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In Battle Employee vs. AI, Everyone Can Be a Winner

What is the right question to ask when it comes to Artificial Intelligence? Could collaboration between AI and human workers be the answer?

For years, there’s been a workplace fear of AI (artificial intelligence) despite its increasing practical application in many businesses. This fear stems from Alan Turing’s creation of the Turing Test to measure computer intelligence, among his computing achievements.

Today, some computer scientists question if that was the wrong approach, considering a shift from AI-human competition to collaboration.

Has Pursuing Turing’s Standard Created Economic Inequities?

Director Erik Brynjolfsson of Stanford’s Digital Economy Lab certainly seems to think so. Brynjolfsson, in Dædalus journal, argues that AI advances cause serious issues. In his piece for the Spring 2022 issue of “The Turing Trap: The Promise & Peril of Human-Like Artificial Intelligence” journal, Brynjolfsson notes a crucial shift in AI’s goal. It rapidly changed from its initial aim to a mission centered on surpassing human cognitive abilities.

That, he says, was the big mistake.

Brynjolfsson’s paper posits that the aforementioned obsession with creating a human-like machine has done little but exacerbated wage inequality.

According to Brynjolfsson, the AI that’s been created has done little but remove the need for human employees, and while this has had positive impacts on productivity, the benefits of this productivity tend to float up to business owners and leaders. In fact, Brynjolfsson points to this divide as the cause of wage stagnation amongst workers while millionaires and billionaires just get richer. It’s a phenomenon that he had dubbed “the Turing Trap,” as indicated in the title of his article.

The creation of AI mirrors humanity’s enduring quest for apotheosis, as seen in various stories throughout history. These examples include the golem in Jewish folklore, the automatons found in ancient Greek tales attributed to Dedalus, and the endeavors of inventors across various epochs. These efforts span from the early Islamic kingdoms to the intellectual movements of the European Renaissance. Modern popular culture has continued this pattern, depicting artificial intelligence as human-like, often featuring AI seeking out a greater level of humanity.

Brynjolfsson feels that this is the wrong approach.

According to Brynjolfsson, AI Would Be Better Used as “Augmentation”

Let’s explain what he means.

Human employees can do certain things very well. AI can do certain things very well. And…this is key… the things that your human employees can do well aren’t always the same things that an AI can do well. Therefore, posits Brynjolfsson, it only makes sense that AI be used to supplement the capabilities of human employees. This shift boosts productivity and increases the value of work for those partnered with AI.

Unfortunately, substitution or replacement is considerably more attainable than augmentation, simply because there’s no precedent for it in many cases. It is also important to note that other research has shown that there are very particular tasks that people do and don’t want automated as a rule—so things like “cleaning toilets” were popular ideas, while “opening gifts” was decidedly not. In terms of professional uses, however, augmentation demonstrates much more obvious cases. Many people have presumed that automation powered by AI will be used as an excuse to replace the human worker, but others have argued that AI’s use only covers a small part of what different jobs contain in their responsibilities.

So, Artificial Intelligence Should Be Seen as a Tool, Not Competition

VISTECH can help you implement the kind of automation and machine learning to benefit your own processes as well. Give us a call at 860.251.8003 to learn more.

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