There are plenty of dystopian predictions about the Singularity: one definition of which is the point at which general AI and computer intelligence overtakes and replaces human cognition.
However, a new report from telecoms provider Tata Communications paints a more positive picture: a future world of work based on collaboration, in which AI augments and diversifies human thinking, rather than renders it obsolete.
The report – based on insights from 120 global business leaders – looks on the bright side, identifying a number of ways in which AI-enabled collaboration could improve our day-to-day working lives through its potential to bring much-needed diversity to different scenarios.
As a result it can be seen as challenging the numerous recent reports about bias in AI, and the lack of diversity in some training data.
Multiplicity Vs Singularity
However, before AI can be embraced en masse it has to be accepted at an individual level. Part of that challenge, argues the report, is getting over the unhelpful notion of the Singularity.
Ken Goldberg, professor of engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of the report, has suggested a different, more positive concept: Multiplicity. Instead of fearing a point in time that could be years down the line, we need to see AI as just another way to bring diversity to problem-solving in the workplace.
“The prevalent narrative around AI has focused on a singularity – a hypothetical time when artificial intelligence will surpass humans. But there is a growing interest in ‘multiplicity’, where AI helps groups of machines and humans collaborate to innovate and solve problems,” he said.
“This survey of leading executives reveals that multiplicity, the positive and inclusive vision of AI, is gaining traction.”
The Tata Communications study found that business leaders increasingly value diversity in the workplace and see it as vital to performance. Eighty-one percent indicated that demographic diversity in the workplace is important or very important. Meanwhile, 90 percent believe that cognitive diversity – perhaps a rare concept in a world of memes – is important for management.
This leads the report to put forward a vision for a future AI system that could provide a constant ‘devil’s advocate’ in the workplace. In line with the concept of multiplicity, an AI could air contrarian perspectives to tackle the perennial workplace challenges of confirmation bias and groupthink.
For example, by harnessing improved natural language processing and machine learning to trawl through emails and meeting transcripts for keywords, an AI devil’s advocate could challenge unanimous, and potentially false, assumptions.
“The important question is not, “When will machines surpass human intelligence?” but instead, “How can humans work together with machines in new ways?”, suggests the study.
AI can complement human strengths
The report also highlights the role that AI could play in the future of education, comparing the sweeping potential changes it brings to the US school system.
“Much of education today still emphasises conformity, obedience, and uniformity. The important question is not when machines will surpass human intelligence, but how humans can work and learn with computers in new ways. This requires combining AI with IA – intelligence augmentation – where computers help humans learn and work.”
As a result, the report suggests that education should evolve to emphasise uniquely human skills that AI and robots are not currently able to replicate. These include creativity, curiosity, imagination, empathy, human communication, diversity (which would seem to contradict the report’s own argument), and innovation.
And of course, AI itself can play a role in that transformation: “AI systems can provide universal access to sophisticated adaptive testing, and exercises to discover the unique strengths of each student and to help each student amplify his or her strengths,” the report reads. “AI systems could support continuous learning for students of all ages and abilities.”
This is already happening to some degree. Away from the report, education provider Pearson is one of several companies already using AI to augment their content for different users’ preferences, effectively turning each online course into a personal tutor.
Report co-author Vinod Kumar, CEO and MD at Tata Communications, believes that AI will be a force for positive change in both the corporate and education worlds.
“AI is now being viewed as a new category of intelligence that can complement existing categories of emotional, social, spatial, and creative intelligence. What is transformational about multiplicity is that it can enhance cognitive diversity, combining categories of intelligence in new ways to benefit all workers and businesses,” he said.
Internet of Business says
As previously reported by Internet of Business, while the dominant narrative in the popular press around AI, machine learning, robotics, and related technologies, has focused on Terminators and human replacement, the business narrative has been unhelpful in another way.
While many technology providers are apparently sincere in their belief that AI is about augmenting and complementing human ingenuity and skills, many on the buy side of the equation are obsessed with using the technology to slash costs rather than make their businesses smarter.
The following reports explore some of these issues:-
- Read more: Propaganda chatbots and manipulative AI: Worse to come, says MIT
- Read more: Bank of England warns of large-scale job losses from AI
- Read more: AI bubble set to burst, says critical analyst report
- Read more: Prove that AI works with real examples, say consumers: Industry report
Meanwhile, this external report is one of the most recent to explore the problem of bias entering AI systems – in this case, in the world of healthcare.