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Corporate Responsibility in the Age of AI

Artificial intelligence has turbocharged the attention economy and unleashed a new set of risks, the scope of which are far from clear. While calls for regulation are growing louder, when they come from the very people behind the technology, they come across largely as public-relations campaigns and corporate stall tactics.

SEATTLE – In the past year, a cacophony of conversations about artificial intelligence has erupted. Depending on whom you listen to, AI is either carrying us into a shiny new world of endless possibilities or propelling us toward a grim dystopia. Call them the Barbie and Oppenheimer scenarios – as attention-grabbing and different as the Hollywood blockbusters of the summer. But one conversation is getting far too little attention: the one about corporate responsibility.

I joined Nike as its first Vice President of Corporate Responsibility in 1998, landing right in the middle of the hyper-globalization era’s biggest corporate crisis: the iconic sports and fitness company had become the face of labor exploitation in developing countries. In dealing with that crisis and setting up corporate responsibility for Nike, we learned hard-earned lessons, which can now help guide our efforts to navigate the AI revolution.

There is a key difference today. Taking place in the late 1990s, the Nike drama played out relatively slowly. When it comes to AI, however, we don’t have the luxury of time. This time last year, most people had not heard about generative AI. The technology entered our collective awareness like a lightning strike in late 2022, and we have been trying to make sense of it ever since.

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