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Executives Say A.I. Needs the ‘Last Mile’ of Human Judgment

October 23, 2019, 2:57 PM UTC
Genpact CMO Stacy Simpson, second from left, speaking at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C. Stuart Isett for Fortune
Stuart Isett for Fortune

Applying artificial intelligence across companies requires human expertise and non-technical skills, especially for the “last mile,” according to panelists at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C on Wednesday.

“The last mile of judgment is on the human,” says Stacy Simpson, chief marketing officer of professional services firm Genpact. “Empathy becomes incredibly important.”

Non-technical skills like judgment and reasoning are crucial as companies figure out how the technology will play out in practice, as is a “diversity of perspectives” among the people “around the table” who decide how AI will be applied to everyday life, Simpson added.

Simpson joined executives from Intel, United Airlines, and AI-powered talent matching platform Pymetrics to talk about how AI can and can’t transform businesses.

“AI is like teenage sex,” joked Pymetrics CEO Frida Polli. “Everyone is saying they’re doing it, but no one has any idea [whats going on].”

Problems with AI, including gender and racial bias, aren’t created by the technology, but rather mirror the real world, Polli said: “Your toddler”—her analogy for the stage of life AI is in right now—”is not in a good phase right now. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

More must-read stories from Fortune’s MPW Summit:

—How a corporate board can engage on company culture
—”I don’t regret enforcing the law.” Former DHS head Nielsen defends family separation in heated interview
—Why 3 major companies decided to take a stand on gun violence
Tulsi Gabbard calls Hillary Clinton’s Russian jabs “outrageous” at Fortune’s MPW Summit
—Anita Hill calls on candidates to address gender violence
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