Artificial intelligence (AI) is being touted as the next big tech thing – and probably the biggest revolution in the last centuries. It’s hard to argue with that view. A quick scan of its potential applications covers so many industries and provides so many advantages, that even if AI fulfills a third of them, then the changes in our societies would nonetheless be dramatic.
From self-driving vehicles to medical treatments, there’s an idea floating around about sophisticated algorithms taking care of the bulk of our daily lives as the ultimate goal. And while the thought of having a completely automated life that would let us focus on bigger, more existentialist issues is a seductive one, perhaps we should think of a different approach as well.
Look, it’d be great to have AI models so complex and advanced that would help us close our social gaps, banish diseases for good, and ensure that everyone has access to a comfortable and satisfying life. But it is far from being the most viable alternative. Instead, we should be focusing on the far more attainable concept of augmented intelligence. Here’s why.
What’s Augmented Intelligence?
Most of us are under the impression that AI comes to be a replacement for us in many (if not all) of our daily tasks. However, we have yet to see AI replace humans entirely in a role. Even AI-powered platforms that tackle the most basic jobs need some human input at some point or the other. This comes to show that, rather than replacing humans altogether, AI is boosting our natural capabilities.
In other words, AI is complementing our own intelligence, helping us make better decisions in fields as diverse as the healthcare, entertainment, manufacturing, and food industries. In all of those sectors, you can find dozens of examples where AI assists our human abilities rather than being a substitute. There, AI isn’t the main protagonist but an assistive technology to us. Through artificial intelligence, our own intelligence is augmented.
Thus, we can think of AI as a stepping stone to achieve old and new goals. We can use it to make our processes more efficient, better understand our lives, and analyze the information we have in more detail. AI would provide us with more knowledge but the decisions would ultimately be up to us. That’s what augmented intelligence is all about.
Why Make a Focus Shift
You could argue that, if AI keeps being refined and sophisticated, we will one day get to the point where it will replace a lot of us in our daily activities. And while that might be true, it doesn’t seem likely to happen soon. In fact, most experts would answer that we are far off from seeing true AI in the wild. So, should we sit back and wait for it? Of course not! We can do a shift in how we see AI and get the most out of it today while we simultaneously work on developing its true capabilities.
Truth be told, the focus shift wouldn’t be that dramatic. Think about it. Most of the AI uses we are seeing today are more about augmented intelligence and less about true AI. Even when companies love to talk about “AI solutions”, the reality shows us that they are more of the augmented intelligence type of solutions. From the AI assistance when driving cars to the AI algorithms that allow an offshore software development company to create its products, AI solutions available today are there to complement human intelligence, not to replace it entirely.
By acknowledging something that’s already happening, we could approach AI’s development under a new light that might be more beneficial to everyone. Instead of trying to recreate our own intelligence in an artificial way (from creating human-like robots to software that can interact with us as in the movie Her), we can see where our human limitations are and infuse them with AI tools that can bring more value to our decisions and our actions.
There are a handful of reasons to do this, including:
- Boosting Educational Systems: the dynamic pace of our tech-driven world has put our educational systems under stress. We are preparing students with the same old approaches we used in the previous century, ignoring the fact that the world is vastly different today – and will be more so in the coming years. By seeing AI as a way to augment our capabilities, we can finally leave behind certain old educational frameworks.
That’s because we would be leaving repetitive and more logical tasks in the hands of AI software, while we would be tasked with the more innovative and creative aspects of our activities. Thus, the shift in focus would reshape what we understand as mandatory subjects and approaches in school and beyond.
- Ushering in a Creative Age: the increase of automation across various industries won’t just bring a new approach to education but will also force us to rethink our societies as a whole. Though some experts are talking about today’s day and age as the “information age”, it’s more appropriate to think of it as a “Creative age.”
We are already seeing an increased demand for soft skills in most jobs, especially creativity, problem-solving, and team collaboration. That’s because the more technical and logical aspects of our daily activities are increasingly being taken care of by AI, while we are more taking care of what makes us more intrinsically human. By bringing our inherent creativity and innovation to the table and combining it with AI’s analytical capabilities, the possibilities for discovering new processes and making the old ones more efficient are vastly multiplied.
- Bypassing biases: one of the biggest challenges of developing AI for human tasks is avoiding infusing its algorithms with the biases of its developers. Even when they are inadvertently doing so, software engineers tend to train AI algorithms with their own visions of the world, which is why we end up having racist platforms or why we can’t agree on how to tackle a crucial problem for self-driving cars.
This is probably the thorniest aspect of it all, as we aren’t sure how to solve the bias issue. All of us have some biases, regardless of how well aware we are of them. So, lying all the responsibility in biased AI solutions might not be so tempting – unless not until we figure out how to deal with biases. Until then, seeing AI as assistants for our decisions is the best path, as the complicated ethical implications would be up to us. And while we aren’t free from the biases, we are certainly more open to discussion and the opinions of others.
The Time of Augmented Intelligence
Fortunately, we are already working in augmented intelligence solutions, even if we aren’t aware of it or if we don’t call them that. However, we still need to address this and acknowledge the fact that we are doing so, mainly because augmented intelligence isn’t something we can manufacture, but that’s a product of the symbiotic relationship between AI technologies and our own human capabilities.
By understanding how the two of them can complement each other for better results, we can take advantage of the benefits of this technology in the shortest of terms while allowing us to grow in what makes us humans. It’s a healthy shift and a very beneficial one for all involved, from individual people to brands, institutions, and society as a whole.