AI technology is already changing the world we live in, but what are some of the traditionally human skills that AI is starting to demonstrate?
AI still feels, in many ways, like science fiction. The idea of machines with intelligence taking over human roles seems like something that belongs in a novel or film rather than in the workplace. However, AI is already making an impact in today’s business world, with early adopters seeing increased efficiencies and cost savings. A recent McKinsey study found that 20% of C-suite level executives report using AI or machine learning in their business. While Harvard Business Review reported that companies using AI for sales increased their leads by 50%. But what does this technological shift mean for people? AI is an incredibly valuable tool and though it can never replace our human skill set it can help to augment some traditional people skills. These are some of the areas where AI is beginning to change the way we think about machines.
1. Emotional Intelligence
Machines can be taught to perceive emotions. Blending facial, text or speech recognition technology with machine learning and natural language processing to interpret how we are feeling. The applications for this technology are immense and ‘artificial emotional intelligence’ is already supporting a wide range of projects, from market research to medical trials. Affectiva is one of the organisations leading the way in this ground-breaking field and they have analysed more than 8 million faces in their research. As the technology supporting this field gets more sophisticated, the range of emotions able to be detected becomes more precise. A recent study found that AI was even able to recognise sarcasm in written text. Machines may still be far behind humans in how they perceive emotions but they are catching up surprisingly quickly.
Creativity feels like such a completely human process that it’s hard to define what it is and where it comes from. The level of imagination required to create a piece of music or art seems like it should be beyond the scope of AI but this is changing fast. AIs have already used neural networks and machine learning to produce unique pieces of music or even create unique human faces. The potential of this technology is astounding and forces us to reconsider the nature of creativity.
3. Social Skills
Many social skills happen before we have time to think about them. That instinctive nod of the head or handshake that occurs when we greet a colleague, for example. However, AI is becoming more sophisticated in its capacity to interact on a human level. In China, the popular chatbot, Xiaoice, is known for her sense of humour and listening skills – with many users telling her they love her. While a recent research paper from Nature Communications, found that their AI displayed better cooperation skills than human participants in an experiment.
It’s unlikely that an AI will be given the power to hand down a criminal sentence. Or to decide on parental custody in a court case. Some decisions are simply too important, and the consequences too far-reaching, to place into non-human hands. This does not mean that AI can’t support people in making better decisions. AI that is able to review the complexities of a contract or sift through decades of case law could empower humans to make better and more informed decisions. Researchers are already looking at the capacity of AI to solve moral problems; a 2014 research project from MIT crowdsourced responses to complex moral dilemmas to get a better understanding of how AI could respond to ethically ambiguous scenarios.
AI can help to support a whole range of strategic processes, from planning more effective sales campaigns to using big data to analyse competition in the marketplace. But AI could soon have a seat in the boardroom. An algorithm known as Vital was credited with bringing a Hong Kong venture capitalist firm back from the brink of collapse. Helping the board to make clear and logical decisions that were not driven by instinct or emotion.
The sudden explosion of AI can feel overwhelming. Particularly if you are part of an industry that is likely to be disrupted by an influx of new technology. But it is important to remember that AI is a human tool. Something that has the power to enhance how we live, not replace or threaten who we are as a species. If we proceed with caution, continuing to put human values and ethics at the heart of AI development, then our technological future will be bright.
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