Narratives That Speak AI Lingua? AI Vocabulary in Listed Companies’ Annual Reports




AI, AI adoption, AI narratives, annual reports, Artificial Intelligence, DAX 30, NLP


Narratives about intelligent artefacts have influenced both the public’s imaginary and the actual development of the AI field since its foundation. Yet, in times where the field seems to be flourishing on the one hand, but rushing into an AI winter on the other, factual narratives about AI applications and advancements are more essential than ever. What is the gap between the actual capabilities of today’s AI and the vocabulary used to report about them? In particular, what is the AI lingua used in official, legal documents in business? To find out, we analysed leading share index companies’ annual reports from a representative fraction of the German economy (DAX 30), as a starting step in this direction. In this paper, we present a fact-based methodology for systematically assessing the true state of enterprise AI of those companies. Our initial empirical investigation covers only the annual reports of leading listed German enterprises in the DAX 30 as of May 2021 (i.e. before the DAX’s expansion to 40 members). For this concrete example, we collected their annual reports from 2010 to 2020 (N=312). We then built upon previous work by extending natural language processing (NLP) algorithms we developed for these purposes. The idea is to systematically process and automatically detect the use of AI-related terminology in those annual reports. Such a terminology is part of a classification schema we introduce for differentiating concrete types of AI-related terms. We also compare different NLP libraries regarding their suitability and speculate on the reasons behind the poor performance of some of them. Furthermore, we look at relevant AI keywords and phrases, thereby conducting a human-based semantic analysis of the context – tasks that machines still cannot do effectively. We also give guidance on how to proceed in similar studies, i.e. on how to extend our methodology and the key findings to other national economies. This way, we are contributing not only to an informed perception about the state of enterprise AI, but also to filling the gap between the narratives it uses and the actual state of AI development.

Author Biographies

Claudia Lemke , Berlin School of Economics and Law

Department of Business Information Systems

Liadan Anandarajah, Berlin School of Economics and Law,

Computer Science Dept.

Tom Brandherm, Berlin School of Economics and Law

Computer Science Dept.