The latest form of AI: Augmented Intelligence

The latest form of AI: Augmented Intelligence

What is Augmented Intelligence and why should you care about it?

The AI market is projected to grow to $190Billion by 2025. AI is being used in every industry and is projected to be a core skill for the future. So why is there a new AI?

Augmented intelligence refers to the idea that humans and artificial intelligence combined can create better results than either alone. While that sounds logical at first glance, it is important to note that many fears of AI – the artificial kind, are that it will replace humans in some form. This is already being seen as automation changes the shape of the worldwide workforce, requiring massive re-skilling across many industries. Augmented intelligence is appealing in that it proposes to combine the best of humans and AI in a win-win future. Gartner predicts that AI Augmentation will create $2.9 trillion of value in 2021. So will Augmented Intelligence be able to do better than AI?

A lack of common sense

One of my favorite quotes about Artificial Intelligence is  “Just because you can build a better ladder does not mean you can build a ladder to the moon”. While AI has achieved tremendous gains, it falls far far short of what humans, even the youngest of us, can achieve so naturally. AI is not yet capable of the cognitive skills of a 5-year-old. Researchers working on the state of the art of AI argue as to whether these advanced models are understanding as much as mimicking human skills. The energy consumption argument is another proof point. The most advanced AI models consume more energy each time it trains than 5 cars will in their lifetimes. Our brains train on the energy gained during breakfast.

Man talks to phone

However, merely comparing AI skills and efficiency with human intelligence misses a large part of the point. AIs today can already do things that no human can do. AIs can index massive amounts of content and glean insights that no human could even if given infinite time. AIs never get tired, and thanks to research advances, can replicate their brains and transfer learnings and skills in ways humans cannot.

A whole greater than the sum of its parts

Augmented intelligence is exciting to me because it acknowledges that humans and AI are just different, even if some human skills can replace some AIs and vice versa. Combining these two powerful skills is likely the best path for the future. But how does one do this?

A doctor holds two diagnostic tools in his hands

Examples of successful augmented intelligence usually have Artificial Intelligence improve human productivity or when combined with human creativity generate solutions not possible before. For example, the American Medical Association encourages Augmented Intelligence solutions where Artificial Intelligence systems help doctors treat more patients or provide better quality patient care. New startups like Personal AI use Artificial Intelligence as an extension of the human brain, helping humans better retain information about their own lives. Other usages include productivity apps for everything from sales to customer service. 

The need for AI Literacy

What all these apps have in common is that a human – who is not a Data Scientist – is collaborating with an Artificial Intelligence to solve a problem. The lack of Data Scientists has caused many training efforts to focus on teaching the core of algorithms and enabling people from all walks of life to build artificial intelligence solutions via products that democratize or automate data science. What we need for Augmented Intelligence is different. We need people who are subject matter experts in their fields, like doctors, to understand just enough Artificial Intelligence to work collaboratively with one. This means they must have a level of Artificial Intelligence Literacy.

Keyboard illustration with Knowledge is Power Key

AI Literacy can help individuals understand the core concepts of how artificial intelligence works, the context to understand its strengths and weaknesses in their application, the capabilities to apply their understanding to solve problems, and the creativity to see how to innovate with it for their domain. Why are all four of these Cs important? Augmented Intelligence is about combining the intelligence of humans and machines, where both contribute, rather than humans becoming the caretakers of the machines. This requires the human to not just understand the concepts and have the capability to apply them in a specific context, but also to apply human creativity to envision new uses of the human/machine combo. More details on this “4 C’s” approach to AI Literacy can be found here

What does all of this mean?

If you are a business owner, Augmented Intelligence is likely to help you improve your business by leveraging both new technology and the creativity and skill of your employees.

It will however likely require you to reimagine how these employees work. To realize this new beneficial reality, your employees will likely need to become AI Literate and understand how to use Artificial Intelligence.

History is full of examples of humans underestimating the potential of technology and of humans! It is however also full of proof that when one technology makes a previously human-intensive task obsolete, humans eventually find work to do in some other area and create innovations. However, as long as human retraining does not occur, these transitions become extremely disruptive to people and their livelihoods. In my view, it is too early to believe that we have reached the limits of human creativity. By helping the broader workforce become AI-Literate, we will likely create the best opportunities for minimizing disruption and maximizing gain.


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