papers, understanding and effectively discussing strategic challenges, new ideas, products and future opportunities – is still, apparently, something of an eye-opening revelation in thrusting seat-of-your-pants digital, tech and AI innovation decision-making circles.

Many digital ‘innovators’ take pride in the lack of oversight or constraints upon snap Founder and CEO decision-making. Executive boards in the innovation tech space are often either non-existent or tame. The conspicuous lack of decision-making guardrails is regularly explained as aid to further motivating the white heat of the vital big thinking of radical entrepreneurialism. 

Numerous tech companies prefer to be long on artificial intelligence deep learning implementations and new ideas/algorithms but short on human intelligence and good corporate governance recipes.

Few iconoclastic tech companies even have non-executive (or properly independent) directors. Whenever they are established enough to do so, they are often of the nodding dog variety happy to play along with anything innovative that does or might maximise shareholder value. Usually without looking or questioning too closely.

Yet in a digital era where tech companies move quickly and break things in lieu of due diligence, I would suggest that the deep learning implementations AI genie getting out of the bottle – whether with ChatGPT; Sydney; GTP-4; Bard; GPT-5; DALL-E; StableDiffusion etc – immediately makes a strong case for independent directors [aka non-executive directors (NEDs) in old money] to urgently get thoroughly involved in corporate governance at our leading tech and AI innovation companies - irrespective of their size, longevity or past reputations

It is a peculiar situation where swathes of the existing human written corpus can be randomly – possibly dangerously - rewritten by scrambled together AI enabled tech innovations released without due diligence. While the executive boards that took the decisions to develop then beta test these deep learning AI tools willy nilly on the wider world are themselves not subject to similar transparency, interrogation or disagreement?

While we wait for regulation to never catch up with the societal impacts and exogeneous costs imposed by relentless AI tech innovation, there is an unanswerable case for independent directors (NEDs in old money) to be parachuted into these leading digital and AI companies (Google: Microsoft Bing; OpenAI etc) with immediate effect. The absence of these properly independent directors is so telling that, to my knowledge, even Sydney hasn’t yet been asked for good corporate governance advice by his creators or the executive boards they report to.

From a precautionary principle point of view – if nothing else - surely the time is right to sprinkle the magic dust of some independent directorship supervision onto our AI and ChatGPT futures?

Photo credit: Roger Ebert