A Closer Look at Machine-Human Collaboration

Emerging technologies directly impacting the workforce is not a new phenomenon. Most of the jobs currently held by young professionals did not exist when their parents first entered the job market. One of the emerging technologies making waves is Artificial Intelligence. It has sparked credible fears that it will eventually replace human workers in every facet of the economy. It is worth noting that despite the fact that several companies utilize AI to automate processes, those who deploy it with the intent of displacing human employees only reap short-term productivity gains. Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review, involving 1,500 organizations, revealed that firms reify substantial performance improvements when machines and humans work together, in a machine-human collaboration model.

In a machine-human collaboration model, the humans co-work with artificial intelligence systems as opposed to solely using them as tools. The synchronization can be controlled by the machine, the human, or both. The eventual goal is to utilize automated and human systems to fulfill complex tasks. The larger task can be broken down into subtasks that require the intricate sensory-motor controls and adaptability of humans, and those that require the computational and analytic abilities of a machine. Via this collaborative intelligence, AI and humans actively augment each other’s complementary strengths – the creativity, teamwork and leadership skills of the latter, coupled with the scalability, speed and quantitative capabilities of the former.

Machine-human collaboration has been touted by many as the new age of computing, with some futurists predicting that humans will eventually consider AI systems as partners with unique skill sets.

The Robot Revolution Is a Moot Concern

The conflux of machine learning and artificial intelligence are fueling concerns that robots will rise and steal every job. However, while the impact of AI and robotics on the current job market are indubitable, the actuality is that job replacement will happen at a more gradual pace than the media headlines imply. Eventually, Artificial Intelligence and other technologies that automate routine tasks traditionally performed by humans will create more jobs than it eliminates. Most CIOs streamline their business processes by deploying robotic process automation (RPA) to get rid of manual data entry, freeing up employees to perform other tasks that steer business value.

According to Gartner, the amalgamation of human and artificial intelligence, will generate $2.9 trillion in business value and recover about 6 billion hours of worker productivity by the year 2021. At the heart of AI strategies is the pursuit of productive human-machine collaboration – rather than the dystopian vision of physical robots eliminating jobs and conquering humanity.

Collaborating with Technology

As is with any other technology being adopted in an enterprise, the first step is identifying the problem you are trying to solve. The same applies to AI, you have to access the role that technology needs to play in the organization. By taking a closer look at the roles that both humans and machines will play as you innovate new experiences, you can leverage the capabilities of both to create ‘magical’ results. Think of robotics and AI as bestowing human workers with certain ‘superpowers’ that grant them the ability to accomplish more tasks in less time. The increasing application of AI technology to automate repetitive tasks also means that IT decision makers have to consider the jobs that will be lost, those that will be create, and how the workforce can leverage technology to complete their tasks. CIOs may have to reskill worker and reposition them for other tasks that offer greater business value.

Humans have critical roles to play in machine-human collaboration. They have to train machines to complete certain tasks; elucidate the outcomes of those tasks, especially when the results are controversial or counterintuitive; and protract the responsible use of machines. To sum up the relationship – machines guess, human experts confirm, machines learn, guesses improve, and humans benefit. When machines and humans collaborate, the efforts required by humans is greatly reduced, while the advantages gained are maximized. Ideally, it’s the best of both worlds.

The Possible Implications of Machine-human Collaboration

The emanation of Artificial Intelligence and related technologies is moving at a fast pace, making it near impossible to predict what comes next. The only consistency is constant innovation. Enterprises will increasingly rely on machines and people collaborating as opposed to competing with each other. AI will amplify people’s abilities, as human workers train and improve intelligent machines while dealing with more complex activities that machines are incapable of taking on. Trimming down the workload whilst increasing worker may sound paradoxical, but AI provides an unparalleled opportunity for commercial growth. In not only drives efficacy, decreasing the amount of work needed to complete tasks, but also creates new forms of innovation and growth.

Author: Gabriel Lando