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Who Decides?

Historically, the responsibility of decision-making has predominantly fallen upon humans. However, with the rapid evolution of artificial intelligence, the landscape has shifted, and decisions are now frequently made by machines.


Here are examples of questions that need to be answered?


  • Should autonomous decision-making determine what is safe?

  • Should it make decisions within what is already determined as being safe?

  • When should human oversight and intervention occur? How much uncertainty is necessary and risk before this is needed?

  • How should the use of AI be governed when used in safety devices or as part of a safety component?


This poses a fundamental question:

which decisions are appropriate for computers to make, and by what standards should these by governed?

AI  - Who Decides
AI - Who Decides

In this article, we will examine the use of decision support systems (DSS) and their role in decision-making, including their ability to function as autonomous decision makers. Furthermore, we will explore the implications of this shift on organizational compliance for entities that opt to utilize this technology.


Decision Support Systems


Decision Support Systems (DSS) are a class of information systems that help individuals or organizations make choices by providing relevant data and models to facilitate analysis, visualization, and interpretation of information.


The ultimate goal of a DSS is to support decision-making processes by providing users with the necessary information and insights to make informed decisions based on a variety of criteria, such as cost, risk, efficiency, and effectiveness.


DSS typically includes software tools, techniques, and models that enable users to access and analyze data from different sources, perform “what-if” analyses, create scenarios, and generate reports.


Examples of decision support systems include financial planning software, inventory management systems, and supply chain optimization tools.


How Have DSS Changed?


Decision support systems (DSS) have been enhanced in recent years by the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. AI-enabled DSS can provide more accurate and personalized recommendations, improve decision-making speed, and reduce human errors. Here are some of the ways AI have improved DSS:



  • Automated Data Analysis: AI algorithms can automatically process large volumes of data and identify patterns, trends, and anomalies that may be overlooked by human analysts. This capability can help users make more informed decisions by providing them with accurate and timely information.

  • Personalized Recommendations: AI-enabled DSS can provide personalized recommendations based on an individual user's preferences and past behaviors. This approach can improve decision-making outcomes by tailoring the suggestions to the specific needs of each user.

  • Predictive Analytics: AI-powered DSS can perform predictive analytics to anticipate future trends, events, and outcomes. This can help users identify potential risks and opportunities and adjust their decisions accordingly.

  • Natural Language Processing: AI algorithms can understand and interpret natural language inputs, such as text or speech. This capability can improve user experience by enabling them to interact with the DSS in a more natural and intuitive way.

  • Machine Learning: AI-enabled DSS can use machine learning algorithms to improve the accuracy of its predictions and recommendations over time. The system can learn from its past decisions and outcomes and adjust its models and parameters to optimize its performance.


AI technologies have transformed decision support systems by enhancing their accuracy, speed, and personalization. This evolution has enabled organizations and individuals to make better-informed decisions, improve their efficiency, and gain a competitive advantage.


However, DSS now have something else to offer – the possibility of autonomous decision-making.


Autonomous Decision-Making


Decision support and autonomous decision-making are both capabilities to assist with decision-making processes. However, they differ in their level of automation and human involvement.


Decision support, including those enhanced by AI, focus on supporting decision making rather than making decisions. Decision support systems typically require human input to generate recommended decisions. The ultimate decision-making power remains with the human user, who can choose to accept, reject or modify the recommendations generated by the DSS.


On the other hand, autonomous decision-making involves the use of artificial intelligence algorithms to make decisions automatically without human intervention. The AI algorithms analyze data, learn from patterns, and generate decisions based on this analysis. The decision-making process is entirely automated, with no human input required.


Here are some advantages and disadvantages of decision support systems (DSS) and autonomous decision making using AI:


Advantages of Decision Support Systems (DSS):


  • Improved decision-making: DSS can provide decision-makers with access to more comprehensive and accurate data. This can improve the quality of decision-making and help organizations make more informed decisions.

  • Speed and efficiency: DSS can automate the process of data analysis and provide real-time decision support. This can help organizations make faster and more efficient decisions.

  • Flexibility: DSS can be designed to meet the specific needs of an organization or department. This means that decision-makers can customize the system to address their unique needs.


Disadvantages of Decision Support Systems (DSS):


  • Complexity: DSS can be complex and difficult to use, requiring specialized knowledge and training. This can make it challenging for non-experts to use the system effectively.

  • Dependence on data quality: DSS rely on data quality to generate accurate recommendations. If the data used by the system is flawed or incomplete, it can lead to inaccurate or biased results.

  • Limited scope: DSS are designed to provide decision support for specific tasks or processes. This means that they may not be effective for more complex decision-making processes.


Advantages of Autonomous Decision-Making using AI:


  • Speed and efficiency: AI can analyze data at a much faster rate than humans, allowing for faster decision-making and improved efficiency.

  • Consistency: AI algorithms can make decisions consistently, without the variability that can come with human decision-making.

  • Scalability: AI can handle large volumes of data, making it an effective tool for organizations dealing with big data.


Disadvantages of Autonomous Decision Making using AI:


  • Lack of human oversight: AI systems can make decisions (an act on them) without human input, leading to potential biases or errors.

  • Dependence on data quality: Like DSS, AI systems rely on data quality to generate accurate results. If the data used is flawed or incomplete, it can lead to inaccurate or biased results.

  • Complexity: AI algorithms can be complex and difficult to understand, making it challenging for non-experts to use or interpret the results.


While DSS and autonomous decision-making have their own advantages and disadvantages, it is important for organizations to carefully consider their needs and goals before implementing these systems. Additionally, it is crucial to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the data used in decision-making processes, regardless of the system used.


What Impact Does Autonomous Decision-Making have on Compliance?


Autonomous decision making using AI can have both positive and negative impacts on compliance, depending on how the technology is implemented and monitored.


On the positive side, AI-enabled autonomous decision-making systems can help organizations improve compliance by:


  • Reducing Bias: AI algorithms can make decisions based on objective data and criteria, which can reduce the impact of human biases that may lead to non-compliant actions.

  • Enhancing Accuracy: AI-powered systems can process large volumes of data and analyze it accurately and consistently, which can help organizations identify potential compliance issues and take corrective actions quickly.

  • Improving Efficiency: AI systems can automate routine compliance tasks, such as monitoring and reporting, which can reduce the workload of compliance staff and improve their productivity.

  • Enabling Predictive Compliance: AI can analyze historical data and identify patterns and trends that may indicate future compliance risks. This approach can help organizations anticipate potential compliance issues and take preventive actions before they occur.



However, there are also potential risks and challenges associated with the use of autonomous decision-making systems in compliance:


  • Lack of Human Oversight: Autonomous systems may make decisions that violate ethical or legal standards if not adequately monitored by human experts. Therefore, organizations must ensure that human oversight and control mechanisms are in place to avoid such risks.

  • Limited Transparency: The use of complex AI algorithms can make it difficult for compliance staff and external regulators to understand how decisions are made. Lack of transparency can undermine trust and confidence in the system and raise compliance risks.

  • Unintended Consequences: Autonomous systems can generate unexpected results that may lead to unintended consequences that violate ethical or legal standards. Therefore, organizations must ensure that their systems are designed to anticipate and mitigate such risks.


While autonomous decision-making using AI can help improve compliance, it is critical to balance the potential benefits with the potential risks and challenges. Organizations must ensure that their systems are transparent, explainable, and subject to appropriate human oversight and control mechanisms to achieve the desired outcomes.


Not My Final Thoughts


When making decisions, and more importantly acting on them, involving uncertainty where people, public, or the environment may be at risk, it becomes a moral imperative. It is up to humans to determine what level of safety is acceptable and what risks are tolerable, not machines.


Therefore, it is the responsibility of humans to establish the parameters within which AI operates, including the acceptable level of risk. This ultimately holds people accountable for the outcomes of their decisions, a responsibility that machines are unable to fulfill, regardless of its level of "intelligence".


Where does the science experiment end and responsible engineering begin?


The idea of unsupervised or autonomous decision-making by AI systems promotes a use where decisions can step outside the lines and create risk. To provide assurance that organizations stay within appropriate boundaries, they must ensure that their employees, as well as their systems (including AI), are operating ethically and within regulatory frameworks.


Perhaps, the risk is not so much in making decisions but on deciding which ones to act on which should probably be left to humans to decide particularly when the things we care about are at risk.


What do you think?


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