Humans led by robots?

Original article was published by Adam Crossling on Artificial Intelligence on Medium


From I-Robot to Ex-Machina, the fear of robots taking the place of humans seems to be inherent in our culture and our movies. We’re haunted by the idea of Artificial Intelligence one day being able to outwit us.

But maybe it has already? We have become so used to AI in our personal and professional lives that perhaps we haven’t noticed our increasing reliance on the technology, which has led to the casting aside of our own cognitive functions, for the ease of a robotic device which will do our thinking for us.

It could be something as simple as beginning a search in Google which will give you a list of suggestions based on your history. But what if you want something different? Well you don’t get that option unless you complete the sentence in the search bar.

If you are looking for something in YouTube you’ll find yourself being led by the algorithm based on what you watched in the past. You can waste hours looking for a specific video but find yourself led astray by what YouTube put in front of you.

If we are in charge of the machine then all is good and well. But how much do we let AI change our behaviour because of its predictive abilities?

For example, speech recognition means we have Siri. Siri makes suggestions based on your routines and the apps you use. The power of suggestion is very strong in humans — ask any hypnotist — so if you follow the “advice” of the machine, who is making that decision?

Of course some of these “reminders” are incredibly useful. But at what stage do you hand over the power to the machine and lose the ability of memory i.e. an awareness of a task which has to be undertaken? You don’t have to remember it because the machine will do it for you.

For marketeers the predictive behaviour function of AI — collating and analysing data based on previous action — is heaven sent. For example, Netflix knows what you have watched and makes suggestions based upon those views. With Amazon the suggestions of what to read, watch, buy next pop up in your inbox with alarming regularity encouraging us to spend, spend, spend.

Artificial Intelligence tools can analyse information and predict trends far more quickly than any human being. They’re particularly useful in the retail sector and in insurance where the data gathered from the behaviour of the customer can give real insights into future trends. AI is also a huge support in manufacturing enabling the monitoring of equipment and software to keep people safe and increase productivity.

There will naturally be changes in our behaviour to make AI work for us, just as the same as with any new technology. But the emphasis must be on it working for us i.e. the humans. If we slide into complacency by allowing AI to make the decisions — then the robots really will have taken over.

For information on how you can use AI and behavioural analytics in your business to improve productivity please do get in touch with one of our Business Optimisation consultants.