May 4, 2021
AI: A Friend or Foe?
Rise of AI
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is used to describe a variety of technologies that enable computers to learn and solve problems in a manner similar to humans. This technology includes, but is not limited to, machine learning and natural language processing (NLP).
The concept of AI has existed for years but due to advances in technology and the surge in virtual “everything” caused by the recent global pandemic, AI has risen to the top of the corporate agenda. In fact, according to Statista, the global AI software market is expected to grow about 54 percent in 2021. Furthermore, revenues from the AI software market worldwide are expected to climb to roughly 126 billion U.S. dollars in a few short years.
With the improvements in AI technology, opportunities for businesses to take advantage of the power of AI software are increasingly available. Doing so will help to reduce costs and improve efficiency as well as customer experience. As technology advances, it has become increasingly imperative for businesses to adopt AI software in order to reduce effort and improve efficiency. It is not surprising that as AI becomes more prevalent in business, it will gradually become a part of our daily lives. Thus, synergistic efficiencies between humans and machines will soon become the new norm.
In the following post, we will discuss how humans can most effectively augment machines, how machines can enhance what humans do best, and how Y Meadows’ software optimizes the collaboration between humans and AI.
Fear of AI
Since its conception, some people have questioned whether AI technology could eventually surpass human capabilities. The fear that smart machines will soon take over and threaten employment is valid only in the sense that it will change the way humans work, allowing them to focus on more interesting aspects of their job, but will not replace human work. That being said, AI’s purpose is to scale, improve efficiency and effectiveness, and mitigate mundane tasks that are time consuming for humans to perform.
At this point in time, AI technology does not have the capacity to perform at a high level without a degree of human intervention. Self-driving cars are a great example of this. When completing more challenging maneuvers such as entering the freeway or driving in inclement weather humans are still required to take over the steering wheel.
Value of Collaboration
Since smart machines are not equipped to do everything on their own, human interaction is needed. In order to garner the best results, both humans and machines need to work together. In fact, a Harvard Business Review research study involving 1,500 companies in a range of industries, found that companies achieve the biggest performance improvements when humans and smart machines work together.
Naturally, both humans and AI technology have their strengths and weaknesses. Humans, for example, excel in leadership, teamwork, creativity, and social skills. On the other hand, AI is known for its speed, scalability, and quantitative capabilities. It is important to note that what comes easily to most people may be challenging for machines.
For example, displaying emotional sentiment or appropriately timed humor may be tricky for machines. Thus, the value of collaboration between humans and smart machines resides in the ability for humans to make up for what AI lacks and vice versa.
To that end, businesses must understand how humans can assist machines, how machines can assist humans, and how to redesign business processes to improve the partnership. In order to optimize the partnership between humans and AI, it is advised that companies follow five key principles. In fact, according to a Harvard Business Review survey of 1,075 firms in 12 industries, the more businesses followed these principles the better their AI initiatives performed. These principles include:
- Redesigning business processes and work to incorporate AI
- Embracing experimentation
- Involving employees and cultivating related employee skills
- Actively directing AI strategy
- Collecting data responsibly
Humans Assisting Machines
According to Harvard Business Review, humans have 3 important duties. They must train, explain, and sustain.
Humans are responsible for training machines to perform specific tasks. This requires the accumulation of enormous amounts of data to teach machine-learning algorithms to perform the work they are designed to do.
Humans must annotate, tag, and label data to train the algorithm to distinguish between similarities and differences. In today’s environment, we are generating more data than ever before. Because of this, it has become ever more important for humans to label data in order for AI systems to learn from it.
A great example of this is Apple’s Siri. Siri was created and trained by humans. In order to develop just the right personality for the bot, large amounts of data were processed to instill the preferred qualities. As a result, Siri’s personality is confident, helpful, and a little bit sassy.
Humans must explain the outcomes of tasks performed by AI technology, especially when the results are counterintuitive or contradictory. Since not all users will understand the algorithms and methodologies used by AI technology, some may doubt the validity of the results. This is called the ‘black box problem’.
Because of this unclarity, it is important for experts in the field to explain smart machine behavior to non expert users. Furthermore, experts help others visualize the data to garner insight. Companies rely on experts to help them understand the processes that machines use to reach conclusions as well as the implications of utilizing AI technology.
Humans are responsible for sustaining machines. Companies need employees who specialize in making sure that AI systems are functioning as intended. This role is the key to instilling confidence in a company's overall AI initiative. In fact, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, less than one third of companies are confident in the fairness and audibility of their AI systems.
Similarly, less than one half of companies have a high degree of confidence in the safety of those systems. Thus, it is imperative for businesses to employ sustainers to successfully manage their systems and build trust in their AI capabilities.
Machines Assisting Humans
Similarly, machines have 3 important functions. They can amplify, interact, and embody.
Machines have the ability to amplify our cognitive strengths. It is important to remember that smart machines are intended to automate the mundane tasks that take a lot of time but little judgment. By no longer having to deal with the grind of these tedious tasks, employees are empowered to take on more challenging roles.
The relationship between humans and machines allows for AI technology to provide humans with the right information at the right time. For example in customer service, this handover of information is important so that agents do not have to start from scratch and repeat questions to the customer. In addition, the efficient handover of information allows agents to focus on using their uniquely human qualities like empathy, professional judgement, and negotiation skills.
Machines also assist humans by performing routine interactions with customers to free humans for higher level tasks. With training, AI systems can be taught how to best interact with humans. In addition, AI systems can monitor previous interactions to learn how to solve problems better in the future. Therefore, the more interactions an AI system has, the more accurate it will be.
For example, in customer service, AI technology has the capability to handle a variety of customer complaints on its own. By doing so, customer service agents can focus on more complex issues. In addition, AI technology is scalable. So, instead of customer service agents having to spend time answering the same type of question over and over, a smart machine could respond to all of the questions easily and efficiently.
Machines can embody human skills to extend human physical capabilities. In other words, AI technology can work with employees to complete tasks that are tediously performed by humans. For example, in today’s factories, factory workers are working alongside machines called cobots. Cobots are often in charge of assembling, material handling, and/or welding. They are in charge of completing the relatively simple but strenuous tasks in factories.
Similarly, in customer service, AI technology can embody the customer service agent. Instead of manually looking through a variety of systems for requested information, a smart system can accumulate information requested by a customer and deliver it to them without the help of a customer service agent.
How Y Meadows Can Help
Y Meadows’ software successfully optimizes the relationship between humans and machines in an effort to reduce costs and improve efficiency as well as customer experience.
Y Meadows’ software uses NLP and machine learning to read through text to identify the customer’s complaint, integrate and access your company’s systems, and gather relevant information from multiple channels before the agent is ever engaged. Therefore, when the customer service representative initially accesses the customer query, it will have been enriched with the information necessary to address the customer’s issue.
Furthermore, Y Meadows’ software has the ability to trigger human intervention when necessary. We call this our ‘Human In The Loop’ function. The function is designed to incorporate human review with AI technology.
For example, if a customer inquires about missing reward points, since it is sensitive information that has a financial impact, your enterprise may not want the AI technology to handle the case on its own.
Instead, the case and all the necessary information will be sent to a customer agent for review before moving forward with the inquiry. If the customer support agent approves, then the smart machine will follow through with the response. If not, the customer support agent can take over and fix the problem themselves.
Artificial intelligence is a tool with tremendous potential when properly integrated with the human workforce. By optimizing the relationship between humans and machines, businesses can improve customer experience as well as employee morale. Since AI technology can not work alone, it is important for businesses to create a culture where people can co-exist with smart machines. Combining the scalability of AI systems with human’s innate strengths is the key to business success. Y Meadows has the ability to empower customer service teams with trainable AI and enable them to serve their customers, employees, and partners, faster and more efficiently than ever before.