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PwC Report: AI Boosts Value of Thinking, Creativity and Problem-Solving

By Tom Vander Ark — July 12, 2017 5 min read
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The industrial age democratized access to power. The computer age democratized access to information. The coming revolution will democratize access to machine intelligence.

Each new age results in a shift in value creation. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI)--code that can learn and act based on observed patterns in data sets--is driving a new shift in value “with a focus on sentiments more intrinsic to the human experience: thinking, creativity, and problem-solving.” That’s the conclusion of a new PwC report.

In February 2017, PwC conducted an expert salon in New York City to capture ideas from thought leaders in AI and emerging technologies across media, entertainment, communications and consulting. They augmented the expert panel with a survey of 2,500 U.S. consumers (with familiarity with AI) and business decision makers about implications on society.

The report summarizes the three ways AI works:

  • Assisted intelligence: Widely available today, this improves what people and organizations are already doing. A simple example: the GPS navigation program in cars that offers directions to drivers and adjusts to road conditions.
  • Augmented intelligence: Emerging today, this enables people and organizations to do things they couldn’t otherwise do. For example, the combination of programs that organize cars in ride-sharing services enables businesses that could not otherwise exist.
  • Autonomous intelligence: Being developed for the future, this establishes machines that act on their own. An example of this will be self-driving vehicles when they come into widespread use.

Most consumers see how it could benefit their lives. More than half agree AI will help solve complex problems that plague modern societies (63%) and help people live more fulfilling lives (59%).

The report, Bot.Me: A revolutionary partnership; How AI is pushing man and machine closer together shows that with more than $5 billion in 605 deals of VC investment over last 2 years, AI is poised to have a transformative effect on consumer, enterprise and government markets around the world.

A summary of the report shares perceptions about job clusters likely to be disrupted in the next five years.

What Grads Should Know and Be Able to Do

The report concludes that “An open mind will be the biggest asset in the near future, as the technology advances and we continue to experiment with how to use AI to solve problems—in our personal lives, professional lives, and society at large.” PwC makes four recommendations for how to prepare for an AI future and capitalize on its potential:

  1. Coach and collaborate. In this evolving world, everyone needs to think like a teacher, director or mentor. Humans will determine where and how machines will learn, identifying the appropriate data, guiding the training process and refining the outputs. We’ll also need to champion a new kind of teamwork, which sets goals for man-machine teams, delegates tasks for productivity and applies the insights to new areas. Above all, we must never lose sight of the human experience, even as we embrace automation and new ways of working.
  2. Embrace learning and perspectives. While AI may take on menial work and thinking, the skills that business and society need are shifting. We must cultivate creativity, adaptability and a mindset of continuous learning. In particular, we must seek out diverse perspectives—within our businesses and communities—as we develop the next-generation of AI-powered tools and processes. Collectively, this diversity enables us to take better advantage of AI’s potential.
  3. Harness data. As with most technologies, data is what fuels AI. Individuals and businesses must understand the data they have; what additional data they might need to answer questions, improve processes or surface opportunities; and how to integrate and safeguard all of it. This requires having people in all areas of the business and government that understand data, from data scientists and analysts to data savvy marketers, business leaders, and finance specialists.
  4. Look for opportunity. Business and civic leaders should begin thinking about how and where AI can make a difference. Start with human workflow and consider how machines become a more seamless part of that flow. Ask whether you want to enhance existing processes to reduce costs and improve productivity, or aspire to something new—responsive and self-driven products, services, and experiences that incorporate AI.

What is needed is a new definition of being smart, one that promotes higher levels of human thinking and emotional engagement. The new smart will be determined not by what or how you know but by the quality of your thinking, listening, relating, collaborating, and learning. Quantity is replaced by quality. And that shift will enable us to focus on the hard work of taking our cognitive and emotional skills to a much higher level.

We will spend more time training to be open-minded and learning to update our beliefs in response to new data. We will practice adjusting after our mistakes, and we will invest more in the skills traditionally associated with emotional intelligence. The new smart will be about trying to overcome the two big inhibitors of critical thinking and team collaboration: our ego and our fears. Doing so will make it easier to perceive reality as it is, rather than as we wish it to be. In short, we will embrace humility. That is how we humans will add value in a world of smart technology. ~ Darden Professor Ed Hess is co-author of Humility Is the New Smart

The report concludes that “AI has the potential to make the world better: to improve health, to further education, to increase wealth and to create new, long-term opportunities. But it notes that “this change is only possible if individuals and businesses embrace it with a goal of creating man-machine hybrids that are better together, dedicated to improving lives, products and experiences for everyone.”

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The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.