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A Leap of Faith: Trusting AI can augment human decision making

by Kriti Sharma , 18.05.2021

Artificial Intelligence makes thousands of small decisions about you every day. It suggests news articles you might like to read. When you’re typing a report, AI autocorrects your spelling mistakes. It transcribes your voice to text. It can now even help with the contextual understanding to interpret the meaning of the news article or suggest a neat turn of phrase that brings your report to life.

Today, we’re also using AI to make big decisions in business. AI is informing businesses of how much stock to order, who the perfect customer for their new product is, what attitudes people have towards certain topics, and what these people might want to do next. This technology is deeply embedded in the business.

Not everyone is comfortable with this — the idea that our behavior is predictable enough to be anticipated, or the fear that we could be ‘replaced by robots’ in our professional lives, is unsettling. But if we allow ourselves to trust it, and if we design this technology in the right way, AI can refine and enhance our decision-making, leading to incredibly powerful and positive outcomes.

AI and humans are better together

We know that human decision-making is flawed in a number of ways. It’s plagued by innate biases, for a start: we make unconscious assumptions about people based on their gender, age, appearance, name and ethnicity. It’s also slow: we absorb as much available data as possible to make informed decisions, but how long does it take to pore through and implement? Digitally-supported marketing allows an initiative to move from an idea or concept to execution in seconds, compared to the months or years suggested in classic marketing.

By negating these issues, AI really improves the quality of our decision-making as humans. Not only does AI have the potential to strip away human assumptions, expectations and prejudices (as long as it isn’t programmed with bias – more on that later), leaving us with insights built on transparency and integrity, but it can sort through all the necessary data in the blink of an eye.

Most people appreciate the potential efficiencies of AI: we know that 94% of business executives believe that adopting AI in business is important to solving strategic challenges — yet only 18% of organizations are true AI pioneers. There is such an opportunity here to help us make those strategic decisions, but we have to trust the data and insights that AI is providing us. Knowing we can trust AI to support our decisions will unlock opportunity and fuel future prosperity.

And there are some hills to climb in terms of building that trust.

Data has replaced instinct in decision making

Decision-making is getting better because we have so much data at our disposal today. Always-on analytics let us take control of our future, using that data to project and predict. But bias can still creep into how that data is interpreted. If the human programming an AI system, or indeed the data being fed in, is innately (and subconsciously) biased, that bias creeps into the AI.

As with all systems, AI is tested rigorously before leaving the lab for potential faults. But this doesn’t include harm it could cause to humans socially, ethically, or emotionally. Once AI leaves the lab, it can keep learning and changing so its potential for bias—and therefore harm— can grow.

So this incredible technology, one that should augment and improve the way we make decisions, is sometimes amplifying our mistakes, unchecked. Most of the people creating AI don’t try to reflect the incredible variety of human types in their algorithms. But they should.

Because if it is inclusive in its data and embraces diversity in its decisions, AI has the power to help humans make better decisions.

gfknewron AI empowers human decision making

That word — ‘help’ — is key. AI should empower humans, not replace them. The AI in GfK’s gfknewron tool does just that. As a predictive insights and analytics tool for businesses, gfknewron harnesses the data available, including your own customer and market data, and uses it to project and predict future scenarios. It explains the evidence behind the recommendations and is transparent about how it works, so you can trust the insights generated. It’s built to be a companion to humans in their decision-making process.

For AI to transform the world, it needs to be trusted, so this transparency is a big step forward.

How AI and humans can best work together

We must let AI do what it’s good at: the heavy lifting of data, analysis, continual learning, knowledge at speed, spotting patterns in the market, scoping strategies, forecasting and projecting risks. This leaves humans free to make the best possible decisions — free from bias — using contextual understanding of the whole situation. This is how we unlock the value of humans and AI working together.

AI can become an indispensable component of our business; a player in the team that sees what humans cannot. All it needs is the human touch to convert that insights into decisions.

And if you missed my presentation about gfknewron at “Knowledge At Speed” event, you can get the recording here.

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