In this series, John Kane, Distinguished Scientist, Machine Learning at Cogito, explores the difference between artificial intelligence and augmented intelligence and the role each has in both the enterprise and society. In part one, he will dive into the growing disillusionment around AI and the need to define its purpose.
The term artificial intelligence (AI) has inundated our media landscape and cultural conversations over the past several years. On a near-hourly basis, the general public is blasted with articles and reports about incredible technologies and solutions enabled by AI — and instilled with a sense of fear about robots taking over the world. The AI noise is at its peak, even industry analysts agree, as deep neural networks (the machine learning technique driving most AI technologies) are at the very top of the 2018 Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.
As a result, it is likely a period of disillusionment will follow this hype. Although some AI applications have lived up to expectations, many companies have struggled to fully realize the claimed potential of AI, which has caused an industry-wide disconnect about what AI can actually offer people and businesses. Compounding this confusion, AI has become a catch-all term, almost like “software” or “technology,” that leaves companies and society confused about what it means, its real intent and its real impact. Time and again, we see examples where current forms of autonomous AI technologies — e.g., chatbots and process automation — are not quite capable of living up to their promise of matching human intelligence or delivering rapid ROI.
There is one subset of the technology that has emerged with a clear path and impact: augmented intelligence.
Augmented intelligence, sometimes referred to as intelligence augmentation or IA differs from AI as its goal is not to replace human activities, but instead to elevate existing human capabilities. IA uses AI techniques but keeps the human in the loop. When properly applied, IA can provide feedback and insights that enhance human decision-making. Modern computing machines are still no match for the general intelligence of human beings, but IA solutions can provide tailored and timely information that helps compensate for human shortcomings and optimize their productivity.
IA in many ways, is a much better bet for enterprise organizations than AI as it has a quicker ROI and better utilizes the assets already in place. Instead of targeting the lofty and extremely challenging goals of artificial general intelligence, IA can be more narrowly focused on specific high impact tasks that are achievable and concrete. This allows employees, management, and all stakeholders to see more results in less time, enabling them to continuously make improvements and ultimately, realize a greater impact from the technology. The goal of IA is to enhance what exists, not implement a new system that is too far reaching and nebulous in its goals, and cannot justify its decision processes.
Additionally, it is important to point out that IA is not merely an intermediate stepping stone on the road to AI, where complete human replacement is inevitable. Certain functions, like displaying empathy or compassion, are part of a uniquely human skill set that may never be meaningfully realized through AI.
In part 2 of this series, John Kane will discuss the benefits of augmentation in the workplace including how AI technology can enhance employees’ abilities to be more emotionally intelligent and perceptive.