Why AI needs human intervention

Doug serves as the CIO and Chief Digital Officer of Sutherland Global Services and started at the company in 2018.

In today’s tight labour market and hybrid work environment, organizations are increasingly turning to AI to support various functions within their business, from delivering more personalized experiences to improving operations and productivity to helping organizations make better and faster decisions. That is why the worldwide market for AI software, hardware, and services is expected to surpass $500 billion by 2024, according to IDC.

Yet, many enterprises aren’t ready to have their AI systems run independently and entirely without human intervention – nor should they do so. 

In many instances, enterprises simply don’t have sufficient expertise in the systems they use as AI technologies are extraordinarily complex. In other instances, rudimentary AI is built into enterprise software. These can be fairly static and remove control over the parameters of the data most organizations need. But even the most AI savvy organizations keep humans in the equation to avoid risks and reap the maximum benefits of AI. 

AI Checks and Balances

There are clear ethical, regulatory, and reputational reasons to keep humans in the loop. Inaccurate data can be introduced over time leading to poor decisions or even dire circumstances in some cases. Biases can also creep into the system whether it is introduced while training the AI model, as a result of changes in the training environment, or due to trending bias where the AI system reacts to recent activities more than previous ones. Moreover, AI is often incapable of understanding the subtleties of a moral decision. 

Take healthcare for instance. The industry perfectly illustrates how AI and humans can work together to improve outcomes or cause great harm if humans are not fully engaged in the decision-making process. For example, in diagnosing or recommending a care plan for a patient, AI is ideal for making the recommendation to the doctor, who then evaluates if that recommendation is sound and then gives the counsel to the patient.

Having a way for people to continually monitor AI responses and accuracy will avoid flaws that could lead to harm or catastrophe while providing a means for continuous training of the models so they get continuously better and better. That’s why IDC expects more than 70% of G2000 companies will have formal programs to monitor their digital trustworthiness by 2022.

Models for Human-AI Collaboration

Human-in-the-Loop (HitL) Reinforcement Learning and Conversational AI are two examples of how human intervention supports AI systems in making better decisions.

HitL allows AI systems to leverage machine learning to learn by observing humans dealing with real-life work and use cases. HitL models are like traditional AI models except they are continuously self-developing and improving based on human feedback while, in some cases, augmenting human interactions. It provides a controlled environment that limits the inherent risk of biases—such as the bandwagon effect—that can have devastating consequences, especially in crucial decision-making processes.

We can see the value of the HitL model in industries that manufacture critical parts for vehicles or aircraft requiring equipment that is up to standard. In situations like this, machine learning increases the speed and accuracy of inspections, while human oversight provides added assurances that parts are safe and secure for passengers.

Conversational AI, on the other hand, provides near-human-like communication. It can offload work from employees in handling simpler problems while knowing when to escalate an issue to humans for solving more complex issues. Contact centres provide a primary example.

When a customer reaches out to a contact centre, they have the option to call, text, or chat virtually with a representative. The virtual agent listens and understands the needs of the customer and engages back and forth in a conversation. It uses machine learning and AI to decide what needs to be done based on what it has learned from prior experience. Most AI systems within contact centres generate speech to help communicate with the customer and mimic the feeling of a human doing the typing or talking.

For most situations, a virtual agent is enough to help service customers and resolve their problems. However, there are cases where AI can stop typing or talking and then make a seamless transfer to a live representative to take over the call or chat.  Even in these examples, the AI system can shift from automation to augmentation, by still listening to the conversation and providing recommendations to the live representative to aid them in their decisions

Going beyond conversational AI with cognitive AI, these systems can learn to understand the emotional state of the other party, handle complex dialogue, provide real-time translation and even adjust based on the behaviour of the other person, taking human assistance to the next level of sophistication.

Blending Automation and Human Interaction Leads to Augmented Intelligence

AI is best applied when it is both monitored by and augments people. When that happens, people move up the skills continuum, taking on more complex challenges, while the AI continually learns, improves, and is kept in check, avoiding potentially harmful effects. Using models like HitL, conversational AI, and cognitive AI in collaboration with real people who possess expertise, ingenuity, empathy and moral judgment ultimately leads to augmented intelligence and more positive outcomes.

(Photo by Arteum.ro on Unsplash)

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