AI – as in artificial or augmented intelligence?

Last year the Swedish government presented the national plan for artificial intelligence (AI) with a total investment of half a billion SEK. The aim is that Sweden should become one of the leading countries when it comes to using the great potential of digitization and AI.

We also saw many enterprises running AI pilots to investigate the opportunities with different AI programs and tools, and as I touched upon in my previous post, we will probably see even more practical applications in the upcoming year. At Orange we are no different and are heavily investing in increased use of AI in areas such as the predictive maintenance of our networks and services.

The automatization and greater implementation of AI is usually followed by a discussion about its consequences on the labor market. What will happen when tasks traditionally performed by humans are taken over by algorithms and robots? This isn’t a new issue; technology has been transforming the working environment throughout history with new inventions replacing human workers. This is causing lots of concern and debate across the political spectrum; however, in reality only around eight percent of the jobs in Sweden are threatened by AI and robotization, according to a report by OECD.

By putting man versus machine as competing opponents, we are ignoring the full advantage of automatization and AI implementation. An interesting example of this that I read a couple of weeks ago, is a hotel in Japan that had to “fire” half of their 243 robots and again replace them with humans, since they couldn’t get the work done right. The point with AI shouldn’t be to replace something that was previously natural with an artificial alternative to become more effective or precise, but to combine human and machine intelligence to perform even better. Therefore, I prefer to talk about augmented intelligence, sometimes also referred to as intelligence augmentation (IA), rather than artificial intelligence. Technically, there’s no difference between the two. But it represents different perspectives on the technological advances where IA is centered around how human intelligence can be amplified or augmented by enabling us to utilize all the data we are generating. So, in the Japanese case, don’t fire the robots! But use them to assist the human workers to enable them to focus on other important values instead.

To talk about augmented intelligence is especially relevant in the Nordics, with a large service sector, highly educated work force and an already high level of automatization in industry. Here, the challenge won’t be a decline in work opportunities and mass unemployment, but rather how we can change the way we work and combine our human intelligence with intelligent technologies. In other words, it’s a structural transformation more than anything else, where focus should be on re-skilling the workforce while also developing and refining work processes. In that way, robots can support us by doing all the boring things, like administrative tasks, enabling us to focus our energy on the parts that are making us more human.

With our recent acquisitions of Business & Decision and The Unbelievable Machine Company, we are unlocking the value of data within our customers, and AI, or IA, is absolutely key to doing this in an efficient and effective way.

Simon Ranyard
Simon Ranyard

Simon Ranyard is Managing Director for Nordics, UK and Ireland at Orange Business and is based in London, England. With 20 years' experience in ICT in sales functions, Simon is driving a revenue growth plan by focusing on the innovative services that Orange can bring to its customers and on continuously improving the way we work with them.

In his spare time, Simon is a keen cricket fan and enjoys supporting youth development in the game.