GW Business Forum Delves into AI's Unstoppable Advance while Acknowledging Mistrust

The school’s second annual business and policy forum, “Imagining the Future with AI,” comes as the university announces the GW Institute for Trustworthy AI Initiative.

April 4, 2024

David Rubenstein talks to a George Washington University audience about artificial intelligence at a GW Business policy forum.

David Rubenstein, co-founder and co-chair of the Carlyle Group, talks about AI and other topics at the GW Business second annual business and policy forum. (Photos: Linnea Farnsworth)

Mistrust of artificial intelligence is unlikely to slow the pace at which it is developing in business, government, industry and society in general, but George Washington University’s Interim Dean of the School of Business Vanessa Perry told an audience in the Jack Morton Auditorium she has long since put aside old fears of machines taking over.

“We know that AI is here across industries globally, and we are here today to talk about its impact and how we might regulate this impact.”

Corporate executives, business leaders, government workers, policy makers and GW faculty, students and alumni gathered at GW Business’s second annual business and policy forum, titled “Imagining the Future with A.I.” 

GW President Ellen M. Granberg welcomed the guests on Tuesday by calling attention to the university’s support for science and technology in the rapidly evolving technological landscape, particularly of generative technology.

“GW can connect science, technology and innovation with law, policy and ethics like no other institution,” she said. “This is why I strongly believe that collaboration is at the heart of all progress. And it is why we remain dedicated to working across academia, industry and government to accelerate our understanding of important technologies like artificial intelligence and to ensure it has a safe and positive impact on our lives and our communities.”

To build trust in AI and its processes, Granberg announced the launch of the GW Institute for Trustworthy AI Initiative in partnership with the Fortune 500 company SAIC, the first research of its kind to explore how artificial intelligence can safely and effectively be integrated into our lives. Joining Granberg and Perry at the daylong policy forum were Provost Christopher Alan Bracey and deans of the College of Professional Studies Liesl Riddle and GW Engineering John Lach.

Expert panelists and keynotes throughout the day represented leadership from the American Bankers Association, Blackrock, CalypsoAI, Consumer Technology Association, DXC Technology, Flipkart, Group, GDIT, Google, IBM, KPMG, ManTech, NIST, NSF, Philips Healthcare, SAIC, SolasAI, the State of Maryland, UL Research Institutes and Zillow. Additionally, several GW alumni shared their expertise: Dwayne Allen, M.B.A ‘96, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Unisys, Brian Donnellan, M.B.A. ‘02, president and CEO of Bright MLS, Jared Johnson, M.B.A. ‘11, associate vice president of academic technology and customer experience at George Washington University, Dmitry Korolev, M.S. ‘18, principal for security risk management at Verizon, and Vanetta Pledger, M.S. ‘05, chief information officer for the City of Alexandria, Virginia.

The policy forum’s keynote opening speaker was David Rubenstein, the co-founder and co-chair of the Carlyle Group, whose poll of the audience about their fears of AI’s capacity to predict events in their lives drew mixed reviews—some didn’t mind knowing when they’d meet a future partner; almost none wanted to know when they would die. Rubenstein admitted to being a late adopter of new technologies such as the iPhone when it came out and offered sweeping tales of U.S. history and human development before artificial intelligence. 

“It was good AI wasn’t around [in 1777] because if it was, [George Washington] never would have fought the Revolutionary War,” he said. “AI would not have predicted his rag tag army would have beat the better equipped British,” he said. “Over the 400,000 years of human development,” Rubenstein explained, “the human brain has allowed us to advance in ways he never imagined.”

“Just think. In my own lifetime [growing up in Baltimore in the 1950s] …we didn’t have cell phones, we didn’t have the internet, we didn’t have personal computers, we didn’t have smartphones, we didn’t have Amazon to deliver everything we need,” he said.

GWSB Interim Dean Vanessa Perry (l), David Rubenstein and GW President Ellen M. Granberg.
GW Business Interim Dean Vanessa Perry (l), Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein and GW President Ellen M. Granberg.

As each new technology came along, there was often the same reaction, he said, that it was bad for humanity and would destroy jobs.  Instead, civilization tended to get better, providing advancements in medicine such as immunotherapy, a potential cure for diseases, the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as the technological creations of Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon.

“Now AI comes along and says, ‘Guess what? We’re going to change the world.’ Everything you did before is outdated a bit and you need to use AI if you are going to survive in the new world,” said Rubenstein, even as he acknowledged the fears that many have.

“At software companies and other places, people are losing their jobs. They will retool themselves no doubt and that is the history of technology,” he said. 

Most of the new technology are American inventions, said Rubenstein, that are years ahead of China, a situation he credits to a loosely regulated environment.

“AI is relatively loosely regulated,” he said. “It’s probably not a bad idea if there was some regulation, some ground rules, so we know what the rules of the road are and set some standards that help people.”

iffany Moore, Consumer Technology Association; Kalyan Krishnamurthy, Flipkart; Dwayne Allen (MBA '96), Unisys at GWSB Policy Forum
From left, panelists: Dwayne Allen, M.B.A. '96, Unisys; Kalyan Krishnamurthy, Flipkart; and Tiffany Moore, Consumer Technology Association.

At the Carlyle Group, which has several hundred companies in its portfolio, he said, they use AI to help businesses improve, but not yet to make investment decisions that are still made by the partners though he expects the day will come when they turn to AI for those decisions. Even then, he says, it is important to remember that humans operate the technology.

“Artificial intelligence is a word that scares people,” Rubenstein said. “It is really in my view enhanced human intelligence because, in the end, humans are programming these chips and programming these kinds of computer programs, and we shouldn’t just blame something called artificial intelligence. It’s really humans that are behind it.”

GW student explains her research at poster presentation at GWSB Policy Forum on AI.
A student explains research during poster presentation at the GW Business Policy Forum on AI.

His main concern about the technology is that it will not be accessible to everyone. Large parts of the world, including parts of the United States, he said, will not benefit from artificial intelligence, leading to even greater inequity and a wider economic gap between the haves and have-nots. 

GW Engineering students addressed these socio-technical questions at a research poster presentation during the closing reception, evaluating the trustworthiness of AI based on real-world applications, the potential impact AI will have on individuals in underrepresented communities, and the role AI will play in the workplace.

Among the sponsors of the policy forum were Mosaic Insurance, BMA business management, Chief Outsiders, Dell Technologies, Paladin Capital group, Bright MLS, GDIT, KPMG, Penn-West, and the Greater Washington Board of Trade.