By Matthew Kibby, Vice-President, Enterprise, Africa & Middle East at Sage

If we were to strip away artificial intelligence (AI) as we know it today, I’m not convinced humans would know how to cope with life.

Without AI, there’d be no Waze or Google Maps to show us where to go. There would be no Siri or Alexa to handle our Google searches or schedule a meeting with the CIO. Boeing 777 pilots only actually fly the plane for seven minutes, with much of the rest being done by AI technology. 

There’d be no marketing automation.

No clever sales tools pulling customers in.

No process automation or business insights.

No chatbots answering simple – and frequent – customer queries.

AI already does a lot of the “thinking” for us. It’s been telling us what to do for years and we listen to it because we know it’s right. We could argue that this makes us lazy, but it has also liberated us from life’s mundane tasks, giving us more time to create, to think deeply about business and societal problems, and to solve them in new and exciting ways – or prevent them entirely.

It’s only the beginning

The AI market is growing at an astounding rate. IDC predicts that it will exceed $79 billion by 2022 and Gartner has said that, by 2020, AI will be a top five investment priority for more than 30% of CIOs.

And we’re only at the narrow intelligence stage. What happens when we start nearing general intelligence? Or super intelligence?

For now, we’re still smarter than the machines. They give us data and we decide what to do with it. We tell them what to look for, what to stop looking for, and how to tell the difference in future. But the goal with general AI is to successfully mimic the human brain so that machines don’t need us to tell them what to do. What happens when that happens?

Not so easy

Before we answer that, think about the human brain for a moment. It processes data rapidly but also applies intuition, creativity, and empathy when making decisions. Machines can’t – and may never – emulate human emotion, which is why AI will always need human intelligence to support it. We created it, after all.

There’s no doubt that smart people will also create Artificial Neural Networks that will think and act like humans. Machines will analyse complex, real-time data and decide what to do for themselves. We may have no choice but to accept their decisions, unless we want to spend decades analysing data that AI already processed – in seconds.

In the amount of time it takes Waze to calculate a route, AI algorithms will predict natural disasters, so response teams can act faster and more effectively. It will analyse your family’s medical history to create a personalised treatment plan and improve your chances of recovery. This after your smartwatch told you to see your doctor immediately because you were at risk of a heart attack.

No AI without humans 

The point is, there’s not much point to AI if there aren’t humans on the ground making things happen: emergency teams saving lives, doctors monitoring patients’ vitals and treatment response, visionary business leaders using AI to transform industries. 

AI has given human intelligence room to breathe and expand. In business, cloud computing, Software-as-a-Service, and process automation reduce the burden of admin and provide the insights and visibility that businesses need to cut through the complexity and stay competitive. AI transforms how enterprises manage their people, processes, and operations, to offer better customer service, boost productivity, and help drive their businesses forward through innovative technology.

Human intelligence and artificial intelligence are complementary, symbiotic, inseparable. There is no one without the other. Yes, machines may become smarter than us, but isn’t that a good thing? When we know exactly what to do, we move faster and get better results. And that’s what we’ve been trying to achieve for decades.

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