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Collective and artificial intelligence are better together


Victoria Usher

Published On:

July 21, 2020

Published In:

Business | Technology Insights

Collective and artificial intelligence are better together

Artificial intelligence is no longer the stuff of science fiction movies, it is a thriving part of the technology sector and an integral element of our everyday lives. The global artificial intelligence software market is expected to reach almost $100 billion in 2025 – an exceptional annual growth rate of almost 35%.

As a specialist B2B technology PR agency, many of our clients are already using artificial intelligence and machine learning on a daily basis, perhaps to analyse immense volumes of data and generate precious customer insight, or to read online content in the same way a human brain would to optimise contextual ad targeting.

For many people artificial intelligence is seen as a worrying development – something that will ultimately replace human intellect and put livelihoods at risk. But the truth is collective human intelligence and artificial intelligence are most effective when they are used together to support and enhance each other. Here are three examples of this principle in action:

Collective and augmented intelligence against COVID-19

This month a new global alliance was launched to turn data about COVID-19 into knowledge that can be used to inform decision makers across the world. The Collective and Augmented Intelligence Against COVID-19 (CAIAC) alliance is being created by the Future Society and Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI), with the support of UNESCO and the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation.

The alliance recognises how individual research institutions, think-tanks and NGOs all over the world are generating vast volumes of valuable – yet often inaccessible – data about the pandemic. It aims to bring these multiple data sources together in a comprehensive, authoritative, up-to-date and ethical decision-support tool, powered by a combination of human and artificial intelligence.

As Michael Sellitto, Deputy Director, Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence explains, “COVID-19 represents a shared and urgent global challenge. AI can play an important role in helping us emerge from the pandemic by organising the vast quantities of data and emerging research, and combined with human intelligence, surfacing critical insights to support evidence-based decision making.”

Using artificial intelligence for training and upskilling

The common story around artificial intelligence is that robots will replace the human workforce, but Gianni Giacomelli, Head of Innovation at the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence Design Lab, and Head of Innovation at Genpact, is turning this narrative on its head. He is using artificial intelligence to power a system designed to continuously retrain and upskill talent at risk of being displaced by automation. He believes, “Collective intelligence used with artificial intelligence can actually help people become more useful, more relevant and more successful in the future.”

While some routine and mechanical job roles may be displaced, those that require innovation, problem solving, collaboration and shared knowledge will remain, and will need to be supported and enabled by a combination of collective and artificial intelligence. The training system uses artificial intelligence for heavy-lifting computation, to help individuals connect with each other, to curate knowledge and to enable collaboration, allowing many thousands of employees to be retrained or upskilled by collective intelligence in a way that is adaptive to changing technologies and relevant to their specific job role.

Overcoming barriers to collective decision making

Major challenges such as climate change can only be tackled through collective agreement and action, but finding common ground to enable collective decision making is difficult in an increasingly polarised society. Through its Collective Intelligence Grants, Nesta is funding a variety of experiments into how the combination of artificial intelligence and collective intelligence can help society overcome these barriers and become more responsible for the future.

For instance an experiment conducted by Artificial Intelligence Lab found groups were more successful at cooperating when they delegated responsibility to an artificial autonomous agent to make decisions on their behalf. This happened because participants picked agents programmed to act in the collective interest, rather those programmed to benefit the individual. Another experiment by the Institute of Cognitive Science and Technology revealed group decisions mediated by a multi-agent artificial intelligence system were more accurate and less impacted by social bias. The system reduced the negative impact of herding by slowing down decision-making and encouraging individuals to explore all available options.

The narrative of artificial intelligence replacing human intelligence is incredibly pervasive but, as these examples show, the two are largely complementary. Whether it’s bringing together human insight from across the world to tackle a global crisis, powering systems to share knowledge for training and upskilling, or helping humans overcome barriers to collective decision making so they can take responsible action, collective intelligence and artificial intelligence are undoubtedly better together.

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