Machines augmenting entrepreneurs: Opportunities (and threats) at the Nexus of artificial intelligence and entrepreneurship

Dean A. Shepherd*, Ann Majchrzak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to machines that are trained to perform tasks associated with human intelligence, interpret external data, learn from that external data, and use that learning to flexibly adapt to tasks to achieve specific outcomes. This paper briefly explains AI and looks into the future to highlight some of AI's broader and longer-term societal implications. We propose that AI can be combined with entrepreneurship to represent a super tool. Scholars can research the nexus of AI and entrepreneurship to explore the possibilities of this potential AI-entrepreneurship super tool and hopefully direct its use to productive processes and outcomes. We focus on specific entrepreneurship topics that benefit from AI's augmentation potential and acknowledge implications for entrepreneurship's dark side. We hope this paper stimulates future research at the AI-entrepreneurship nexus. Executive summary: Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to machines that are trained to perform tasks associated with human intelligence, interpret external data, learn from that external data, and use that learning to flexibly adapt to tasks to achieve specific outcomes. Machine learning is the most common form of AI and largely relies on supervised learning—when the machine (i.e., AI) is trained with labels applied by humans. Deep learning and adversarial learning involve training on unlabeled data, or when the machine (via its algorithms) clusters data to reveal underlying patterns. AI is simply a tool. Entrepreneurship is also simply a tool. How they are combined and used will determine their impact on humanity. While researchers have independently developed a greater understanding of entrepreneurship and AI, these two streams of research have primarily run in parallel. To indicate the scope of current and future AI, we provide examples of AI (at different levels of development) for four sectors—customer service, financial, healthcare, and tertiary education. Indeed, experts from industry research and consulting firms suggest many AI-related business opportunities for entrepreneurs to pursue. Further, we elaborate on several of these opportunities, including opportunities to (1) capitalize on the “feeling economy,” (2) redistribute occupational skills in the economy, (3) develop and use new governance mechanisms, (4) keep humans in the loop (i.e., humans as part of the decision making process), (5) expand the role of humans in developing AI systems, and (6) expand the purposes of AI as a tool. After discussing the range of business opportunities that experts suggest will prevail in the economy with AI, we discuss how entrepreneurs can use AI as a tool to help them increase their chances of entrepreneurial success. We focus on four up-and-coming areas for entrepreneurship research: a more interaction-based perspective of (potential) entrepreneurial opportunities, a more activities-based micro-foundation approach to entrepreneurial action, a more cognitively hot perspective of entrepreneurial decision making and action, and a more compassionate and prosocial role of entrepreneurial action. As we discuss each topic, we also suggest opportunities to design an AI system (i.e., entrepreneurs as potential AI designers) to help entrepreneurs (i.e., entrepreneurs as AI users). AI is an exciting development in the technology world. How it transforms markets and societies depends in large part on entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs can use AI to augment their decisions and actions in pursuing potential opportunities for productive gains. Thus, we discuss entrepreneurs' most critical tasks in developing and managing AI and explore some of the dark-side aspects of AI. Scholars also have a role to play in how entrepreneurs use AI, but this role requires the hard work of theory building, theory elaboration, theory testing, and empirical theorizing. We offer some AI topics that we hope future entrepreneurship research will explore. We hope this paper encourages scholars to consider research at the nexus of AI and entrepreneurship.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106227
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Business Venturing
Volume37
Issue number4
ISSN0883-9026
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 07.2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed

Keywords

  • 512 Business and Management
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Decision making
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Machine learning

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