AI=IA, Intelligence Augmentation as an opportunity rather than a threat

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Post originally appeared on our Managing Partner Medium page

Much has been said about the disruptive potential held within artificial intelligence (and this is not a new debate). I’d love to focus less on the terminator-style disruption that some say will come with sentient machines and more on the presumably much closer at hand disruption from the rapidly broadening array of automated tasks. Rather than envisioning catastrophe scenarios, what opportunities are present in this new capability set?

Where datasets are so immense and so complex as to exceed human computing capabilities, it seems safe to assume that there’s a chance for Intelligence Augmentation. 

Here are some examples present and/or emerging:

Technology suites in airplane cockpits and long-haul truck cabs are now sucking up tons of diverse data, both from inside and outside the vehicle. From pilot/driver vitals to traffic and weather conditions, now the data available to the onboard computer (doing much of the flying, in truth, and soon enough the driving too), the fleet manager / air traffic control, and the pilot/driver herself, becomes a boost to the abilities of these actors in the ecosystem — all yielding results of increased safety as well as efficiency. And while this might appear to be an obvious threat to the physical “hands on the wheel” so to speak, it also seems logical that it will create new roles and systems that will require pilot/driver insight to be well designed, implemented and maintained, in addition to fundamentally reengineering the supply chain(s) which should create whole new categories of jobs.

Like these safety technologies that can keep truck drivers and airline pilots at optimal attentive states (or intervene if they dip below optimal), such IA technology can provide decision-support to such solvers of complex problems as radiologists. Sure, this might be a threat to the bottom 5–10% of performers but both practices and individuals should see a lift in their value as they become more efficient and proficient, and it’s hard to argue that this won’t also have pass through benefits to patients who get more accurate diagnoses.

Mixed reality will likewise pull multiple massive and super-complex data sets together to augment decision-making in every day consumers. Whether it’s navigating the streets and stores of Manhattan or translating subway signage in Tokyo, the opportunities to turn us into smarter, savvier consumer/decision-makers is immense. Certainly investment tallies are validating this, and I’d expect to see most early investment skew toward B2C focal areas before biting off more complex B2B ones.

More on the emergent side, I’m confident that like radiologists, other high-skill (i.e. requiring lengthy, specialized training) professionals such as lawyers will find more opportunities here than threats. Senior attorneys will be freed up to spend more time on high value tasks (billing at a higher rate) and further will be more often positioned as strategic advisors, even consultants, being asked to design smart legal systems and platforms — whether it’s building and maintaining a network of smart contracts (which would be both too numerous and too dynamic to track without some IA) or navigating data privacy regulation and rolling out a global approach for handling (which is an incredibly complex data set and would yield an atmospheric invoice). Again, benefits here go to both the provider and the user of the service.

Where else do you see potential for the dual-benefit of Intelligence Augmentation?