What are the pros and cons of artificial intelligence?

Staci West 04/05/2023 in Specialist investing

Earlier this week*, Chegg, the popular one-stop-shop site for all things schoolwork, saw its share price fall nearly 50%. It’s the first instance of a company warning that ChatGPT is eating into its business that we know of. How do companies combat AI solutions such as ChatGPT? Should companies be worried about the rise of AI or is it an opportunity to improve businesses?

Chris Ford, manager of the Sanlam Global Artificial Intelligence fund, gives us an overview of the pros and cons of incorporating artificial intelligence, giving his views on the long-term benefits to both individuals and companies. We also cover the flip side with the potential drawbacks of AI, such as job redundancies.

*week commencing 1 May 2023

Want to learn more about artificial intelligence?
Watch: What is artificial intelligence?
Watch: What potential threats does artificial intelligence pose for companies today?

Want to hear more from Chris Ford?
Watch: Artificial intelligence: a craze or a huge investment opportunity? [Feb 2023]
Listen: Episode 174 of the ‘Investing on the go’ podcast — Artificial intelligence: how it is changing the world and our investment options [Feb 2022]

What are the benefits of AI?
There are many ways in which AI can be used to the benefit of society and individuals. Productivity and efficiency are some of the most obvious examples of the use of artificially intelligent platforms to deliver benefits to companies. But perhaps some of the other benefits would include objectivity, transparency, perspicacity and accuracy.

There are many things that humans are not very good at; we’re not very good at being attentive, you know, we like to take breaks, we need to take holidays. There are lots of things that artificially intelligent systems, if implemented well, can do with a greater level of intention and competence than we can.

And that, of course, causes some to think about the drawbacks of AI and the issues of the workplace and the way in which that could be disrupted, causing redundancies, is something which we spend a lot of time thinking about. But of course, many of these new artificially intelligent technologies are going to create jobs as much as they destroy them. These platforms need to be overseen, they need to be curated, they need to be developed, they need to be invested in. And all of that will require people with quite acute data science skills, often skills that result in higher paid jobs than those which are being displaced by the technology.

Is AI a threat to companies?
AI can certainly be a threat to businesses, and we’ve already seen some significant parts of the economy significantly disrupted as a result of the presence of artificially intelligent systems. This week we saw Chegg [, Inc.] the US investment education company, lose 45- 50% of its value in one day as a result of the disruption that’s now being visited upon its business model by ChatGPT. And we’ve seen other companies in different parts of the economy also disrupted by competitors with perhaps a more acute and more thoroughgoing deployment of artificially intelligent systems at the heart of those businesses.

We think that will continue. In fact, one of the things which we believe and stands at the heart of our fund is that those that engage with artificially intelligent systems most thoroughly will enjoy considerably enhanced competitive and economic moats around their businesses over time.

So, for those companies that aren’t yet engaging with AI, I would suggest that it would be a good time to start doing so soonest. And for those that already are on that journey, I think that they are in a position to enjoy those benefits for a very long time to come.

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