Robots — or more specifically, artificial intelligence — have become a major part of our modern, connected lives. We ask Siri for recommendations on where to eat, ask Google for directions to the restaurant, ask our car to play music or make a phone call, ask our house to turn on the lights and the heat before we get home.
But would you let an AI robot run your company?
One already does. Deep Knowledge Ventures, a Hong Kong-based life science venture capital company, has already appointed an AI robot to its board of directors. The robot, called Vital (Validating Investment Tool for Advancing Life Sciences) was designed to analyze trends in the data of certain companies in an effort to predict successful investments.
Vital is an equal member of the board and is expected to eventually be given an equal vote in all financial decisions made by the company.
“The variables involved in the long-term success of a biotechnology company are many and complex,” Deep Knowledge Ventures said in a statement. “We were attracted to a software tool that could in large part automate due diligence and use historical datasets to uncover trends that are not immediately obvious to humans surveying top-line data.”
The “robot” is, in this case, an algorithm, tasked with analyzing vast amounts of big data from life sciences and pharmaceutical companies and then making a recommendation on whether or not the companies would be a profitable investment for the firm.
And while it seems strange and science fiction-esque to imagine a robot — of any sort — on the board of a company, many companies already rely on big data tools, machine learning, and deep learning algorithms to make recommendations about the direction the company should go. The only difference, really, is that in those cases, a human is interpreting the data and deciding whether or not the advice is sound.
In the case of Deep Knowledge Ventures, they have eliminated that human interpretation and given the computer an equal vote. Of course, there are five other human members of the board that could easily outvote the computer, minimizing the risk of being the first company to have a robot on its board.
We have already proved that computers can surpass humans at certain tasks, and as machine learning and deep learning improve and develop, their abilities will only increase. If an algorithm can better detect breast cancers than a human radiologist, or more quickly and efficiently find relevant documents for a court case, why couldn’t they also (eventually) make better financial predictions and decisions than a human board member?
Is it a good idea to let a computer decide the fate of your company? Frankly, it depends on the computer. But assuming that the algorithms are sound and the data clean, AI can produce insights that humans would miss, and can predict outcomes with a great deal of accuracy.
Only time will tell if Vital will successfully fill this role for its company.