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The Wharton AI & Analytics Initiative Takes Center Stage at the Wharton Global Forum

Eric Bradlow on stage. Credit: The Wharton School

On June 7-8, 2024, the Wharton School hosted its 56th Wharton Global Forum in São Paulo, Brazil, and the Wharton AI & Analytics Initiative (WAIAI) took center stage. With more than 400 Wharton alumni in attendance from around the world, Eric Bradlow, Vice Dean of AI & Analytics at Wharton, presented a look at the future of Wharton, AI, and analytics.

Running Towards the Future

Bradlow asked the audience to imagine a future where students learn not only in the classroom but outside of it by doing industry-standard work with real-world companies. He envisioned a future where Wharton might develop a rigorous AI & analytics curriculum or invest heavily into research and technology in healthcare, environmental sustainability, ethics, and neuroscience. He even imagined what we could accomplish by harnessing the power of analytics to make a positive impact on society.

“Of course,” Bradlow eventually revealed, “we’re already doing all of this.” What the future of WAIAI actually looks like, however, is just as promising.

Bradlow continued his presentation by revealing that the Wharton School has already invested in ChatGPT Licenses for all MBA students and, in 2025, will be launching a formally recognized, degree-granting AI major for students. The School has also created a “Generation AI” training program for K-12 educators, as well as an open-source platform for hosting and building generative AI prototypes.

These new programs and opportunities – when combined with WAIAI’s current offerings of AI-focused research, programming, and resources – ensure the Wharton School will remain the academic authority on these incredible technologies.

“Many other business schools are running away from technology. We run towards it. People you hire have to know how to use AI and large language models to make better decisions,” he said. “Part of our mission is to democratize education. Anybody can learn artificial intelligence and data science. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are in the world.”

“Anybody can learn artificial intelligence and data science. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are in the world.”

Eric Bradlow, Vice Dean of AI & Analytics at Wharton

Wharton’s AI Faculty Take the Stage

Immediately following Bradlow’s keynote, Ethan Mollick, associate professor at Wharton, gave a presentation on his new book Co-Intelligence: Living and Working with AI. Mollick is spearheading WAIAI’s recently announced Generative AI Lab, which combines research and prototyping to applications for AI. He gave Forum attendees a look into how AI currently affects various work environments and the new ways it might continue to do so as the technology develops.

Later in the day, Lynn Wu, associate professor of Operations, Information and Decisions, kept the AI theme running with an insightful presentation titled “How to Leverage AI for Innovation and Productivity.” Drawing on her extensive research in the field, Wu demonstrated the transformative potential of artificial intelligence in modern enterprises like medicine, car manufacturing, and more. She highlighted how AI technologies can drive innovation by identifying new patterns and opportunities that might be invisible to the human eye, fostering a more creative and forward-thinking environment.

Her presentation underscored the importance of integrating AI thoughtfully and ethically to maximize its benefits while addressing potential challenges, such as workforce displacement and data privacy concerns. She stressed that the greatest innovations are discovered when AI is used to augment existing human research, working in collaboration with human agents, and not when left to its own devices.

Lynn Wu presents at the Wharton Global Forum

Global Brands, Global Fans

Finally, to close out the Forum, Bradlow returned to the stage, this time with Erika James, Dean of the Wharton School, at his side in conversation with Gerrit Meier, Managing Director and Head of NFL International.

The trio talked about the power of international branding and the similarities between the Wharton School and the National Football League – two entities that are, in many ways, the brand name for their market and industry. Both identified São Paulo, Brazil, as a key global location deserving of their attention and investment. For the NFL, that looks like the upcoming September 6 regular season game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers in São Paulo; for Wharton, it looks like this year’s Global Forum, where children of Wharton alumni were able to participate in entrepreneurship and innovation sessions through the Wharton Global Youth Program.

Bradlow, James, and Meier

Bradlow eventually brought the conversation back to the domain of analytics and new technologies like AI. “I’m interested in how you both are thinking about technology. Are you embracing it, or are you kind of in the middle?”

“I don’t know how you can not embrace technology. It is increasingly a part of our professional lives, our personal lives,” said Dean James. “Part of our responsibility is to develop the next generation to use technology in responsible, meaningful, ethical ways. We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we weren’t embracing technology.”

According to Meier, the NFL adopts a similar approach – these are necessary tools for the improvement of player safety and the fan experience. “We’re using technology, always very carefully, to create better competitiveness. Player health and safety needs to be front and center. If technology helps us to [accomplish] this, and we will evolve the game, and at the same time ensure the game remains or gets more competitive, that’s good for the fan.”

For many fans of the Wharton School, the Wharton Global Forum offers a new opportunity each year to look to Wharton’s horizon and see what lies ahead. If the focus on AI, analytics, and data science at this year’s Forum is any indication, WAIAI will be a trailblazing voice for the Wharton School for many years to come.