Over the last few years, AI has really come into its own. ChatGPT and similar large language models have made serious inroads in a wide variety of natural language tasks, generative approaches have been tested in domains like music and protein discovery, researchers have leveraged techniques like chain-of-thought prompting to extend the capabilities of the underlying models, and much else besides.
People working in domains like customer service, content marketing, and software engineering are mostly convinced that this technology will significantly impact their day-to-day lives, but many questions remain.
Given the fact that these models are enormous artifacts whose inner workings are poorly understood, one of the main questions centers around trust and transparency. In this article, we’re going to address these questions head-on. We’ll discuss why transparency is important when advanced algorithms are making ever more impactful decisions, and turn our attention to how you can build a more transparent business.
Why is Transparency Important?
First, let’s take a look at why transparency is important in the first place. The next few sections will focus on the trust issues that stem from AI becoming a ubiquitous technology that few understand at a deep level.
AI is Becoming More Integrated
AI has been advancing steadily for decades, and this has led to a concomitant increase in its use. It’s now commonplace for us to pick entertainment based on algorithmic recommendations, for our loan and job applications to pass through AI filters, and for more and more professionals to turn to ChatGPT before Google when trying to answer a question.
We personally know of multiple software engineers who claim to feel as though they’re at a significant disadvantage if their preferred LLM is offline for even a few hours.
Even if you knew nothing about AI except the fact that it seems to be everywhere now, that should be sufficient incentive to want more context on how it makes decisions and how those decisions are impacting the world.
AI is Poorly Understood
But, it turns out there is another compelling reason to care about transparency in AI: almost no one knows how LLMs and neural networks more broadly can do what they do.
To be sure, very simple techniques like decision trees and linear regression models pose little analytical challenge, and we’ve written a great deal over the past year about how language models are trained. But if you were to ask for a detailed account of how ChatGPT manages to create a poem with a consistent rhyme scheme, we couldn’t tell you.
And – as far as we know – neither could anyone else.
This is troubling; as we noted above, AI has become steadily more integrated into our private and public lives, and that trend will surely only accelerate now that we’ve seen what generative AI can do. But if we don’t have a granular understanding of the inner workings of advanced machine-learning systems, how can we hope to train bias out of them, double-check their decisions, or fine-tune them to behave productively and safely?
These precise concerns are what have given rise to the field of explainable AI. Mathematical techniques like LIME and SHAP can offer some intuition for why a given algorithm generated the output it did, but they accomplish this by crudely approximating the algorithm instead of actually explaining it. Mechanistic interpretability is the only approach we know of that confronts the task directly, but it has only just gotten started.
This leaves us in the discomfiting situation of relying on technologies that almost no one groks deeply, including the people creating them.
People Have Many Questions About AI
Finally, people have a lot of questions about AI, where it’s heading, and what its ultimate consequences will be. These questions can be laid out on a spectrum, with one end corresponding to relatively prosaic concerns about technological unemployment and deepfakes influencing elections, and the other corresponding to more exotic fears around superintelligent agents actively fighting with human beings for control of the planet’s future.
Obviously, we’re not going to sort all this out today. But as a contact center manager who cares about building trust and transparency, it would behoove you to understand something about these questions and have at least cursory answers prepared for them.
How do I Increase Transparency and Trust when Using AI Systems?
Now that you know why you should take trust and transparency around AI seriously, let’s talk about ways you can foster these traits in your contact center. The following sections will offer advice on crafting policies around AI use, communicating the role AI will play in your contact center, and more.
Get Clear on How You’ll Use AI
The journey to transparency begins with having a clear idea of what you’ll be using AI to accomplish. This will look different for different kinds of organizations – a contact center, for example, will probably want to use generative AI to answer questions and boost the efficiency of its agents, while a hotel might instead attempt to automate the check-in process with an AI assistant.
Each use case has different requirements and different approaches that are better suited for addressing it; crafting an AI strategy in advance will go a long to helping you figure out how you should allocate resources and prioritize different tasks.
Once you do that, you should then create documentation and a communication policy to support this effort. The documentation will make sure that current and future agents know how to use the AI platform you decide to work with, and it should address the strengths and weaknesses of AI, as well as information about when its answers should be fact-checked. It should also be kept up-to-date, reflecting any changes you make along the way.
The communication policy will help you know what to say if someone (like a customer) asks you what role AI plays in your organization.
Know Your Data
Another important thing you should keep in mind is what kind of data your model has been trained on, and how it was gathered. Remember that LLMs consume huge amounts of textual data and then learn patterns in that data they can use to create their responses. If that data contains biased information – if it tends to describe women as “nurses” and men as “doctors”, for example – that will likely end up being reflected in its final output. Reinforcement learning from human feedback and other approaches to fine-tuning can go part of the way to addressing this problem, but the best thing to do is ensure that the training data has been curated to reflect reality, not stereotypes.
For similar reasons, it’s worth knowing where the data came from. Many LLMs are trained somewhat indiscriminately, and might have even been shown corpora of pirated books or other material protected by copyright. This has only recently come to the forefront of the discussion, and OpenAI is currently being sued by several different groups for copyright infringement.
If AI ends up being an important part of the way your organization functions, the chances are good that, eventually, someone will want answers about data provenance.
Monitor Your AI Systems Continuously
Even if you take all the precautions described above, however, there is simply no substitute for creating a robust monitoring platform for your AI systems. LLMs are stochastic systems, meaning that it’s usually difficult to know for sure how they’ll respond to a given prompt. And since these models are prone to fabricating information, you’ll need to have humans at various points making sure the output is accurate and helpful.
What’s more, many machine learning algorithms are known to be affected by a phenomenon known as “model degradation”, in which their performance steadily declines over time. The only way you can check to see if this is occurring is to have a process in place to benchmark the quality of your AI’s responses.
Be Familiar with Standards and Regulations
Finally, it’s always helpful to know a little bit about the various rules and regulations that could impact the way you use AI. These tend to focus on what kind of data you can gather about clients, how you can use it, and in what form you have to disclose these facts.
The following list is not comprehensive, but it does cover some of the more important laws:
- The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a comprehensive regulatory framework established by the European Union to dictate data handling practices. It is applicable not only to businesses based in Europe but also to any entity that processes data from EU citizens.
- The California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) was introduced by California to enhance individual control over personal data. It mandates clearer data collection practices by companies, requires privacy disclosures, and allows California residents to opt-out of data collection.
- Soc II, developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accounts, focuses on the principles of confidentiality, privacy, and security in the handling and processing of consumer data.
- In the United Kingdom, contact centers must be aware of the Financial Conduct Authority’s new “Consumer Duty” regulations. These regulations emphasize that firms should act with integrity toward customers, avoid causing them foreseeable harm, and support customers in achieving their financial objectives. As the integration of generative AI into this regulatory landscape is still being explored, it’s an area that stakeholders need to keep an eye on.
Fostering Trust in a Changing World
An important part of utilizing AI effectively is making sure you do so in a way that enhances the customer experience and works to build your brand. There’s no point in rolling out a state-of-the-art generative AI system if it undermines the trust your users have in your company, so be sure to track your data, acquaint yourself with the appropriate laws, and communicate clearly.
Another important step you can take is to work with an AI vendor who enjoys a sterling reputation for excellence and propriety. Quiq is just such a vendor, and our Conversational AI platform can bring AI to your contact center in a way that won’t come back to bite you later. Schedule a demo to see what we can do for you, today!