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Interview: DataRobot on how AI augments human thinking in business

By Sara Barker
Tue 25 Feb 2020
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The world is still making sense of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning – particularly how they fit in with humankind and working culture. Those that know this relationship best are those that work closely with AI technologies as part of their job.  

DataRobot is one such company born out of the rise of artificial intelligence. The company launched in 2012 and over eight years, it created an enterprise AI platform that enables organisations to understand and leverage AIs for their business needs.

DataRobot works closely with partners including enterprise data platform provider Snowflake to help customers use AI to accelerate their data-to-value times. 

"A hundred years ago, Henry Ford made motor vehicles available to the masses via standardisation and the production line. Now, DataRobot makes AIs available to ordinary businesses via standardisation and an automated production line,” says DataRobot’s VP of AI strategy, Colin Priest.

“We make those AIs trustworthy so that they share your values, are intuitive to understand, and work as planned.”

Priest was recently in Australia as a presenter for the Gartner Data & Analytics Summit in Sydney. He advises organisations on AI strategy, AI governance, AI ethics, and organisational change.

Priest says that much of his work is about how humans and AI can work together, so with that in mind, Techday chatted with him about that very concept.

Let’s start with a basic definition for those who may have seen the buzzwords but may not properly understand what AI is.

“Artificial intelligence is when a computer system learns to make decisions or perform a task, that previously required human intelligence,” says Priest.

Another common belief about AI as a whole is that it is out to replace everybody’s jobs.

“Too much of people’s ideas about AI are based upon science fiction, whether that be utopian and dystopian, but these stories are no more like reality than a superhero movie,” says Priest.
AIs won’t replace humans. They will just free us up to be more human. AIs are computer systems, and as such, they are best at repetitive tasks, mathematics, data manipulation, and parallel processing.”

“Humans are much better than AIs at communication and engagement, context and general knowledge, creativity, empathy, and ethics. Furthermore, these are the tasks that humans love to do. So it makes sense for AIs to automate the inhuman tasks, and humans focus on the human tasks.” 

He adds that decision-making involves a combination of human skills and AI skills. As such, AIs will augment human skills, rather than replace them.

Priest’s Gartner presentation explained some of the roles that humans must play in AI governance, as well as how humans fit into AI’s ultimate success. 

He says there are five steps to successful AI:
1) Automate inhuman tasks
2) Watch out for human and organisational blockers
3) Empower business staff in AI transformation
4) AI Must Be Trustworthy
5) Technology + Empowered People + AI Culture = AI Success

Bearing all of this in mind, we asked if people and businesses are ready for AIs in all of their different forms and applications.

“There is a lot of hype and fear-mongering. It’s no wonder that many people aren’t prepared for the reality of AI. For example, a person attending one of my presentations asked me whether in the future we will have to negotiate with an AI to get it to do its job,” Priest says.

“AIs are just computer systems that exist to be tools of humans – they exist to do what we tell them to do, no different from your phone or your car. In the past two decades, we quickly adapted to the internet and smartphones, and we will do the same with AIs.”

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