Humanising the AI Revolution: Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence

Intel’s Professor Genevieve Bell talks about the human side of technology.

The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming the business world and shows no sign of slowing down. The technology is already helping to augment the work that people do and soon its applications may well be expanded to include a higher degree of automation and machine-human collaboration.

“You can’t just do what’s technically possible. You actually have to do what makes sense to human beings.”

Professor Genevieve Bell, a renowned anthropology professor and vice president and senior fellow at Intel, explored this theme during a fascinating closing speech at the recent Sibos 2018*. The key theme of the annual event was ‘enabling the digital economy’, focusing on how banks are evolving to support the changing business realities of their clients by using emerging technologies such as AI.

While ensuring the quality of data is one of the key challenges of implementing AI, Bell’s speech highlighted the importance of considering the human aspect of digital transformation.

“You can’t just do what’s technically possible,” said Bell. “You actually have to do what makes sense to human beings. You have to think about what kind of technical systems you need to build, but you also have to think about what kind of skills you’ll need to manage the future. What are the systems that are coming and how do we think about them? And how do we take those systems safely to scale?”

As an anthropologist, Bell is used to concentrating on the human aspect. “Listening to human beings and then infusing what it is that they care about into how we make technology – that’s always been my job,” she explained.

During her talk, Bell pointed out that each new wave of technology necessitates the creation of completely new jobs. And with innovations such as IoT, Big Data and algorithms being incorporated into machines, we’re starting to see a whole new range of ‘cyber physical systems’. Examples of these includes drones, robots, and autonomous cars.

The evolution of this new wave of cyber physical systems raises a number of critical questions, said Bell, from how autonomous these systems should be, to who will set the controls and limits. In addition, we’re likely to need an entirely new generation of metrics, while previous technologies have tended to look to productivity and efficiency gains as the only marks of success. And one of the most critical concerns is how humans will interact with these systems.

“What it means to think about that fourth wave of the industrial revolution isn’t just thinking about the next generation of technologies, it’s thinking about the next generation of human social technical systems,” said Bell. “It’s about thinking about who are the people who are going to shepherd that world into existence. What are the technologies we’ll need but also what are the skills we need, what are the regulations we’ll need, what are the checks and balances we’ll need, what are the conversations we’ll need?”

When it comes to how AI and humans will work together in future, we currently have more questions than answers. But what’s clear is that new innovations create new challenges, as well as huge opportunities. And considering how humans will work together with technologies such as AI will be essential if businesses are to equip themselves to prosper in the 21st century.

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