Disruption creates the need for augmented intelligence
Forget change – the new constant is disruption
It’s nothing new to observe that the world around us is constantly changing – that’s been a fact since the dawn of time.
What has changed is the level of change. Political, social, technological, and economic disruptors are everywhere. Indeed, in recent times that constant change has moved up a gear and become constant disruption. And we feel the pace of constant disruption particularly acutely in technology, especially when it comes to data and information.
We live in a world where humans have never before had so much information at our disposal, and, whilst on one hand this can be seen as a great enabler, on the other we struggle now more than ever to focus on key pieces of information and properly make sense of all the data relentlessly bombarding us.
The continual convergence of the physical and digital worlds around us is transforming the way we work, live, and communicate. Equally, the distractions of the digitally-connected world we live in make it harder to maintain consistent levels of high performance at work and at home.
So it should come as no surprise that the jobs we work in are being impacted by this digital disruption. McKinsey claims that “about 60% of occupations have at least 30% of their activities that are automatable.”
Just as in previous periods of innovation-led disruption (the Industrial Revolution for instance), the way we work and live is being irreversibly transformed by advances in technology. If ever there were a need to amplify human intelligence, it is now.
Artificial intelligence – friend or foe?
At Leidos, we see a world where AI holds the key to unlocking new ways for us to upgrade and amplify our human potential and capabilities by harnessing innately human qualities and using AI to boost them. This hybrid technology is referred to as augmented intelligence, and it plays to the strengths of both machine and human, improving both and thereby increasing the value of both.
Augmented intelligence is human and machine rather than machine replacing human.
This concept isn’t new however. Back in 1962, Doug Engelbart offered the following prediction on the augmentation of human intellect:
"By 'augmenting human intellect' we mean increasing the capability of a man to approach a complex problem situation, to gain comprehension to suit his particular needs, and to derive solutions to problems. Increased capability in this respect is taken to mean a mixture of the following: more-rapid comprehension, better comprehension, the possibility of gaining a useful degree of comprehension in a situation that previously was too complex, speedier solutions, better solutions, and the possibility of finding solutions to problems that before seemed insoluble."
Whilst repetitive, routine and simple tasks are ideal candidates for automation via AI. The need for a "human in the loop" will arguably always be there in situations where creativity, judgement, intuition, expertise, emotion, common sense, or empathy are required.
To use an example from the world of chess, the long-time weather bell and proving ground for maturing AI capability, this hybrid model of human and machine working in concert has become known as centaur or freestyle chess. Garry Kasparov, former chess grandmaster and one of the pioneers of centaur chess, says that the combination of “weak human + machine + better process was superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkably, superior to a strong human + machine + inferior process.”
The "centaur" model has profound implications for the way humans and machines co-exist in the workplace. What is clear is that our ability to build successful augmented intelligence partnerships that use AI and smart systems as cognitive support for decision making, will define the level to which we can become more productive and work smarter.
In business, the future for this human and machine partnership certainly looks bright, with AI augmentation forecasted to generate $2.9 trillion of business value by 2021.
The basic ingredients of augmented intelligence
To function to its potential, augmented intelligence relies on the existence of a set of tightly integrated building blocks, as shown in the figure below. Together, these capabilities facilitate autonomous or semi-autonomous responses to the operational environment and provide human analysts/operatives with greater real-time insight than ever before.
Technology powered by AI enables devices and vehicles (e.g. autonomous cars or autonomous vessels) to perform behaviours without the need for continuous manual control or intervention. Requirements of autonomy include the ability to self-maintain, the ability to sense, interpret and react to operational environments, the ability to navigate, and the ability to perform tasks. Autonomy in the augmented intelligence context requires sophisticated human-machine interfaces and relies on the Internet of Things (IoT) to provide sensor data that enhances situational awareness.
- Advanced analytics
Advanced analytical capabilities enable associative recall, in which neural networks interpret, learn and remember relationships between unrelated items, enabling them to be processed in near or real time. These analytical approaches, when combined with analyst intuition and human expertise enable powerful predictive and prescriptive decision making as well as providing the basis for autonomous and semi-autonomous responses.
Greater connectedness is enabled through developments in deep learning, edge processing and enhanced wireless networking and communication technologies. These enablers provide accessibility to near and real-time information as well as create cognitive capabilities for networks and machines to self-diagnose and self-heal.
Using augmented intelligence to amplify human intelligence in oil & gas
Leidos partners with customers across the globe and in many sectors to apply augmented intelligence, including in the optimisation of transport and logistics networks, the automation of ocean-going vessels, the treatment and management of diseases, and to counter diverse and growing levels of threats to infrastructure at the national security level.
Often viewed by peers as something of a laggard in the adoption of digitalisation, companies in the oil and gas industry are working quickly to harness the power of AI, automation and digital innovation to offset the vagaries of oil price turbulence and sustain the cost-cutting measures introduced in the oil price crunch of 2015-17.
Today’s oil and gas companies are generating unprecedented quantities of new data, with some estimated to be producing upwards of six billion data points per day.
And there’s a big prize at stake, with MarketsandMarkets estimating the global value of artificial intelligence in the oil and gas sector to rise to $2.85 billion (USD) by 2022.
In the oil and gas sector, Leidos is working in collaboration with subsea life of field service provider i-Tech 7 (part of Subsea7), where machine learning and artificial intelligence are being applied to traditionally manual processes of inspecting subsea oil and gas infrastructure.
Hugh Ferguson, i-Tech 7’s Strategy and Technology Director, explains, “We have a vast amount of specialist knowledge running subsea inspection, repair and maintenance campaigns over the last few decades. Data, now more than ever, forms a critical role in helping us to run our business safely, efficiently and quickly.”
The alliance of human intuition, creativity and judgement with the speed, accuracy and processing power of AI is bringing with it the potential for alternative business models and is allowing i-Tech 7 to fully leverage its data.
“Combining data from multiple sources, and using data from both the past and present, allied with the expertise of our human operatives represents a step-change in the quality of service clients can expect," says Ferguson. "This is not only in the pace of turnaround but also in the new insights we’re providing, and in the fidelity of the analysis we can undertake."
“i-Tech 7’s clients are able to interact with their data much more rapidly, and in new ways. This helps improve decisions, makes our campaigns safer and helps our staff focus on delivering great results and building lasting client relationships. It’s likely that we’ll always need a ‘human in the loop’ due to the complexity and safety critical nature of the work we do. But augmented intelligence is improving our ability to deliver the results our clients need.”
Augmented intelligence is a key element of the digital transformation underway at i-Tech 7. It is driving the need for skilled workers to acquire new skills and augment their subject matter expertise with digital knowledge. It is also driving a new recognition of the value of data and enhanced business processes centred on evolving customer needs.
From disruption to opportunity
Humans are starting to tap into the potential of augmented intelligence, turning technology to our advantage, allowing us to play to our human strengths and encouraging partnerships with machines where they’re strong.
Augmented intelligence is just one aspect of a digital transformation wave that is driving significant change in the workplace. As a result, Leidos customers such as i-Tech 7 are evolving existing business models, creating a mix of new job functions and spawning the potential for the birth of new industries.
As our understanding of augmented intelligence grows, so too will our trust in its capability. And as we learn to work optimally with machines, out of the disruption comes an exciting symbiotic opportunity.
In the words of Kasparov, “AI will help us to release human creativity. Humans won’t be redundant or replaced, they’ll be promoted.”