AI: Friend or Foe?By Claire Lamont
AI arouses deep human emotions: insecurity, anxiety, a fear of the unknown. And this is reasonable. For most of us, this is technology that we don’t understand, but that somehow understands us - perhaps even better than we know ourselves. Technology that can predict our behaviour based on algorithms of our past actions; that can see into our very souls and scoop out the perfect product to fulfil the desires we did not even know we had.
Hence the headlines. AI is seen as a threat to jobs by the vast majority of Americans. And some high-profile leaders like Bill Gates and the late Stephen Hawking have spoken out about the dangers. The sci-fi movies we grew up on have the smart robot as a threat to our humanity rather than as a cuddly pal (that die was cast by the Will Smith movie I, Robot back in the early noughties.)
But a new breed of organisations is moving beyond the AI/human dichotomy - where AI is a threat to humanity, to jobs, a creator of discord - and into a space where AI and humans work alongside each other. If we can manage it, we can see AI not as a threat, but as a powerful tool that can even serve to enhance our sense of humanity.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is fundamentally different than any other technology we have ever created because it has the ability to learn and improve its own functions. This is the root of the phrase ‘Machine Learning. We’re only just starting to grasp its potential, and research is pouring out on this topic. It’s still a work-in-progress - it isn’t always correct and it sometimes compounds biases - but our understanding and use of it is fast-evolving. What we’re discovering is that these powerful technologies connect and reveal patterns that we’ve never seen before.
AI is blurring the line between the human and the machine. As humans we create the initial data that allows machines to learn. But in turn, machines are increasingly able to replicate elements of human intelligence and learn more about the human experience. In the workforce of the near future, humans and machines will be learning about each other simultaneously. This need not be a bad thing, because the strengths of humans and AI are actually very different. While AI is incredible at analysing huge datasets and reporting trends, we humans are powerful interpreters of emotion, problem-solving, and creators of relationship and meaning. Where we are able to combine these strengths, we find we can augment and enhance our humanity, with AI as a trusted colleague and collaborator in this process.
Garry Kasparov, the chess grandmaster and AI expert, has written about this middle ground: ‘Machines taking over jobs — it’s the history of civilisation. Replacing farm animals, old forms of manual labour, now taking over small, menial aspects of cognition. But there’s still plenty of room for creativity, ......For us to make sure that we have full lives, meaningful lives, we will have to elevate our unique human qualities. And I think we know now, we can see clearly what makes us different from machines. And that’s why the future is enhanced humanity.’
Kasparov goes on to cite his famous loss to Deep Blue in 1996. This turning point, he explains, was not an indication of the downfall of humanity, but instead a stepping stone towards collaboration. He explains that today, a mid-powered computer, a laptop, had the processing power to beat any chess grandmaster alive; but that an average player, when working in tandem with a low powered computer, like a phone, could beat anyone, any computer, any grandmaster.
This is because of the complementary and differing skills of the human and the AI. Machines can predict infinite possible series’ of moves, and calculate themselves into the most beneficial situation, based on a probabilistic framework. Humans have instinct, empathy, randomness, the ability to goad, change their mind, change tack, read the enemy. Together these skills of analysis and emotional intelligence combine to be far more powerful than either alone.
At Untapped we take this duality as our mantra. We’ve made it our mission to work with AI to enhance our humanity. We accelerate individuals, untapping their potential, through a unique combination of human and AI support. Our users have access to an emotionally intelligent human accelerator who supports and empowers them to achieve their goals, as well as AI analysis at their fingertips. Our AI crunches the data to reveal hidden insights about individuals’ behaviours and personalities based on their input in the process. These insights are fed back as part of the acceleration process. The human interaction also enhances the AI data every time it is used. So, when one of our accelerators identifies a behaviour, the machine learns from that in a way it wouldn’t be able to without human input. This means the AI gets more intelligent with every iteration, and the outcome is improved for everyone. We call this our ‘human in the loop’ process. It’s powerful because it allows our AI to learn from the interactions of highly emotionally-intelligent people.
This means that we can enjoy the power in the unity of human and AI, working alongside each other and collaborating to accelerate our users to new levels. We know that intelligent systems can only go so far in automating processes, so human skills and relational insight play a key role in our service. Based on otherwise unavailable insights, we empower humans to take the next step, applying their personal judgement and experience as part of the acceleration process.
So how might this look? Take a user who is struggling to speak up in meetings. The user will discuss this with their human accelerator, both via video call and in online text. Their accelerator explores the feelings that lie behind the reaction - how does the user feel in a meeting? The user talks about their lack of confidence, they feel like they don’t have any points worth listening to. Meanwhile our AI analyses the text and patterns of communication between the user and their accelerator, and brings back a personality profile that reveals new insights. This user is introverted, something they never realised before, and this new knowledge prompts discussion with their accelerator about how this aspect of their personality affects their confidence in meetings filled with extroverts. User and accelerator begin to explore how they can get to know this aspect of themselves and its upsides, as well as drawbacks. And so the process goes, with human and interaction and AI insight providing a powerful feedback system for the user, empowering them to accelerate towards their goals.
AI therefore moves from being a threat, to an enormously helpful tool in the acceleration process. Not only that, but it is a tool which learns for itself as it goes, providing more accurate and detailed insight as time goes on. Just as we untap the innate human desire to grow, so does AI become ever-more accurate and useful. In this sense, we are the perfect collaborators, bringing together our two skill sets for powerful results. The future of human and AI interaction lies not in a battle between human and machine, but in this realm of enabling AI to enhance our very humanity.