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AI Augmentation: The Real Future of Artificial Intelligence

1 October 2019

From Forbes:

I love Grammarly, the writing correction software from Grammarly, Inc. As a writer, it has proved invaluable to me time and time again, popping up quietly to say that I forgot a comma, got a bit too verbose on a sentence, or have used too many adverbs. I even sprung for the professional version.

Besides endorsing it, I bring Grammarly up for another reason. It is the face of augmentative AI. It is AI because it uses some very sophisticated (and likely recursive) algorithms to determine when grammar is being used improperly or even to provide recommendations for what may be a better way to phrase things. It is augmentative because, rather than completely replacing the need for a writer, it instead is intended to nudge the author in a particular direction, to give them a certain degree of editorial expertise so that they can publish with more confidence or reduce the workload on a copy editor.

This may sound like it eliminates the need for a copy editor, but even that’s not really the case. Truth is, many copy editors also use Grammarly, and prefer that their writers do so well, because they usually prefer the much more subtle task of improving well wrought prose, rather than the tedious and maddening task of correcting grammatical and spelling errors.

As a journalist I use Cisco’s Webex a great deal. Their most recent products have introduced something that I’ve found to be invaluable – the ability to transcribe audio in real time. Once again, this natural language processing (NLP) capability, long the holy grail of AI, is simply there. It has turned what was once a tedious day long operation into a comparatively short editing session (no NLP is 100% accurate), meaning that I can spend more time gathering the news than having to transcribe it.

. . . .

These examples may seem to be a far cry from the popular vision of AI as a job stealer – from autonomous cars and trucks to systems that will eliminate creatives and decision makers – but they are actually pretty indicative of where Artificial Intelligence is going.

. . . .

What’s evident from these examples is that this kind of augmentative AI can be used to do those parts of a task or operation that were high cost for very little value add otherwise. Grammarly doesn’t change my voice significantly as a writer. Auto-transcription takes a task that would likely take me several hours to do manually and reduces it to seconds so that I can focus on the content. Photoshop’s Select Subject eliminates the need for very painstaking selection of an image. It can be argued in all three cases, that this does eliminate the need for a human being to do these tasks, but let’s face it – these are tasks that nobody would prefer to do unless they really had no choice.

. . . .

When Microsoft Powerpoint suggests alternatives visualizations to the boring old bullet points slide, the effect is to change behavior by giving a nudge. The program is saying “This looks like a pyramid, or a timeline, or a set of bucket categorizations. Why don’t you use this kind of presentation?”

. . . .

However, work with an intelligent word processor long enough and several things will begin to configure to better accommodate your writing style. Word and grammatical recommendations will begin to reflect your specific usage. Soft grammatical “rules” will be suppressed if you continue to ignore them, the application making the reasonable assumption that you are deliberately ignoring them when pointed out.

Ironically, this can also mean that if someone else uses your particular “trained” word processing application, they will likely get frustrated because the recommendations being made do not fit with their writing style, not because they are programmed to follow a given standard, but because they have been trained to facilitate your style instead.

. . . .

Remembered history is actually a pretty good description for how most augmented AIs work. Typically, most AIs are trained to pick up anomalous behavior from a specific model, weighing both the type and weight of that anomaly and adjusting the model accordingly.

. . . .

In some cases, the model itself is also somewhat self-aware, and will deliberately “mutate” the weightings based upon certain parameters to mix things up a bit. News filters, for instance, will normally gravitate towards a state where certain topics predominate (news about “artificial intelligence” or “sports balls” for instance, based upon a user’s selections), but every so often, a filter will pick up something that’s three or four hops away along a topic selection graph, in order to keep the filter from being too narrow.

This, of course, also highlights one of the biggest dangers of augmenting AIs. Such filters will create an intrinsic, self selected bias in the information that gets through. If your personal bias tends to favor a certain political ideology, you get more stories (or recommendations) that favor that bias, and fewer that counter it.

Link to the rest at Forbes

PG thinks the author of the OP is precisely correct for a variety of different reasons.

(Note: Grammarly suggested that PG use “precisely” instead of “exactly” in the prior sentence and was, as is often the case, correct.)

First, tools like Grammarly are just so darned helpful. Perhaps PG is alone in this shortcoming, but there are a few words, not complex, for which PG is perennially uncertain about the spelling. He’s not certain why, but he never remembers with certainty exactly whether it’s spelled one way or another that seems equally as likely. In olden times, PG would have to look these words up in a dictionary.

Then came spell-check, which did the trick, but in a mechanical-seeming fashion. Grammarly is definitely a few steps above the simple spell-check in that, over the many years PG has been using it, the program has become notably more graceful and more subtle in its sense of taste than it formerly was. “Precisely” is more graceful than “exactly” for PG’s sensibilities.

PG has also noted the changes referenced in the OP in Powerpoint, but, perhaps because Microsoft is new at this stuff, the suggestions for alternative slide layouts have generally struck PG as being pretty mundane and not much less unboring than the originals. During the past several years, PG has tended to do more hand-crafting of his Powerpoint presentations (perhaps because he doesn’t’ have to make a Powerpoint presentation 2-3 times per week as in former days). If the Grammarly experts took a shot at Powerpoint, that is something PG would pay attention to.

 

 

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2 Comments to “AI Augmentation: The Real Future of Artificial Intelligence”

  1. but let’s face it – these are tasks that nobody would prefer to do unless they really had no choice.

    Interesting standard. I think this describes most jobs. The choice is eating.

  2. I would kindly suggest to Mr PG that if his presentations include data, he should read Edward Tufte’s books such as his classic, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Mr Tufte is not a fan of PowerPoint, but I think it is still possible to use his ideas to improve PowerPoint presentations. (In any case, Mr Tufte’s books are beautiful and fun to read, even if you don’t follow his advice)

    https://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/books_vdqi

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