Empowering humans in the age of AI

There is a lot of talk about Artificial Intelligence (AI) these days, not just among those in the technology industry but also for the most part businesses that now have to contend with this technological advancement. Usually, people have very different opinions about it, largely because of misunderstanding of what it means and where it is at today.

AI Robot

PointWest, together with Amazon Web Services, recently held a forum in Metro Manila, Philippines on Human-Centered AI. I have led many digital transformations in the past decade in various industries in Asia Pacific countries, where I talked about how human-centered AI is key to businesses’ operational transformation that allows them to become more competitive. It was interesting to realize that many other industries are still struggling to make a case for change toward digitalization, AI and transformation.

There are actually three kinds of AI – narrow, general and super. The first one, artificial narrow intelligence (ANI) is quite prevalent in our lives today. It is the AI that performs a single task smartly and efficiently – like Alexa. The next one is artificial general intelligence (AGI) which, as its name suggests, is more general in purpose. It can correlate various tasks, learn and improve itself. There are some sectors which say that we have achieved this but mostly, research and more development needs to happen before this becomes mainstream in our lives.

The last one is artificial super intelligence (ASI), which, not only mimics human thinking but even surpasses it. This is the AI that most people are afraid of – largely due to science fiction movies and books that foretell a dystopian future in which robots take over the world and oust humanity.

In the business context, we have used AI to make our processes better and faster. Great everyday examples are spam filters, voice to text, recommendation engines (on Netflix, Amazon and the like), and other personalization algorithms (on social media, Google, and other apps) that people don’t realize are actually AI.

For digital transformations, it is a very crucial part. However, what most companies don’t realize is that while it is crucial, it is only one part. Successful transformations come from holistically changing oneself – and that includes people, processes and then, technology. I say technology last for a reason – the choice of what technology to use follows the strategy and the vision of the company together with how the changes to its operational processes should be. Hence, at core of the transformation is people.

A wise man, named Bill Gates, once said, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” With the advent of AI, the choice of how to use it becomes even more essential.

As developers, an ethical question of how it should be developed to make lives better, not more sinister, must always be asked. As business leaders, we should employ it for competitive advantage that would serve our customers well and develop our industries further. As users, we should strive to be cognizant of not only what it can do, but also what it shouldn’t do. Our morals and values separate us from the artificial. When we use our humanness to push AI, only then can we make AI work for us, and not against us.

What now then? Whether you belong in a big company, an entrepreneur or a budding user/developer, what can you do?

Start. There are easy and simple ways to start. You can start big or start small. You can start by learning about it, deploying some solutions on a pertinent problem. For example, doing an OCR-RPA solution for some processes is a start. PointWest offers a good solution for this.

Learn. It is not one perfect thing. You can start small and pivot while learning. It is okay to fail as long as you fail fast and learn even faster. In the age where change is happening fast, an agile development mindset works best.

Evangelize. What you’ve learned is always something worth sharing with your colleagues. In sharing, you can gain more insights on new ways of doing things and how other companies have done it successfully, or learn what not to do if they’ve failed at some attempts.

We are what we think, we value, we do, we learn. And in the age of AI, it is foremost that we empower ourselves to be able to do so.

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Joy Santamarina is a consulting principal in the APAC region specializing in the telecommunications,

media, and technology industry. Send feedback to joysantamarina@gmail.com