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International Business Forum

Author: Sarah Murphy

Artificial Intelligence in our Globalized Society” was the topic of discussion at the 26th annual International Business Forum, held Wednesday, October 18 at the VCU Institute for Contemporary Art.

Hosted by the VCU Center for International Business Advancement and sponsored by Universal Corporation, the Forum welcomed a panel of four distinguished professionals spanning tech, advertising, digital marketing, and academia: Peter Aiken, Ph.D., associate professor of Information Systems at VCU Business; Jeff MacDonald, social strategy director at Mekanism; Will Melton, founder and chief executive officer at Xponent21; and Nick Serfass, chief executive officer at Richmond Technology Council (rvatech/). Van R. Wood, Ph.D., professor of international marketing and Forum coordinator, served as moderator.

VCU Business Dean Naomi Boyd, Ph.D. greeted attendees and spoke of how VCU is poised to lead in today’s AI-driven world.

“Emerging technologies and how they are impacting and disrupting our lives every single day are at the forefront of what we are training our students to focus on,” said Boyd. “It’s an exciting time to not only be in this space, but to be at a business school that is leveraging technology as resources and tools to build the workforce of tomorrow.”

Before opening up the panel discussion, each participant shared an overview of their own unique viewpoint and experiences with AI.

“While we have been teaching our staff to use AI tools, we’ve also been teaching them to find the flaws and shortcomings,” said MacDonald. “We want to show that while we’re using the tools, we’re also pushing beyond their capabilities using the human experience.”

Similarly, Melton posed the question, “how does humanity harness the power of AI? How do we turn it into something good?”

Serfass is pushing to transform the Richmond region into an innovation hub for AI; he and his team at rvatech/ recently applied for a federal grant that would make Richmond one of 20 tech hubs nationwide.

“Almost every job that exists in the next 5-10 years is going to have interaction with AI,” said Serfass. “Even if you aren’t a coder, developer or engineer, there is a huge opportunity for you to have a career in the AI space.”

“The thing you hear about is, ‘your job will be taken by AI,’ and that’s simply wrong,” said Aiken. “Your job isn’t going to be taken by AI, it’s going to be taken by someone who knows how to use AI better than you.” 

“This is absolutely not the end of the human endeavor—in fact, AI is going to enhance the human endeavor,” said Wood. “Much like the industrial revolution, AI is going to accelerate what we are. But you have to understand it and you have to get out in front of it.”

A reception followed the panel, giving students, professionals and panelists the opportunity to connect and continue the discussion.

A recording of the Forum will be made available to view on the Center for International Business Advancement website.

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