Artificial Intelligence Needs Human Interactivity to Fulfill its Positive Potential

December 18, 2015
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In the technology world, we’re mostly logical thinkers. Creative, but logical. “This input will lead to this outcome, which will have this impact on our customers and on the greater market.” Occasionally, we have an epiphany that fundamentally changes the status quo, and the world is forever changed: GPS, the smart phone, Uber, Airbnb and others. Often though, our laser focus on a particular mission impedes us from absorbing the inspiring industry (and societal) transformations happening at a level just above our daily consciousness.

In the technology world, we’re mostly logical thinkers. Creative, but logical. “This input will lead to this outcome, which will have this impact on our customers and on the greater market.” Occasionally, we have an epiphany that fundamentally changes the status quo, and the world is forever changed: GPS, the smart phone, Uber, Airbnb and others. Often though, our laser focus on a particular mission impedes us from absorbing the inspiring industry (and societal) transformations happening at a level just above our daily consciousness.

One development remains underappreciated for the scale of its impending impact: artificial intelligence (AI). Some people equate AI with machine learning, and machine learning with tasks that make devices and companies smarter. While this is right, what many fail to understand is the affect AI is going to have on the future of humanity, not just in data analytics, but in their work, in their families, and in everything about their lives.

It’s important to realize that not all of the potential scenarios are utopian.

In his witty but thought-provoking blog, Tim Urban explores the most beneficial – and ominous – ways that AI could play out:

Why are so many of the world’s smartest people so worried right now? Why does Stephen Hawking say the development of Artificial Superintelligence ‘could spell the end of the human race’ and Bill Gates say he doesn’t ‘understand why some people are not concerned’ and Elon Musk fear that we’re ‘summoning the demon’?

According to the smartest people in the field, within just 50-100 years, humans could either develop the capacity to live forever or be sent to extinction. 

AI will bring us to places not even fathomable by modern-day humans. Self-driving cars are child’s play compared to the more significant existential scenarios Urban plays out in his blog: immortality, climate change reversal, disease elimination, or a lifeless world overridden with paperclips. The idea is that we’re playing with a technology that, for the first time, is not only likely, but virtually inevitable, to surpass human-level intellect, and once that happens, we need to be confident that we’ve programmed our AI to adhere to carefully crafted instructions, lest the machines make decisions that may well prove  detrimental to humans. 

The greatest danger of AI lies not in the fact that machines are developing the capacity to learn and surpass human-level intelligence. The danger lies in what happens when autonomous AI goes unchecked: when technology is developed before broad rules and regulations are in place, and when machine-generated answers are implemented without human oversight and expertise. 

So where does AI go from here?

The industry needs to give people the power to “drive” AI to successful outcomes. We can accomplish this by having AI automate the heavy lifting of data analysis, then present humans with potential solutions to choose from. We’re far away from inventing an automated answers machine that can answer any question or perform any task. What we need, which is now being accomplished with a new trend called “machine intelligence,” is the equivalent of an Iron Man suit that will help us tackle virtually any challenge that relies on data, with the expertise of humans to pilot it. 

Machine intelligence automates the entire process from raw data to transparent, accurate solutions to any data-driven question or task. From there, domain experts can implement the changes in a form of “supervised AI”: Machines do the grunt-work like computing, sorting, analytical model-building and probability calculating, and humans run the strategy and implementation of the best options. 

The key to unleashing the mind-blowing potential of AI for the benefit of humanity and personal/business intelligence is to have it as the engine powering the most advanced decision-making in the world, guided safely by domain experts. That will be a symbiosis for the ages.