News In Context

Large Corporates Embrace Generative AI

The ability of generative AI to imitate music artists like Drake and Grimes  grabbed headlines this week as did news that large corporates like PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Walmart are putting the technology to use for more pragmatic purposes –  tax preparation and haggling with suppliers – an indication of how quickly the technology is being embraced by big business.

Indeed, PwC said it plans to invest $1 billion in generative artificial intelligence technology in its U.S. operations over the next three years, working with Microsoft. and ChatGPT-maker OpenAI to automate aspects of its tax, audit and consulting services, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The company will pay to access OpenAI’s GPT-4 language model, the underlying software that drives ChatGPT, to build and run apps in Microsoft’s Azure cloud. While ChatGPT is a free online tool, OpenAI charges developers to access its language model and create their own software tools.

Once its models are fully trained and tested, PwC said the technology will be used to take on co-pilot functions, such as quickly writing reports and preparing compliance documents, analyze and evaluate business strategies, identify inefficiencies in operations or create marketing materials and sales campaigns, among many other applications.

“This is about using generative AI to run the company in a more efficient way,”  Mohamed Kande, PwC’s vice chair and co-leader of U.S. consulting solutions and global advisory leader, told the Wall Street Journal. “Embracing this technology is critical.”

Kande said that for PwC, the goal isn’t only to develop and embed generative AI into its own technology stack and client-services platforms, but also to advise other companies on how best to use generative AI.

Other large accounting firms, including KPMG and Ernst & Young, are also investing in generative AI and TurboTax owner Intuit is building its own generative AI language model for financial management, trained on years of interactions with its business customers, the company said.

Accounting, tax preparation, auditing and other financial services are ripe areas for generative AI, as are procurement and legal services. (see The Innovator’s latest Startup Of The Week article about Zero Systems, one of many young companies cropping up to provide the picks and shovels for the ChatGPT gold rush.)

Bloomberg reported this week on how Walmart has partnered with Microsoft, OpenAI and Pactum AI to introduce conversational AI tools across its business units, including procurement. When a vendor says it wants to charge more for an item, Pactum’s system compares the request with historical trends, what competitors are estimated to pay and even fluctuations in key commodities that go into making the item, among other factors. It then tells Walmart the highest price it thinks its buyers should accept, a figure that a human procurement officer can modify if needed.

Meanwhile, law firms are lining up to use the technology, according to Reuters.

DLA Piper is one of several large firms that has said it will use a new AI tool from legal research company Casetext, one of a growing number of established legal technology companies that have rushed to roll out generative AI-powered tools.

“This is an arms race, and you don’t want to be the last law firm with these tools,” Daniel Tobey, chair of DLA Piper’s AI practice, told Reuters. “It’s very easy to become a dinosaur these days.”

Casetext in March released its AI legal assistant product, CoCounsel, which uses GPT-4 to speed up tasks like legal research, contract analysis and document review.

Law firms Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, which has about 1,150 lawyers, and Fisher Phillips, with more than 500 lawyers, are also using CoCounsel.

Some firms are developing capabilities in-house. Holland & Knight is creating an AI tool that it hopes will help lawyers review and modify credit agreements, according to Reuters, while Baker McKenzie has been baking large language models into existing services on a client-by-client “pilot” basis.

Large corporates are also increasingly using chatbots powered by generative AI for customer service, with encouraging results, according to an academic paper entitled Generative AI At Work, published on April 25 by Stanford University’s Eric Brynjolfsson and MIT’s Danielle Li and Lindsey Raymond. The paper studied the staggered introduction of a generative AI-based conversational assistant using data from 5,179 customer support agents and found that access to the tool increases productivity, as measured by issues resolved per hour, by 14 % on average, with the greatest impact on novice and low-skilled workers. The paper provides suggestive evidence that the AI model disseminates the potentially tacit knowledge of more able workers and helps newer workers and says AI assistance improves customer sentiment, reduces requests for managerial intervention, and improves employee retention.

Despite ethical and other concerns businesses appear eager to take advantage of generative AI’s potential. In a survey of about 500 corporate IT decision makers conducted by market research firm Enterprise Technology Research, 53% said they planned to evaluate, use or allocate further resources to OpenAI’s ChatGPT technology—a record for any single technology provider,  ETR’s Chief Strategist Erik Bradley told the Journal. Consulting and business-services firms, along with educational institutions, were the leading sectors in plans to evaluate and use generative AI and large language models, according to the survey.

Eric Boyd, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s AI platform, told the Journal that more than 1,000 organizations—including startups and multinational corporations—are now using OpenAI tools in Microsoft’s cloud in areas like customer support, conversational AI, summarization, writing assistance and customization by “gaining insights from data using search, data extraction and classification,” he said.

Projected spending across all sectors in the global generative AI market by the end of this year, growing at a compound annual rate of 32% to $98.1 billion by 2026, according to Pitchbook Data, a market analytics firm.



Elon Musk Plans AI Startup To Rival OpenAi

Elon Musk is developing plans to launch a new artificial intelligence start-up to compete with ChatGPT-maker OpenAI, as the billionaire seeks to join Silicon Valley’s race to build generative AI systems. The Tesla and Twitter chief is assembling a team of artificial intelligence researchers and engineers, said people familiar with the tech entrepreneur’s plans.

The Rapid Rise Of AI Threatens To Overturn U.S. Patent system

When members of the US supreme court refused this week to hear a groundbreaking case that sought to have an artificial intelligence system named as the inventor on a patent, it appeared to lay to rest a controversial idea that could have transformed the intellectual property field. The justices’ decision, in the case of Thaler vs Vidal, leaves in place two lower court rulings that only “natural persons” can be awarded patents. The decision dealt a blow to claims that intelligent machines are already matching human creativity in important areas of the economy and deserve similar protections for their ideas. But the Financial Times reports that while the court’s decision blocked a potentially radical extension of patent rights, it has done nothing to calm growing worries that AI is threatening to upend other aspects of intellectual property law. The US Patent and Trademark Office opened hearings on the issue this week, drawing warnings that AI-fuelled inventions might stretch existing understandings of how the patent system works and lead to a barrage of litigation.

Europe To ChatGPT: Disclose Your Sources

Makers of artificial-intelligence tools such as ChatGPT would be required to disclose copyright material used in building their systems, according to a new draft of European Union legislation slated to be the West’s first comprehensive set of rules governing the rollout of AI, reports the Wall Street Journal. Such an obligation would give publishers and content creators a new weapon to seek a share of profits when their works are used as source material for AI-generated content by tools like ChatGPT. The issue has been one of the thorniest commercial questions to emerge amid a frenzy of AI-powered tools being launched or tested by Microsoft and Google.

U.S. Department Of Homeland Security To Study How AI Might Be Used to Protect The Country

CNBC reported this week that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will establish a new task force to examine how artificial intelligence technology can be used to protect the country in a variety of ways.  DHS Secretary Alejandro  Mayorkas said the technology could potentially be used to better screen for imports of goods produced by forced labor as well as for shipments of fentanyl.


Russia’s VTB To Launch Digital Bank On Social Network

Russian state-owned bank VTB will launch a digital bank within the mobile messaging app of leading social network VKontakte, Russia’s answer to Facebook, as Moscow seeks technological solutions to disrupted banking transfers.Western providers Google Pay and Apple Pay restricted access to their services after Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February 2022. That made operations with banks abroad particularly challenging as many bank cards stopped working overseas and Russia was disconnected from global payment systems.Meanwhile, the Bank of Russia has developed an alternative to SWIFT, the System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SPFS), and simplified the way banks can use its Faster Payments System (FPS) with foreign counterparts for cross-border transfers. On March 1, state communications regulator Roskomnadzor published a list of foreign messenger services, such as Telegram, WhatsApp, Discord and Microsoft Teams, that were banned for the provision of financial services.


Steakholder Foods 3D Bio-Prints The World’s First Cultivated Fish Fillet:

Israel’s Steakholder Foods said it has successfully 3D printed the world’s first whole cultivated fish fillet. The fillets were created via a partnership with Singaporean-based Umami Meats, which provided the grouper cells. Steakholder Foods customized the cells into bio-inks for 3D printing, using newly developed patent-pending technology that mimics the flaky texture of cooked fish. Once printed, the fillets are ready to be cooked and eaten. Steakiholder Foods and Umami Meats are developing additional seafood species including Japanese Eel, Yellowfin Tuna and Red Snapper.


 EU Agrees To Decarbonize Air Travel With World’s Largest Green Fuels Mandate For Aviation

European Union negotiators secured a deal to decarbonize the air travel sector, seeking to slash heat-trapping emissions by stimulating the region’s green aviation fuel market.The agreement on the so-called ReFuelEU Aviation proposal followed late night talks on April 25 and was reached by the European Parliament and the Council. It must now be approved by EU countries to become law, which is typically a formality. The new rules are set to require aviation fuel suppliers to supply a minimum share of sustainable aviation fuels — or SAF — at EU airports, starting at 2% of overall fuel supplied by 2025. This will rise to 6% by the end of the decade, before climbing to 70% by 2050.

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About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.