Friday, November 4, 2016

Recent Computing Advances: Artificial Intelligence or Augmented Intelligence?

There have been significant advances in computing over the last twenty years. These advances enable computers to perform amazing feats that are far beyond the capabilities of humans. Here are few examples.
  • Ability to “read” millions of documents in a few minutes and index the information contained in those documents
  • Search for digital artifacts (e.g., documents, images, etc.) based on user specified criteria in a fraction of a second from a diverse set of digital repositories
  • Detect complex patterns and anomalies in real-time in a datastream consisting of several gigabytes of data
  • Systematically generate and explore millions of options within a few seconds to determine the optimal course of action
These capabilities have been harnessed to build systems that can beat human grandmasters in chess, design novel devices that can be patented, detect barely visible early stage tumors in CT images, and predict fraudulent credit card transactions with a high degree of accuracy.

The computing technologies behind the above mentioned capabilities are often referred to as Artificial Intelligence (AI). Some are predicting that AI will surpass human intelligence in the not too distant future. These predictions are beginning to alarm a segment of the general public. This raises several questions. Will human intelligence be relevant if AI continues to make rapid advances? What jobs will humans do if AI continues to surpass humans on tasks that are currently performed by intelligent humans?

I view recent computing advances from a different lens. I believe that these advances will augment human capabilities instead of competing with humans. Computers and humans have different strengths. In the previous paragraphs, I outlined some of the ways in which computers are excelling. Let us now review the particular strengths of human beings. Only humans can relate to human emotions and their underlying origins (many of these often defy logic in the mathematical sense!). I strongly believe that only humans can understand needs, wants, and desires of other human beings. Human contact and social interaction is the only way to lift the spirits of human beings and inspire them to do their best. Humans are very creative and capable of inventing artifacts and services that other human beings want. They possess the judgment to figure out how to assess values of different options in a complex decision making problem. They are capable of incorporating ethical, moral, cultural, and legal considerations in the decision making process. Humans also have an innate ability to generalize from a very limited number of observations to draw broader conclusions.

The latest advances in computing are freeing humans from biologically-imposed constraints on memory, computing speed, and communication bandwidth. We can view recent advances in computing as a way to augment human intelligence, therefore the term AI should stand for Augmented Intelligence. Using augmented intelligence, every human will be able to communicate with thousands of people at the same time, communicate in virtually every language, explore millions of options before making a decision, and access all known human knowledge. Leveraging augmented intelligence will enable humans to excel by exploiting their creative energy and their ability to connect with their fellow humans. I believe that humans armed with augmented intelligence will have the potential to improve virtually all facets of our lives. Here are ten ways augmented intelligence will help people in doing their jobs better: 

  1. Currently educators are unable to provide personalized attention to students to suit their learning style and pace. With augmented intelligence, professors and teachers can use augmented intelligence to provide personalized attention to students by designing and grading tailored assignments to match the learning needs of each student. 
  2. Nowadays, due to the large volume of the published research, practicing doctors are unable to remain current with the latest findings. Doctors can use augmented intelligence to ensure that each patient’s treatment plan is informed by the latest advances in the field by taking into account all the relevant latest research on treatment options and side effects of new medicines.
  3. Most challenging problems require an interdisciplinary approach. For example, engineers want to take inspiration from biology. Engineers can use augmented intelligence to analyze all the relevant literature outside of their narrow field of expertise (e.g., biology) to draw inspiration and automatically construct models from the published experimental data. They can focus on asking the right questions and leave the more tedious work to the computers.
  4. Law enforcement agents can use augmented intelligence to gather and analyze all the evidence instantaneously by searching and integrating information from many disparate information sources.
  5. Designers can use augmented intelligence to synthesize optimal designs by rapidly generating and evaluating billions of options. They can use their insights and judgment to steer the computer search in the right direction. For example, this can help in designing betters drugs.
  6. Marketing professionals can use augmented intelligence to mine the vast amount of social media data to understand the recent trends and customer needs. This can help them in developing the right marketing strategy in order to craft advertisement campaigns that appeal to the taste of their prospective customers.
  7. Augmented intelligence can enable entertainers to stay in touch with their fans by providing personalized response on social media and analyzing fan feedback to create art that truly inspires.
  8. Using augmented intelligence, writers can get access to documents written in virtually every language to draw upon and can transcend the language barrier to reach a worldwide audience.
  9. Financial advisers can use augmented intelligence to offer affordable personalized advice to their clients by better understanding client needs and the market conditions in today’s fast changing world.
  10. Public policy professionals can analyze the implications of their proposed policies by conducting extensive computer simulations and customized surveys. The execution of both of these tasks can be improved by using augmented intelligence to automate these tasks.
Unfortunately right now, access to augmented intelligence will be restricted to a privileged few. This will exacerbate the already existing digital divide. Society will have to work that much harder to ensure that access to augmented intelligence technology will be available to all.