Melding The Minds: Why Humans & AI Make Perfect Partners
What’s in store for humanity after the AI revolution? If you’ve paid attention to most discussions of artificial intelligence, you’d think our relationship to mechanical minds will be one of competition, if not outright conflict. It’s not just that virtually every Sci-Fi story, from “Battlestar Galactica” to “The Matrix,” shows humanity and AI at war with one another. Even serious discussions of this technology tend to focus on how it will replace us. You’d almost think that developing artificial intelligence is a huge mistake; the better we make this technology, the more problems we’ll create for ourselves.
While it’s hard to predict the future, there’s good reason to believe that our relationship to AI will be far more positive than many people assume. At least so far, AI is not only failing to replace our minds, but it depends on them. Human and artificial intelligence work best when they work together. The development of more advanced AI thus has the potential to make humanity even more important, all while expanding what we can achieve.
The Opportunities & Limits of Artificial Intelligence
When learning about artificial intelligence, it’s not hard to see what this technology can do better. AI applications have the ability to organize and interpret information far more quickly and efficiently than humans can. This opens up the door to a whole host of data processing activities that were never possible before.
Say that you’re a medical researcher trying to understand what causes people to develop cancer, and you have several decades of cancer data from thousands of patients. There’s no way that you could possibly read through all of that data yourself, let alone interpret it and figure out all the specific factors that cause people to develop cancer. Even with a team of experts reading through and interpreting this information, it would still take months if not years to find anything useful.
Artificial intelligence can reduce the time it takes to process this data from months and years to mere seconds. AI has the ability to handle an enormous amount of data at once, to process it in highly complex ways, and to see connections between different pieces of information that humans would never have picked up on. So if you’re using decades of cancer data to find out why people get cancer, an AI application will be able to answer your questions far more effectively than even the largest team of researchers, and in a fraction of the time.
But for all the benefits of advanced AI applications, there are just as many things our minds can do that AI can’t. Artificial intelligence may be able to look through data more quickly, but it can’t decide what types of data are worth looking through, or what to look for in them. Humans have the unique ability to set priorities for AI, deciding what its incredible processing power can be used for.
In addition to setting priorities, humans have certain cognitive abilities that AI technology, at least in its present form, cannot directly mimic. There are many intuitive tasks that humans can perform with ease, but that even the most advanced AI applications struggle with. These include recognizing faces, sensing what emotions a person is feeling, and interpreting language in a nuanced way.
AI applications can’t perform these tasks independently, but they can be trained to perform them by humans. Programmers can assemble large data sets containing facial images, language, and other types of data that must be interpreted intuitively. They can then use this data to train AI to recognize faces, understand language, or perform some other intuitive activity. Once they’re done training, AI applications end up being orders of magnitude better at the activity in question than humans are. But human trainers have to be in the mix, constructing the data sets and making sure that AI applications are using them effectively. Thus by working together, humans and AI achieve far more than they ever could have independently.
Present & Future Partnerships
Humans and artificial intelligence already work together on a number of activities, including many in our everyday lives. These include:
- Road Navigation– If you’ve ever used a GPS while driving, you’ve already partnered with an artificial mind. The system has the ability to look through detailed records of all the routes in your area, finding the arrangement that gets you to your destination as quickly as possible. But you have to set priorities for the system, notably by saying where it is you want to go. Otherwise, no matter how advanced the GPS is, it won’t have any idea how to guide you.
- Using a Translator– Google Translate and other digital translation services are programmed to understand the vocabulary and grammar of multiple languages, converting one into the other. But they have trouble comprehending nuanced uses of language, such as sarcasm and figures of speech. If you translate non-literal language, the translator will tell you what its literal meaning is. You have to figure out from context what it actually means.
- Using Social Media– Social networks like Facebook and Twitter rely on algorithms that determine what kinds of content you like based on what you’ve viewed in the past. But you have to repeatedly interact with social media in order to give the algorithm the information it needs to learn this. Thus even without thinking about it, you are training AI applications on a daily basis.
About the Author
Nav Dhunay is a Canadian tech entrepreneur and investor. He is the Co-founder & CEO of Imaginea Ai, a platform that seeks to democratize artificial intelligence (AI) and puts it in the hands of every organization across the globe.
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Originally published at insidebigdata.com on August 16, 2018.