Editor’s Note: AI has been the buzz term for the past few years in all conversations related to technology and the future, not just in MR, and rightfully so. The advances in the combination of computing power, systems design, data analytics and various aspects of machine automation are truly staggering. However, as we contemplate a future where machines perform many of the tasks that humans currently do more and more we have recognized that perhaps the future isn’t so much about robots as it is cyborgs: humans leveraging the best of machines in order to deliver more value and impact faster and cheaper.
There are many names for this vision depending on whether we are talking about biological or systems integrations, but for our industry the relevant term is IA: Intelligence Augmentation. IA is about how advances in AI, automation, robotics, etc.. can help enhance what we as humans can do by giving us access to information in ways that previously were unavailable.
Stephen Phillips of ZappiStore is one of the pioneers and leaders in applying AI and automation to the insights space and in this important post he discusses the evolving vision for how those technologies are being reexamined through the lens of IA and what that means for the future of our industry.
So are you worried about a dystopian vision of the world where the robots have taken over our jobs and mankind is relegated to idle away time strapped into VR headsets? This is one common view of our future and as automation takes on more and more market research tasks, the AI bots seem to be the natural next step. But there is a battle going on in Silicon Valley about the shape of our future – is it AI or IA? I am now convinced that the future of the research industry is IA, or intelligence augmentation.
If AI makes machines autonomous and detached from humans, then IA puts humans in control and leverages computing power to amplify our capabilities. The case for the dominance of IA in the research world, as with other professions, is particularly strong. There are lots of things within insight that computers find very difficult to do, for instance:
1) Intuitively understanding people and what will appeal to them
2) Create or innovate in new directions, not just extensions of old ones
3) Persuade people by appealing to their human nature
4) Inspiring people to act
These skills are the ones that define great researchers but too much of their time is taken up by the routine; by project management, data analysis, basic reporting. If these researchers could have an HCI (Human Computer Interface) that empowers them, like a research cyborg, to go beyond the routine and instead focus on delivering the exceptional, then our industry will be transformed.
Imagine a world where relevant insight is always at your fingertips, questions arise in meetings and answers are delivered in real time. Projects are run by computers, machines do the data mining, but humans take the patterns found and apply them to the real world, to the humans that buy products and services and the humans who run companies.
The case for AI on the other hand is weak. No AI bot will move an audience to tears about a new creative campaign, or make someone so excited they jump up and down in a meeting and start scribbling on white boards! AI’s will exist, but only for specific sub tasks such as text analytics.
IBM has decided to focus on augmented intelligence rather than artificial intelligence, and rumors are that Microsoft is following suit. At Zappi we have been focused on automating the basics of the research function, but are now moving to build special purpose learning technologies on top of our automation platform. We believe in empowering, not replacing researchers. No more looking at tables, no more data mining, but unleashing the creativity and passion of great researchers.
We are betting that this will be the key trend over the next 3-5 years, with researchers starting to adopt a significantly improved research HCI. The system will manage routine and complex tasks, search for patterns, do analyses and act as the repository for past insights and springboard for future ones. Meanwhile the researcher can quickly take these findings, add intuition and emotional intelligence, interpret these against a client and market background, use the HCI to disseminate these insights and then help to inspire action within the company. We see these empowered researchers as the future and that the role technology companies have is to to help create these genuine, augmented research heroes!