Weekly Feature: AI Should Augment Human Intelligence, Not Replace It

January 16, 2021

In a recently published piece in the Harvard Business Review, David De Cremer and Garry Kasparov challenge the commonly held belief that smart machines will truly replace human workers. Though they don’t deny that in some industries—like manufacturing, service-delivery, and recruitment—intelligent systems have altered labor markets and changed hiring needs, they ultimately contend humans and machines are not in competition with each other. In fact, Cremer and Kasparov envision a future where human intelligence is complemented by artificial intelligence, not outsourced by it.

Machine intelligence vs. human intelligence

According to Cremer and Kasparov, smart machines and humans have different intellectual strengths. They write that “AI-based machines are fast, more accurate, and consistently rational, but they aren’t intuitive, emotional or culturally sensitive. And, “it’s exactly these abilities that humans possess which make us effective.”

  • AI is perfectly suited to work in lower-level routine tasks that are repetitive and take place within a “closed management system” --- they don’t interact with external forces. For example, Amazon began using algorithms to supervise human workers on assembly lines, given the repetitive and highly structured nature of the work. Designed to optimize productivity, the AI is more effective at monitoring workers than human supervisors.
  • Human abilities, however, are more expensive. Contrary to artificial intelligence, which can only respond to the data available, humans have the ability to imagine, anticipate, feel, and judge changing situations. This type of intelligence is needed when “open management systems” are in place: when members of a team are interacting with the external environment and therefore have to deal with influences from outside.

The third type of intelligence: augmented

When machine intelligence works in tandem with human intelligence, Cremer and Kasparov argue that the third type of intelligence is born: augmented intelligence.

The enhancing, collaborative potential Cremer and Kasparov envision stands in stark contrast to the zero-sum predictions of what AI will do to our society and organizations. They believe that “greater productivity and the automation of  cognitively routine work is a boon, not a threat.”

Read the full article here.