Robots aren’t taking over the world (yet) — artificial plus human intelligence is still the best combo

April 30, 2021

By Troy Pospisil, Founder/CEO of Ontra writing for Forbes Technology Council

We’ve been warned for years that artificial intelligence is taking over the world. PwC predicts that by the mid-2030s, up to 30% of jobs could be automated. CBS News reports machines could replace 40% of the world’s workers within 15 to 25 years. While the advancement in technology will contribute to the growing number of jobs lost to automation, one thing is for certain: There are still many industries and workflows that need humans.

There is no doubt AI has fundamentally changed and enhanced our lives. Our cities are connected, our homes are smarter, and the way we do business is more efficient. Yet AI only has the ability to change the subset of our world that can be automated, which primarily includes jobs in more structured and predictable conditions like factories or warehouses. Machines can automate certain behaviors and tasks, but they don’t yet have the cognitive skills and critical thinking ability needed to execute subtle or complex actions. When it comes to environments that rely on uniquely human traits and abilities — perception, social intelligence and creativity — artificial intelligence falls short.

Where Artificial Intelligence Falls Short

Surgery is better off in the hands of experienced surgeons, whose extensively trained fine motor skills and ability to perceive and assess each individual situation make them far superior to any machine. Similarly, AI cannot replicate the level of social intelligence needed for HR professionals to engage and build healthy relationships with candidates and employees. Finally, machines cannot duplicate the creativity or savvy of attorneys constructing, negotiating or adhering to complex contracts.

This is not to say that AI has no place in these businesses. In fact, they can be accelerated by AI as long as it’s paired with a human operator — an approach called human-in-the-loop.

What Is Human-In-The-Loop? 

Simply put, this approach combines artificial and human intelligence in an integrated workflow to augment the humans and produce an outcome better than either could independently. A person working alongside a machine or computer adds data into the system to achieve the desired result. This process becomes a continuous loop, with humans training, tuning and testing algorithms that become smarter and more accurate over time. By incorporating human judgment and preference into the loop, complex AI systems evolve into tools that are more powerful and efficient than what could be achieved with fully automated or fully manual systems alone.

The Value Of Artificial And Human Intelligence Combined

The three aforementioned industries — medical, human resources and legal — can greatly benefit from this human-in-the-loop AI approach. While machines are undoubtedly transforming the medical industry, it’s important to note that they are a complementary technology designed to enhance, not replace, medical professionals. Researchers at the Center for Clinical Artificial Intelligence are developing machines that not only improve the diagnosis and treatment of patients but also create cost and time efficiencies to upgrade the overall experience. However, there will probably never be robot doctors because empathy, perception and instinct play a major role in making medical decisions. Adding human-in-the-loop technology to the industry ensures that medical professionals can use data to augment their practice, constantly improve and offer better patient care.

Similarly, many companies today are integrating AI into their HR processes to streamline employee training, candidate identification and employee self-service. In these cases, AI analyzes millions of data points to provide recommendations, match profiles, and look up company policies and benefits so the HR team can spend more time on high-quality candidate care and the other aspects of their jobs that require human attention. Though helpful, these AI systems still rely on trained humans to give feedback and provide data that contributes to better learnings and transparency. In doing so, the company ensures its AI systems don’t unintentionally introduce bias. The most effective way for an HR organization to develop and maintain successful professional relationships is with a human-in-the-loop.

The legal industry is another example of a field where the combination of artificial and human intelligence produces a result greater than its parts. Consider alternative asset managers, an industry that invests and oversees trillions of dollars. Investing all of that capital requires continuous and complex contract negotiations to support new funds and new investments. It’s a labor-intensive, time-consuming process that is prone to human error. Advancements in legal technology make these processes easier by turning documents into data that feeds an AI system. In doing so, companies — with the help of seasoned human legal experts — can use AI to augment their abilities and find efficiencies in everything from how they negotiate documents to how they manage their obligations to their business partners. With those processes reliably streamlined and secured, asset managers are free to focus on prospecting and closing best-in-class investments.

The One-Two Punch: Humans And Technology

As it evolves, AI will play an increasingly critical role in shaping the way we live, work and play. However, we are far from a time when machines will supplant the global workforce, particularly when it comes to occupations that rely on aspects (perception, social intelligence, creativity) that are uniquely human.

We are at the inflection point that will determine the shape of AI in the future. Those who embrace and leverage it to build efficiencies into everyday tasks while incorporating human abilities and expertise into the system are likely to be the ones who stand to benefit the greatest as technology’s breadth and capabilities expand. Rather than take an all-or-nothing stance, embrace the human-in-the-loop approach of augmenting abilities and benefit from the one-two punch of artificial and human intelligence while preparing for what’s next.

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