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AI will diversify human thinking, not replace it

September 7, 2018

Professor Ken Goldberg   

University of California, Berkeley

Co-authored with Vinod Kumar, CEO and Managing Director at Tata Communications

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is evolving rapidly, changing the way that humans interact with the world. The idea of a dystopian future in which humanoid robots take over human jobs as seen in the hit TV series Humans, is what many fear as the future of AI.

However, according to a new study of 120 global business executives including Tony Blair, former UK Prime Minister, AI is far from being a job killer and will instead will help humans work together in new ways.

AI will expand cognitive diversity

Most leaders in the survey expect AI to create new roles for human workers. While traditional business structures tend to bring together like-minded people to work on projects, companies are now placing more value on intellectual diversity and AI holds the potential to enhance it. Humans from demographically diverse backgrounds, combined with machines, will spark better, faster and higher-impact decisions while AI systems can also focus on bringing novel solutions to the group.  For example, an AI-based ‘devil’s advocate’ could help to combat bias and groupthink by challenging potentially false assumptions and emphasizing different perspectives.

Most 80% leaders agree that demographic diversity in the workforce is important and 90% believe that cognitive diversity is important for management. Leaders who value cognitive diversity in management are more positive about the impact of AI, the report finds. By viewing AI as another form of intelligence, similar to emotional, logical, or social intelligence, rather than a monolithic alternative to general human cognition, businesses can increase the range of cognitive diversity within their company.

Viewing AI in terms of “Multiplicity” – the idea that AI will take on a number of different forms to fulfil a number of applications is a positive and inclusive way of thinking. Although we may be impressed, even sometimes intimidated, by people with overwhelming amounts of one type of intelligence, we don’t suspect that they are intent of domination.

The report suggests that companies are focused on providing the tools to re-skill their workforces to work with AI. A notable 80% of respondents reported that they closely follow trends surrounding the adoption of AI tools within the workplace.

AI will enhance human collaboration

A related finding from the study is that AI can help the future workforce be more agile, curious and nimble. Introducing AI to work environments will change the skills that businesses require in their workforce because the way that people think will be just as important as the skills they have. This people-centric view will champion curiosity and experimentation as both as personal and organisational traits. As more time is freed up through the use of AI, people will have more opportunity to devote time to identifying new ways to add value. And with more time to spend with colleagues, people will build deeper relationships, resulting in stronger teams.

Along with creating new roles, enhancing cognitive diversity, and enabling workers to be more agile, AI also has the power to enhance human collaboration. There is a need to think beyond substituting AI for humans and instead imagine what humans and machines could create while working in partnership. Almost all (99%) of respondents in the report feel that AI allows teams to be more productive and efficient, while a 93% believe that AI has a positive impact on decision-making by enabling better, faster decisions. What’s more, over two-thirds (68%) confirmed that this increase in productivity can lead to an increase in market share and profits.

The report looks beyond the scare stories surrounding AI and explore the potential that it offers to businesses in the digital world. Far from being the ‘villian’ portrayed in popular culture, AI has the potential to benefit modern organisations in valuable ways. As well as enhancing customer experience and engagement, AI can help humans by automating tedious or repetitive tasks and also provides new justification for the need to expand diversity in teams. When the vast potential of AI is full understood and integrated into business strategies, it will spark positive change for people, businesses, and societies.

Download the full study here.

The new study will also be the focus of a panel session during DISRUPT SF 2018 on September 7th at 03.50pm PST. Watch the live stream here featuring visionary influencers in the field of Artificial Intelligence: Timnit Gebru (Google AI), Chris Ategeka (UCOT) and report co-author Ken Goldberg (UC Berkeley).