Doing so is vital not just in teaching but in so many enriching interpersonal encounters and social possibilities found in other vocations. An astute salesperson, sensing the prospect of a more durable relationship with a customer, may go against his immediate interest and instead takes the beautiful risk of not recommending a purchase. An inventor, perceiving the new opportunities offered by a discovery, accepts the beautiful risk of the novelty despite the uncertainty. A publisher with a gut feeling about a manuscript takes a chance on an unknown author. Until intelligent machines understand the promise offered by such beautiful risks and the responsibility to take them, humans are unlikely to be displaced any time soon.
Co-creating adaptive intelligence
There is a tendency to focus on how to use AI to attain goals. In contrast, it is still relatively rare to consider using AI for producing a greater form of intelligence that surpasses what AI or humans can produce on their own. Important thinkers in AI, such as Kai-Fu Lee and Pasquale, have converged on the view that AI is most productive when it complements what humans do best.
Pasquale argues for ‘IA’, or intelligence augmentation, where human efforts, augmented by intelligent machines, result in better services and outcomes than either artificial or human intelligence working alone. Lee, for his part, imagines that doctors one day would become “compassionate caregivers”, with intelligent machines handling diagnoses and optimizing treatment plans, while the physicians offer care, support, and most importantly, a human presence to reassure the ill. By framing human co-existence with intelligent machines this way, both thinkers are in fact highlighting a valuable form of higher intelligence that results when human is augmented by machine.
How might one describe the value added by this interaction? Paul Daugherty, the chief technology and innovation officer at consulting group Accenture, and James Wilson, managing director of information technology and business research at Accenture Research, once described this as a form of collaborative intelligence, which emerges when humans and AI work together for a common goal. Collaborative intelligence is already evident in generative design, where intelligent machines are able to generate and select solutions that are best fitted to design constraints. In 2018, the BBC reported that intelligent machines managed to create a leg design for an interplanetary lander for the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that was nearly a third lighter than anything a human could come up with.
But collaborative intelligence might not be sufficient. According to Cornell University psychologist Robert Sternberg, all definitions of intelligence, despite their differences, generally agree on one thing – that intelligence must involve the ability to adapt to the environment. To count as genuine intelligence, intelligence must not undermine itself. However, Sternberg observes that despite a 30-point increase in IQ during the 20th century, humanity continues to engage in maladaptive behavior that is tantamount to species self-destruction. Given how environmentally disastrous anthropogenic climate change, pollution, deforestation and toxic waste are, the only intelligence that counts may be adaptive intelligence. This form of intelligence will enable humans to adjust to the changing environment that is unprecedented in history.
How might we use intelligent machines to create this adaptive intelligence to help mankind flourish despite environmental volatility and uncertainty? This has to be the most important question for applied AI. The future of humanity amid intelligent machines depends on how well this question is ultimately answered.