A Symbiotic Partnership With Human Intelligence
- Embracing AI. AI, like service animals, should augment human capabilities, not lead.
- Intelligent disobedience. AI systems need safeguards, just as service dogs employ.
- Mutual dependence. Like scissors’ blades, humans and AI work best collaboratively.
As artificial intelligence (AI) moves deeper into our everyday lives, we will need to focus on the relationship between human and machine intelligence. The model for collaborative intelligence has already been established.
AI: Our New Partner, Co-Worker and Best Friend
The time for conjecture over whether generative AI will change the workplace is past. Coders, content creators, marketers and others are seeing the positive, often cool and sometimes ominous effects of this technology daily. We have seen it used to reduce headcount, and we have watched influential technology executives discuss it before Congress. It has been hyped, minimized and treated as a toy.
It seems to frighten those who don’t understand technology and a few who understand it well. It is in our office space and in our headspace. Like a new hire with family connections in management, it is not going away. We will just have to make peace with this new co-worker, and we have a short time to establish the relationship.
As we consider these rules of engagement, I believe the collaborative model we should emulate is one that has been in place for a very long time. If we can train it well and learn to work together, generative AI just may become our best friend like our furry canines.
Related Article: Using Generative AI to Create Branded Visual Content
AI Has Changed the Workplace, and It Happened Fast!
CMSWire has been covering this discussion extensively ever since ChatGPT emerged in November 2022. Whether generative AI is just the newest tool in your toolbox or here to steal your job has as much to do with your organization’s philosophy and appetite for change as does your personal role, level of experience and ability to ride yet another wave of change. Customer experience and marketing professionals know these changes well.
We are still in the early days, and much is to be decided, but I suggest that the healthiest posture toward the use of AI in the workplace should be one of partnership — a very special, symbiotic relationship. I see our working relationship with AI as analogous to the partnership we see between a human being and a service animal — the intelligent, alert, eager-to-please service dog.
Related Article: ChatGPT Is All the Rage but Don’t Stop Learning Just Yet
A Familiar Model for Collaboration
Like AI, service dogs offer an ever-expanding range of benefits. This includes guide dogs for those with a visual or hearing disability, but the title of service animal also embraces dogs that aid those with mobility issues or those who need to be alerted to the presence of allergens or an oncoming seizure. My point is, we already have experience with collaborative intelligence in a practical way and we can learn lessons from what we already know. How customer experience professionals can collaborate with generative AI is shown in CMSWire’s first in a series of articles exploring AI’s use case for customer experience leaders.
For instance, despite walking ahead of the human, the guide dog doesn’t lead in a general sense, and neither should AI. Canine partners use their heightened capabilities to augment shortcomings in the human partner’s abilities. The dog can see for the blind partner, hear for the deaf partner and avoid obstacles for the immobile, but it is the human partner who makes decisions and chooses the direction. Like AI, the dog’s abilities are often superior — better senses of hearing and smell, superior night vision and general mobility — but the human partner is in charge. You get the idea.
A while back, Harvard Business Review conducted a study of 1,500 companies adopting AI. The article didn’t mention dogs, but it had a lot to say about collaborative intelligence. The study showed that “firms achieve the most significant performance improvements when humans and machines work together.” They also noted, “[T]hose that deploy it mainly to displace employees will see only short-term productivity gains.” The article also mentioned a multitude of industries from healthcare to manufacturing to agriculture that could potentially benefit. It is a ubiquitously applicable concept.
A guide dog can see for a blind human, but dogs have a limited color spectrum. They can’t read traffic lights. The human partner has to follow the traffic light instructions with whatever senses they possess, while the canine partner confirms a clear path. If there is an obstacle or a danger, the dog refuses to continue. This is known as intelligent disobedience. This signals to the human partner, within a split second, the existence of a problem. The human, with some collaboration, takes over.
We should insist on the same authority structure and transfer of control when AI’s heightened senses fail us. Whether it’s a failure of customer service due to a poorly-trained chatbot, or an autonomous vehicle losing its LiDAR system in traffic, there needs to be a human-viewable backup system. Real-time monitoring tools may not be implemented in a rush to automate. We are in a time when some of the lessons learned by the energy and healthcare industries in the last few years could converge to help us create secure backup systems and the ability to effectively report compliance issues.
Leslie Horton is an award-winning professional service dog trainer, ADA coordinator, pet therapy program coordinator, and my friend. When I suggested the idea of this article to her, focusing on the backup concept, she wrote, “In a situation where one of the team members cannot work, the other team member picks up the slack … Pet Partners describes it as a pair of scissors — neither blade works without the other.”
This seems to be the goal we are working toward with our inevitable AI-augmented activities. Let’s work with our new partners to train them well.
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