The Future of Decision Making: Human-AI Symbiosis
Author: Gregory Ursu
When we have to make an important decision, we face numerous challenges: uncertainty, complex data that’s difficult to interpret, competing priorities. AI is been touted as game-changer in many business processes, but it seems that computers often add to the burden of data we need to consider, rather than simplifying our decisions. Here are some ways that humans and computers approach decision making differently, and how they can work together to improve each other.
Humans are intuitive; AI is not
While AI is well-suited to augment human cognition in addressing complexity, humans’ ability to operate holistically and intuitively give them the advantage in uncertain situations. While computers are better at routine processing, consistently error-free for repetitive mathematical tasks, and they are increasingly gaining skill in pattern matching and natural-language communication, they are often still lost in uncertain or unpredictable environments. That’s the opportunity for them to work synergistically with people’s superior intuitive judgment. For example, while IBM’s Deep Blue famously defeated chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov in 1997, today, a human player paired with computer programs can easily defeat even the strongest computer on its own.
An analytical approach to making decisions drills deeply into data, but an intuitive approach takes a more abstract and holistic view. To illustrate: computers aren’t very good at being creative. People are very creative, but it’s hard for them to weigh which of their ideas are the best, or how to combine them. Software can augment human creativity by quantifying their ideas and showing which of them are most likely to bring optimal results.
In 2016, Reid Hoffman, executive chairman and co-founder of LinkedIn, predicted that “AI-powered dashboards will provide forward-looking, predictive intelligence that will deliver a whole new level of insight to managerial decision making. Computers won’t be making decisions for us, but they can sift through vast amounts of data to highlight the most interesting things, at which point managers can drill down, using human intelligence, to reach conclusions and take actions." We think he was right- there are many specialized tools that generate new knowledge in the form of all levels of insights- but even so, the user is left asking "what does this mean for me?". The leap from knowledge generation to decision making is where we may now have an answer.
Humans are social; AI is not
Even if a computer manages to determine the “optimal” decision, a machine would have a hard time selling it to a diverse set of stakeholders, some of whom might be disadvantaged by that decision. Humans are social beings, and operate in a labyrinth of complex, often informal social systems that currently are beyond the understanding of computer algorithms. One of the most important responsibilities of business leaders is to provide vision and objectives for their organization, and then to convince others—both within and outside their organization—of why they matter. Getting others on board requires emotional and social intelligence, something that machines do not possess.
As a result humans have the upper hand in understanding the convoluted social and dynamics that surround decision-making situations, particularly when there are competing social priorities at stake, and outperform machines in social skills such as persuasion and negotiation.
At the same time, getting humans on board with AI initiatives can be fraught with challenges, as employees may distrust technology and fear their jobs may be eliminated. To be successfully implemented in an organization, AI needs to be integrated within its social fabric, augmenting human capabilities rather than replacing them. It needs to be treated as a tool for employees to draw upon in their work, and one that they can understand and trust. If an AI initiative pits people against technology, it is doomed to failure (see "Digital Transformation- a $900B failure this year alone").
How diwo augments human capabilities
We bandy "AI" about quite liberally, but it's not the answer in itself ("AI's dirty little secret"). AI capabilities can be leveraged synergistically if it’s part of a larger cognitive system. When a business adopts diwo’s cognitive decision-making framework, they benefit from the unique strengths of powerful analytics and machine learning, in a platform that builds trust with users. diwo provides explanations for its recommendations, and enables users to easily share quantified decisions with others within the platform for increased collaboration between departments. By virtue of the shared context, it builds shared ownership.
diwo also augments human creativity and intuition in uncertain environments. Unlike other AI platforms, it takes a holistic approach, focusing on each user’s specific business context. diwo in effect “quantifies your intuition” by allowing you to explore the effects of potential decisions, tweaking different elements to explore different strategies, or adapt diwo’s recommendations as desired.
Human-AI symbiosis means that humans can learn to apply AI’s capabilities more effectively over time, while simultaneously AI adapts to each user and the situation with every interaction. The end result is more powerful than either humans or computers alone.
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