Founder of Notable Systems: AI Works Best With Humans in the Loop - Institute for Experiential AI

Founder of Notable Systems: AI Works Best With Humans in the Loop

Founder and Co-Director of Notable Systems Steve Johnson speaks on a panel at Discover Experiential AI. (Photo by Heratch Ekemekian)

It’s tempting to think of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as some boundless frontier of pure possibility, but AI’s true potential lies in the way humans and machines complement each other.

This is clear in the era of Big Data, where the abundance of digital devices produces too much information for humans to process. Similarly, the machines we’ve employed to make sense of that data are ill-equipped for creative or context-sensitive uses. For Steve Johnson, founder and co-director of Notable Systems, context and creativity fall under the umbrella of “human judgment.”

It’s Johnson’s opinion that software that artfully blends machine work with human judgment can solve complex problems better than purely artificial ones. Uses of AI such as driverless vehicles, document analysis, customer service, and medical diagnoses all work best with a human in the loop.

Johnson’s company uses AI to automate and capture valuable bits of information from innumerable documents — a typically costly process. He feels a more automated approach could cut costs up to 90 percent while liberating human creativity to focus on more pressing tasks.

Humans better recognize the contexts behind algorithmic tasks. They can alter inputs to account for ethical considerations and physical details, like the idiosyncrasies of handwriting, which computers notoriously fail at deciphering.

“Systems developers who insist on keeping humans out of the loop are limiting the imaginable capabilities, or, worse, they’re consigned to committing errors that are actually avoidable,” says Johnson.

Reserving more creative, context-sensitive decisions for humans — such as spotting new applications or designing for better performance — gives AI practitioners and downstream users the best of both worlds.

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