Why “Augmented Intelligence” is Trending

What is Augmented Intelligence and why has it become a business buzzword?

2018 finds many sectors making a vernacular shift away from Artificial Intelligence (AI), but not merely to allay people’s growing trepidation surrounding the term. Humans remain necessary for AI to be effective. Unsupervised machine learning is still prohibitively complex and expensive, and supervised machine learning can only go so far. AI has other limitations; Natural Language Generation (NLG) technologies are not being employed to write novels or legislation, but rather to summarize complex data sets or churn-out rote descriptions for websites. At present, AI largely revolves around its capacity to assist human intelligence rather than replace it. As such, the spreading prevalence of the term “Augmented Intelligence” makes sense.

Augmented intelligence is a different way to think about artificial intelligence, focusing on AI in the context of how it serves and helps humans, rather than acts as a replacement for them.

Increasingly now, we are seeing human-directed Augmented Intelligence become part of business processes.  At pharmaceutical companies, for example, where the use of AI for drug discovery has garnered the most attention, organizations are utilizing the Augmented Intelligence approach to accrue, consolidate, and communicate relevant competitive intelligence from myriad resources that cannot be sourced through either AI or human efforts in isolation. This approach is as relevant to focusing a company’s business insights as it to a company’s intellectual capital. Just as AI and experts collaborating can hasten progress in pharmaceutical research, it similarly informs companies of regulatory changes or new, potential hazards in pharmacovigilance, while keeping them up to date on the larger business ecosystem in which their company exists.

Information management is seen as a space where machine learning and natural language processing are ascendant, yet human analysts remain invaluable when a business landscape and its competitors need to be evaluated. The evolving value of Augmented Intelligence at discerning companies reflects the dynamic nature of their research. AI hasn’t evolved enough that business intelligence professionals are obsolete. Moreover, there is a real argument to be made that it never will. It can be argued that AI lacks the participatory experience of interacting as a human within the competitive landscape made up of humans and contributing to changes in that landscape, as mentioned in a previous article.

As essential as AI is becoming to any long-term strategy, one might best look askance at articles claiming imminent obsolesce of various professions. Artificial Intelligence may never be able to fully emulate human consciousness due, in part, to the fact of that human consciousness is a dynamic structure built by the accrual of actual experiences in the physical world. In fact, a recent article outlines the theory that human consciousness is an organic phenomenon shaped and inextricably linked to evolutionary biology—that is, it was formed in response to human needs and the drive to survive. Which prompts one to ask, how can billions of years of organic evolutionary processes be replicated in a machine which, by its nature, is inorganic?

No matter how far AI rises, certain humans will still possess experiential subject matter expertise. If conceptualized properly, Augmented Intelligence, not AI, is the way forward for teams in information management, business intelligence and beyond.