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How AI can Diversify Human Thinking Rather Than Replace It Nine in 10 business leaders across the world believe cognitive diversity is important for management and artificial intelligence will enhance decision making

By Pooja Singh

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There is no shortage of debate when it comes to the use of artificial intelligence in the workplace. Some believe the technology will cost them their jobs, while others worry about security. A growing body of research, however, points to the narrative that intelligence will only diversify human thinking, not replace it.

A recent study by Tata Communications, which was based on the inputs of 120 business leaders from across the world, says nine in 10 respondents agree that cognitive diversity is important for management and 93% believe AI will enhance decision making.

Automation is Key

What's more, three in four business leaders expect AI to produce new positions for their workers. This is in sync with a December report by Gartner that said by 2020, AI will create more jobs than it eliminates.

"Using AI to auto-generate a weekly status report or pick the top five emails in your inbox doesn't have the same wow factor as, say, curing a disease would, which is why these near-term, practical uses go unnoticed," Craig Roth, research vice president at Gartner, had said in the report. "Companies are just beginning to seize the opportunity to improve non-routine work through AI by applying it to general-purpose tools. Once knowledge workers incorporate AI into their work processes as a virtual secretary or intern, robo-employees will become a competitive necessity."

The Word is Out

The Tata study, which included interviews with entrepreneurs, executives and thought-leaders, concludes that AI can boost cognitive diversity within groups, with 93% of the respondents saying that the technology, which essentially encompasses a broad set of algorithms and mimics human cognition or perception, can "assess each employee's skills and innovation priorities, and suggest activities to spark creative thinking throughout the organizational hierarchy." This can democratize the creative process and increase engagement of all workers, says the study.

AI has the potential to free employees from tedious repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on communication and innovation, explains the study, titled "New research debunks myths about artificial intelligence in the workplace". "Work will move from being task-based to strategic, enabling workers to enhance their curiosity and creative thinking," it points out.

"Multiplicity' is the Game

UC Berkeley professor Ken Goldberg, who co-authored the report, says, "The prevalent narrative around AI has focussed on a "Singularity'—a hypothetical time when artificial intelligence will surpass humans. But there is a growing interest in "Multiplicity', where AI helps groups of machines and humans collaborate to innovate and solve problems. This survey of leading executives reveals that Multiplicity, the positive and inclusive vision of AI, is gaining traction."

The study's other author Vinod Kumar, the chief executive officer and managing director at Tata Communications, says AI is being viewed as a new category of intelligence that can complement existing categories of emotional, social, spatial, and creative intelligence. "What is transformational about Multiplicity is that it can enhance cognitive diversity, combining categories of intelligence in new ways to benefit all workers and businesses," he says.

Innovation is Here

Tony Blair, executive chair of the Institute of Global Change and former UK Prime Minister, who was one of the 120 leaders, predicts that "AI will allow us to do what it is that we are uniquely meant to do: focus on high-level thinking, strategy, and paving the way for innovation."

The interest in AI has been growing steadily over the past few years. A survey conducted earlier this year by US-based Narrative Science and the National Business Research Institute found that 61 per cent of businesses implemented AI in 2017, up from 38 per cent in the previous year. Here's the break-up, according to the survey, of where AI is being used in the enterprise: Predictive analytics (25%), machine learning (22%), natural language processing or generation (14%), voice recognition and response (14%), virtual personal assistants/chatbots (11%), and diagnosis/recommendation engines (11%).

In a recent forecast, McKinsey said AI will generate $13 trillion in economic activity across the world by 2030.

"Leading countries could capture an additional 20 to 25 percent in net economic benefits compared with today, while developing countries may capture only about 5 to 15 percent," McKinsey notes in the September report, "Notes From the Frontier: Modeling the Impact of AI on the World Economy".


Pooja Singh

Former Features Editor, Entrepreneur Asia Pacific


A stickler for details, Pooja Singh likes telling people stories. She has previously worked with Mint-Hindustan Times, Down To Earth and Asian News International-Reuters. 


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