From Silicon Valley to South Korea, artificial intelligence has been one of the hottest tech topics of the year. In fact, 2016 was meant to be “the year that virtual reality becomes reality”, and yet AI seems to be dominating the discussion. Now, top business schools around the world – from University of California, Berkeley to National University of Singapore – are turning to AI to help bolster their programs and train MBA students to apply machine learning processes to business problems.

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Artificial intelligence is already being widely applied in industry from the financial sector to publishing. Life insurance agencies are seeking ways to diminish the tedious work of its agents by implementing AI algorithms to handle particular calculations and complexities that may take humans exponentially longer to complete. With this in mind, its prime time for future business leaders to learn the ins and outs of machine learning and cognitive computing technologies to understand when and where to turn to AI – and which tasks are best left up to humans.

Business Because reports that the MBA program at HEC Paris in France turned to Watson’s computing power to see how business practices could use the technology to explore revenue-generating opportunities. “The objective was to integrate Watson with business applications,” said Benoit Banchereau who directs HEC Paris’s business school development. 

Hult International Business School is another elite program that sought to monetize Watson’s cognitive computing power for the betterment of business. MBA students at Hult International were asked to define and investigate ways to use AI technology to “create revenue generating business opportunities.” Steve Munson – who once managed a cloud data center for data storage maker EMC – and his team took what they learned about applying AI to the travel industry and presented their plan to board-level executives in the industry. He calls the MBA program “invaluable.”

MBA students at NUS in Singapore were also asked to find a valuable business fit for Watson, tasked with building prototype applications and writing a business plan to detail how the technology would be applied.

NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan acknowledges the prescience of AI training in the business sector, stating that his university hopes to prepare students to combine and leverage advancements in science and technology. “It is crucial for our students to be able to work with the most cutting-edge systems and technologies,” he told the business school website. 

Amaury de Buchet, affiliate professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at Berlin’s ESCP Europe Business School recognizes that algorithms are more capable than humans at taming complexity and sifting through big data sets. He told Business Because, “Our goal in business education is to help out students…manage the complexity that comes from a more AI-driven world.”

Meanwhile, Andrei Kirilenko, director of the Centre for Global Finance and Technology at Imperial College, told Business Because that he sees AI slowly claiming the role of decision-maker while humans move to roles “more on the periphery,” such as maintenance and managing. “[Automated financial markets and institutions] are server farms,” he said, “They run on technology because it has become better and cheaper at doing things that humans used to do.”

Stanford now offers a joint Computer Science MS/MBA program, in addition to a plethora of AI and data science programs for executive education. Through the rest of the 2010s, we’re likely to see more and more universities stress the connectedness of computer science and business – in both theory and practice.

Business schools aren’t always in stride with the latest technological developments – so business leaders would be wise to take note that these renowned international business institutions begin to recognize the potential of AI and explore the revenue-generating opportunities cognitive computing systems. Soon, many employees and MBA holders will enter the business sector with a keen understand of how AI may better business.

Image credit: WSTP