This week, our team took a short trip to San Francisco for IBM Connect. There were bells and whistles galore, and while IBM’s Watson was the belle of the ball, it was the entire artificial intelligence (AI) community that stole the show.
Watson and other artificial intelligence platforms are able to solve various problems by evaluating successful people and analyzing previous problems and their solutions. These platforms are entirely dependent on the information they have in their repository to provide an accurate response. Basically, for a tool like Watson to work well it needs to be supported by a scalable solution that constantly feeds it more data because AI synthesizes correct solutions based on algorithms to sift through large amounts of information.
Artificial intelligence has been able to best humans at quite a few games, from chess to maybe most notably, the ancient Chinese game Go. Unlike AI, humans are notoriously horrible decision makers. We make decisions based off of gut reactions, emotion, and other illogical factors that hinder our decision making capabilities.
The beauty of artificial intelligence is that when it is making a decision, it only takes into account numbers, facts, an accurate account of previous occurrences, and relevant participants. Then it proposes a solution based off of that information. This kind of an approach becomes valuable when, for example, you leverage AI with a machine learning analytics tool. This allows you to evaluate who emails who in an organization when they have a question and determine if this person might be a good fit for a leadership position. If it was solely up to us, we may come to these conclusions solely because they agree with our previous ones, showing confirmation bias. Or we may hear something negative about the person in question and then only see that trait, which leads us to assume that they are not a good fit, based on observational selection bias. We just aren’t always great at making decisions, and that is okay.
Humans still prevail at a good number of things over artificial intelligence. We can be creative, we can think critically, we can dream, and we have the ability to create tools like Watson, to help improve our everyday lives. The theme of IBM Connect was a hopeful one; even though the world is changing rapidly, even though jobs are being morphed into new things, this does not mean this is the end of the line for humanity.
In the middle of the showroom floor, they had an escape the room that my team, was unfortunately not able to escape. But the concept was clear, use Watson to help you escape. Watson didn’t have the answer for the door code, nor could the AI program figure it out, but it was able to process small problems, so we could focus on the larger task at hand. Really, it’s elementary my dear Watson – change whether we like it or not, is here.