Will AI Force Humans To Become More Human? (Part 1)

Bill Schmarzo

Part 1 of a 2-part series exploring the intersection between AI and humanity. Read Part 2.

Will artificial intelligence (AI) create an environment where design thinking skills are more valuable than data science skills? Will AI alter how we define human intelligence?

That sounds like questions one might expect from an episode of Rod Serling’s TV series Twilight Zone. Instead of AI replacing humans, will AI actually make humans more human? Will characteristics such as empathy, compassion, and collaboration actually become the future high-value skills that are cherished by leading organizations?

Let’s explore, but we need to start with some definitions.

AI, AI rational agents, and the AI utility function, oh my!

AI is defined as the simulation of human intelligence. AI relies upon the creation of “AI rational agents” that interact with the environment to learn, where learning or intelligence is guided by the definition of the rewards associated with actions. AI leverages deep learning, machine learning, and/or reinforcement learning to guide the “AI rational agent” to learn from continuous engagement with its environment to create the intelligence necessary to maximize current and future rewards (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: AI Rational Agent

The rewards the AI rational agents seek to maximize are framed by the definition of “value” as defined in the AI utility function – the objective criterion that measures the progress and success of an AI rational agent’s behaviors. To ensure the creation of an “AI rational agent” that exhibits the necessary intelligence to make the “right” decision, the AI utility function must cover a holistic definition of “value” that includes financial, operational, customer, societal, environmental, and spiritual (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: “Why Utility Determination Is Critical to Defining AI Success”

To summarize, AI is driven by AI rational agents that seek to drive “intelligent” actions based upon “value” as defined by the AI utility function. To design a holistic AI utility function that drives “intelligence” (whether artificial intelligence or human intelligence), we need to start by defining, or redefining, what we mean by “intelligence.”

Redefining intelligence

Intelligence is defined as the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. 

Our U.S. educational institutions have created numerous tests (Iowa Basic Skills, ACT, SAT, GMAT) to measure one’s “intelligence.” Yet there are many stories demonstrating that the education system’s need to put people into “intelligence boxes” has actually stifled creativity. (For two such stories, see the famous podcast by Sir Ken Robinson, “How Do Schools Kill Creativity?” and the story of Gillian Lynne, famous for changing the world of dance and choreography through musicals such as Cats and Phantom of the Opera.) Anyone with children knows the horror of this dilemma as they panic to prepare for ACT and SAT tests that play an outsize role in deciding their future.

This archaic definition of “intelligence” actually has the exact opposite impact, in that it reduces students (our children) to rote learning machines, driving out the creativity and innovation skills that differentiate us from machines.

We already have experienced machines taking over some of the original components of intelligence. How many people use long division, or manually calculate the square root, or multiply numbers with more than two digits in their heads? Traditional measures of intelligence are already under assault by machines.

And AI is going to make further inroads into what we have traditionally defined as intelligence. Human intelligence will no longer be defined by one’s ability to reduce inventory costs, or improve operational uptime, or detect cancer, or prevent unplanned maintenance, or flag at-risk patients and students. Those are all tasks at which AI models will excel. There’s no human competitive advantage there anymore.

We must focus on nurturing the creativity and innovation skills that distinctly make us humans and differentiate us from analytical. We need a new definition of intelligence that nurtures uniquely human creativity and innovation capabilities (said by the new chief innovation officer at Hitachi Vantara, wink, wink).

Part 2 of this series will explore further the human skills that make us unique, the concept of design thinking as it relates to innovation, and answer the question, “Will AI actually make humans more human?”

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn and is republished by permission.

As technology embeds deeper into our lives, companies need to elevate the role of people and culture.

Bill Schmarzo

About Bill Schmarzo

Bill Schmarzo is CTO, IoT and Analytics at Hitachi Vantara. Bill drives Hitachi Vantara’s “co-creation” efforts with select customers to leverage IoT and analytics to power digital business transformations. Bill is an avid blogger and frequent speaker on the application of big data and advanced analytics to drive an organization’s key business initiatives. Bill authored a series of articles on analytic applications, and is on the faculty of TDWI teaching a course on "Thinking Like A Data Scientist." Bill is the author of “Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business” and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science." Bill is also an Executive Fellow at the University of San Francisco School of Management, and Honorary Professor at NUI Galway at NUI Galway J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics.