What came first Artificial Intelligence or Human Intelligence?

Monday 6th June 2016 was No Email Day, when we swapped internal emails for Slack. It’s not the first time emails have been unavailable as a form of communication – we’ve all experienced server outages which relieve us of all connectivity to the network.

Without emails, files, or desktop Internet access, my routine is greatly interrupted. I find myself looking at ways to carry out tasks which don’t require my computer and inbox. As little as an hour without this tech gets you thinking - how much do we rely on technology and traditional IT infrastructure, and perhaps more importantly, to what extent does it dictate how we carry out our work? The potential of technology is immeasurable, and the conversations around AI and the rise of robots are chilling, but the more we understand the possibilities, the more our confidence grows with its proliferation.

In the digital age, technology is our tool not our master

Technology is not restricted to the major corporations to develop and sell. With tools like Raspberry Pi,  an affordable computer developed to help kids learn how to code, or Open Source software which enables anyone to share, collaborate and build without license restrictions, we can learn the basics of computer science and be more comfortable in our choices.

The democratisation of technology means the growing diversity of applications and software empower us to move beyond the default option. We can negate emails and use collaborative messaging tools which allow us to perform the same tasks, in a more holistic way, as well as using mobile devices like laptops and smartphones which enable us to be in the office anywhere in the world. The stories of tech pioneers such as Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg and Larry Page have shown us that we can embark on ideas that reinvent social and technological norms.

As a population that still remembers the world before the Internet, the unnerving feeling of how much we rely on digital technology continues to exist and expand. The day a kid sees a 3.5 inch floppy disc only to exclaim “someone 3D printed the save icon!” is the day that our worries will be unfounded.

Data is beautiful but the data is yours

Vast amounts of the world’s information and resources are now digitised, and any barrier to that leaves us unarmed. On those occasions we are unable to access our networks, we are unable to directly modify, amend, or send the relevant information we need to. With no hard copies and our own recollection being limited, we seem at the mercy of the digital space to handover the information.

But before we start panic-printing, back up processes do exist. We need to remember that digital technology has helped the likes of retailers scale their businesses, enabling them to sell and market through new channels. Digital technology has also been the very foundation of hundreds of other companies who disrupt industries and keep the market competitive.

As the traditional models of mass-production and mass-media try to sustain themselves through automation, brands are competing to stay relevant and are opting for personalised marketing. This personalisation is made possible by our digital footprint, and this data is information that has been generated by people. Of course privacy matters, and the data we share is also something that we need to monitor and limit, but it reminds us that human intelligence existed first, and that it is paramount to making the best use of technology.

As humans we are social, and the despite the technology that helps, we still want to interact with others to establish emotional connections and build meaningful relationships. It’s why we like going to live gigs, why we pitch and close deals face to face, and why we smile when we see a typo in a BBC news alert – imagining the young reporter typing furiously minute by minute as the news comes in.

We know the robot market is growing rapidly and attracting an onslaught of investors and entrepreneurs, but the pace at which we can understand it fully, is not. What we do know is that Artificial Intelligence is a product of our own work and if we need a kill switch to prevent robots from taking over then we better build one.

Rachel Matovu

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search