Machine intelligence still requires gray matter

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I remember the first time one of my international media clients used machine translation to convert advertising copy from American-English to French for publication. Considering the French people’s passion about their language, the horrified response from our French office was classic.

Given the many “Google Translate Fails” websites, these mishaps have turned into a collector’s item. But today, machine intelligence-driven translation touches millions every day on social media.

I frequently get Facebook feeds from Russian colleagues in Cyrillic and use the translate function to get the gist of their posts. But “the gist” is all I can get. I wouldn’t want to make a financial decision based on the translation.

Which makes me think that even the most intelligent of machines still require gray matter. In the spirit of fairness, I haven’t seen any machine intelligence, artificial intelligence (AI) or cognitive computing vendors state that humans will be completely disintermediated as a result of their products. But there are certainly some pundits who have predicted a precipitous decline in jobs needed as a result of AI.

One notable and highly opinionated MD claimed specifically that a full 80% of physicians would be eliminated by these technologies. Need I say what variety of “storm” that comment created in the medical community?

Many people predict that machine intelligence could quite possibly increase the number of some “gray matter jobs,” as human insight is needed to understand the data and then take action on the findings. The current thinking is that, as a result of deeper insights from artificial and machine intelligence, organizations will have more actionable outcomes requiring more human workers to complete them.

Think for example how AI might dramatically increase the design and engineering efficiencies of infrastructure projects. Instead of having to wait a year for the design and approval phase, multiple projects could be expedited, resulting in thousands of workers (re)entering the economy when they would normally be waiting for jobs.

Add to this the fact that AI and machine learning need human intelligence in order to be “artificially” intelligent. The more these cognitive computing platforms expand, the greater the need to feed the beasts becomes.

Some have discussed how the role of digital linguists will be more and more in demand as these platforms require more nuance in language and taxonomies to make sense of the content being digested. Another gray matter career in the making.

Despite the achievements in AI, humans still hold an edge in some tasks requiring creative thought.

Last year, the global advertising firm McCann introduced its new “AI Creative Director” in Japan to great fanfare. The public was asked to vote between the AI-created campaign and one involving human input. The humans won 54%-46%.

I guess one could infer that 46% of the creative directors in Japan should be worried about their long-term career prospects. But for the rest of us, I’d say that’s a sign gray matter still matters.

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Comments

  1. Tony Puerto says:

    I recently had an oblation of the heart. I was very impressed by the advanced technology used to go into my heart and to perform a very delicate procedure with flexible tubes (catheters) inserted through a small incision into a vein in my groin and threaded to my heart to deliver energy to modify the tissues causing AFB. As a technologist, I was excited about the technology; but was far more excited about my cardiologist performing the procedure, who, no doubt. was very well qualified and could recognize anomalies and take unanticipated actions. It will be in another life when I allow an AI machine no matter how experienced to do that. Yes, you are right, gray matter, matters.

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