17 June 2024

The human side of automation

| The European |

Tim El-Sheikh of Nebuli explains how augmented intelligence creates value by putting people first 

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of artificial intelligence? Is it robotics? Or automation? Or is it, and don’t be afraid to admit it, Star Trek? Whether it is through movies or peer-reviewed articles, AI has now been absorbed into the modern lexicon. Yet how many businesses really know what it is – or how to engage with it usefully?

The truth is that most people have a limited knowledge of what AI is and there’s a very good reason for this; AI is almost undefinable. Like so much in technology, capturing what AI really means without going into detail about all of its possible applications is difficult. However, at its most basic level, AI makes it possible for machines, software systems, and robots to “think” and make decisions with minimal or no human intervention.

It is unsurprising that this definition might trouble workers who fear AI will replace them, or business leaders who may see these systems as too complex, expensive or beyond their capabilities. And indeed, there may actually be some truth in these assumptions, but only in cases where AI is implemented badly or without enough thought.

For example, “lazy AI” that’s deployed with minimal data privacy or data encryption requirements can create more problems than it solves. By contrast, taking a more nuanced, human-centric approach to AI can provide businesses with extraordinary value. This is where augmented intelligence comes into play. So, what’s the difference?

AI vs augmented intelligence

Mathematically and algorithmically, there is almost no difference between artificial intelligence and augmented intelligence. The desired outcome from both is to leverage technology to augment human intelligence and productivity. However, augmented intelligence differs from traditional AI in three important ways:

  • Augmented intelligence helps enhance and extend human decision-making and creativity rather than replacing humans with machine-led automation.
  • It is specifically designed and optimised to solve deeper industry-specific problems, with a much higher level of specificity than broader, general intelligence.
  • It goes beyond the generic bird’s-eye view of business intelligence and data analytics by offering unique insights and recommendations with reasoning.

When used in this way, augmented intelligence can be used to establish a collaborative relationship between technology and humans by using data to inform and solve real workplace issues. Rather than committing to a generic AI investment to automate change, augmented intelligence operates on the principle that people must come first.

How augmented intelligence can create value

A study by Gartner estimates that AI augmentation will create $2.9tn of business value and 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity globally in 2021. These are impressive numbers, but where does this value really lie?

The first key area is in decision-making, which Gartner forecasts will account for 44% of AI-derived business value globally by 2030. Although today’s businesses have more tech options than ever before, there is still a knowledge deficit that impedes the ability of many companies to make informed decisions quickly.

By using AI to intelligently index and extract patterns from large data pools, however, decision-makers will be able to gain an unparalleled insight into their business. Innovative data strategies and smarter systems can be used to inform the decision-making process, while time spent on laborious tasks can be redirected elsewhere. Critically, augmenting decision-making has few barriers to adoption because it does not require the replacement of existing enterprise software.

The second area where there is great room for improvement is the customer experience. Augmented intelligence can reduce mistakes while delivering customer convenience and personalisation at scale. This is an important intervention because poor customer service is costing businesses more than $75bn a year, according to NewVoiceMedia’s ‘Serial Switchers’ report.

Augmented intelligence can be used to drive improvements here by analysing broad data sources to uncover key insights and provide businesses with a complete view of any customer. This way, businesses will be able to anticipate customer requirements, issues, and identify trends far more quickly and easily. The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of providing customer convenience and on-demand availability of enterprise services. When viewed in this way, augmented intelligence can be seen as the gateway to serving the modern customer.

Putting people first

Many businesses pursuing a digital transformation strategy are still focusing their efforts on AI software alone, but this approach is largely ineffective and can often lead to wide-scale failures. MIT Sloan Management Review and BCG found in its ‘Expanding AI’s Impact With Organizational Learning’ report that only 10% of organisations achieve significant financial benefits with AI. Those organisations that did see success were those that deployed multiple human-machine learning approaches, demonstrating the underestimated role that mutual learning between humans and machines in generating value from AI.

That is why AI-driven strategies should always prioritise people over software – which is where the true value of augmented intelligence lies.

At Nebuli, we looked at AI’s “intelligence” from a biological perspective and built our model with the human brain in mind. The Nebuli Augmented Working Memory Theory was created by incorporating the neurological theory of ‘working memory’ into our work. As a result, our models can take data and handle it much like a human brain, taking a small bit of information and maximising the intelligence output.

Businesses that want to benefit from this approach need to start by considering the “3 Ps” approach – People, Processes, Platforms:

  • People – Who is involved and how they interact.
  • Processes – The systems involved and the tasks
    that are carried out.
  • Platforms – The technology and interfaces that
    are used.

With these points in mind, businesses can shift the emphasis away from the “artificial” aspects of AI and instead focus on its intelligence to drive improvements and encourage employees to connect with it, understand it, and drive it.

At its core, augmented intelligence offers the perfect combination of human input and sophisticated AI technology. By focusing on the quality and relevancy of the data at hand, these systems can give people the power to lead transformation themselves. This shift in focus will not only help businesses to tackle their most pressing day-to-day challenges right now, but it will also ensure that they can stay competitive in the future.

About the author

Tim El-Sheikh is CEO & Chief Architect at Nebuli. 







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