Daily Archives: June 19, 2019

AI: Applied Indirection Part II

In yesterday’s post we told you that many companies that were touting AI were not actually selling Artificial Intelligence or even anything remotely similar (including, but not limited to, Autonomous Intelligence, Augmented Intelligence, Assisted Intelligence, and/or Amplified Intuition) and were, in fact, using the buzz-acronym to accomplish applied indirection and sell you 90s tech in a shiny new wrapper, proffering yesterday’s miracle cure for all of your current woes.

The only difference between the 90s solutions and todays is that today’s look nicer, run faster (but that’s mainly due to the exponential increase in computing power), and have more automation built in. But RPA — Robotic Process Automation — is NOT AI. It’s just using a rules engine and workflow to automate common tasks under typical conditions.

So how do you tell the difference between Applied Indirection and real (WEAK) AI? Well, first you think about what AI means, apply a little common sense, and ask some good questions.

Let’s start with thinking about what AI really means. AI typically stands for Artificial Intelligence, and the definition of AI in its strongest form is machine intelligence, where the machine can acquire knowledge, learn, apply it, and adapt to new, previously un-encountered real world situations in a general manner just as a human would do. If you think about it, no machine can do that, and no machine is even close. So there’s really no such thing as AI (and won’t be for decades).

At the same level of complexity is Autonomous Intelligence, which is Artificial Intelligence that is capable of acting on its own without any human interaction. Since true Artificial Intelligence doesn’t exist, it should be obvious that Autonomous Intelligence (outside of living beings on our planet), which is an AI agent that can work in complete isolation from human interaction, doesn’t exist either.

At the next level down we have Augmented Intelligence, where we don’t define a platform as being intelligent but as capable of providing knowledge and insight that we can use to complement and enhance our intelligence and make as faster and better at the tasks we are performing. At this level, there are tools that exist for well defined tasks, but they are few and far between. While there are a lot of systems that can allow us to do our jobs faster and better, they don’t augment our intelligence. For a system to truly be an augmented intelligence system, it must augment our intelligence, propose actions that we were not aware of (and would not think of in a little bit of time), and make us smarter over time. Very few systems do that, even when limited to very specific tasks.

Going down a level, we have Assisted Intelligence, where we don’t define a platform as intelligent, but capable of using knowledge and insight that it has to complement and enhance our daily performance of tasks by helping us to do them faster, better, or both. Like augmented intelligence platforms, they should be able to prescriptively suggest actions or workflows, but we don’t require that they be capable of identifying anything we wouldn’t in our jobs.

The big difference between augmented and assisted is that a platform that analyzes market data and dynamics and comes up with one of a pre-set of sourcing strategies as a recommendation is generally just assisted intelligence. In comparison, a platform that not only pulls in market feeds but scours the web for public pricing, articles on supply / demand (im)balance, third party audits, and reports on recent events and other data not pushed through integrated feeds; creates multiple pricing and availability projections; runs those projections through multiple models; and then recommends you extend the current agreement and buffer stock three months of supply (because an earthquake in China just closed down the mines that supply a significant amount of the rare earth metals used in your product and supply is likely to become scarce and pricing rise in six weeks) would be considered to be an augmented intelligence platform because even though you could do web searches to find updated public pricing, supply projections, third party audits, and natural disaster reports, there’s no guarantee you’re going to find the report on the local Chinese news feed (that won’t get picked up by an English news feed for two weeks because China downplayed the effect of the earthquake) when you only read English.

In other words, there are some assisted intelligent tools out there (that help you do your job better and faster, but aren’t going to do anything you can’t or come up with anything you wouldn’t if you just spent five minutes thinking about it), a few augmented intelligence platforms for specific tasks, but no autonomously intelligent, artificially intelligent, and definitely no cognitive platforms on the market — and if someone is trying to sell you that, they are using the marketing technique of applied indirection to sell you modern silicon snake oil.

You have been warned!