Automation and AI: Miracle Tool or Hostile Takeover?


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Advancements in artificial intelligence have been exciting and terrifying. Thought leaders, scientists and entrepreneurs have all discussed the implications of superintelligent AI and come to the conclusion that powerful AI systems could pose serious problems.

At present, an AI with superintelligence is not developed. A general learning algorithm, one that mimics how humans apply general theories to disparate concepts and subjects, has yet to be developed.

As such, the question for people adopting automation and/or AI and integrating them into their business practices is not one that deals with the serious ethical, moral and economic implications of engineering a hyperintelligent machine. Instead, it is simply a question of how to best use automation to boost productivity, help employees do their jobs and more effectively reach company goals.

The need for critical thinking

Bridgewater, the investment firm founded by Ray Dalio, has used AI for quite some time to help with its business processes. According to Dalio, his AI can crunch immense amounts of data. However, the automated data crunching can lead to preposterous conclusions. In essence, a computer is still unable to think critically.

So, there are correlations and causations that common sense would dictate are nonsense. In his book "Principles," Dalio uses the example of a computer correlating waking up in the morning and eating breakfast, and concluding that waking up causes hunger. Of course, though we can see how an AI program would come to this fallacious notion, we understand that it is incorrect.

Despite the miscalculations computers often come to, the sheer amount of data AI can take in is staggering and useful. The correlations it can make are enlightening and give employees an opportunity to think in original and innovative ways.

The essential balance

Artificial intelligence and automation only work in conjunction with real, human critical and creative thinking, however. When you use any piece of technology, balance is key. AI is neither the one answer nor a dangerous technology to be shunned. It's another tool available to your organization, and every tool must be used effectively and for the right problem.

AI and automation aren't simply blanket terms for solutions to your problems either. There are certain AI-powered automated apps you'll find useful, and certain ones your organization may be better without. It all depends on what your organizational strengths and weaknesses are, and how open you are to experimenting with cutting-edge technology and objectively tracking the results of that implementation.

The AI you employ needn't be as advanced as Bridewater's to be effective. A simple bot that helps you organize meeting times can be a great way of optimizing your scheduling between team members, for example. These types of automation tools are plentiful and can boost the productivity of your team in small but extremely helpful ways.

Using more advanced AI to automate some of your processes can be a great help as well. With powerful AI, however, there is also a great deal of caution you must take as an organization. Allowing computers to override common sense or using automation to replace critical problem-solving will result in ruination.

Assessing the weaknesses of your company and coming up with solutions to address those problems is what's first necessary. While we can't rely too heavily on automation and AI, we can use them as the powerful tools they are. Automation, when used effectively and leveraged properly, can empower the entirety of your organization, bolster productivity and produce better outcomes.