It’s not about artificial intelligence (AI) taking over — it’s about AI improving human performance, a new study by Yale University researchers has shown.
“Much of the current conversation about artificial intelligence has to do with whether AI is a substitute for human beings. We believe the conversation should be about AI as a complement to human beings,” said Nicholas Christakis, Yale University co-director of the Yale Institute for Network Science (YINS) and senior author of a study by Yale Institute for Network Science.*
AI doesn’t even have to be super-sophisticated to make a difference in people’s lives; even “dumb AI” can help human groups, based on the study, which appears in the May 18, 2017 edition of the journal Nature.
How bots can boost human performance
In a series of experiments using teams of human players and autonomous software agents (“bots”), the bots boosted the performance of human groups and the individual players, the researchers found.
The experiment design involved an online color-coordination game that required groups of people to coordinate their actions for a collective goal. The collective goal was for every node to have a color different than all of its neighbor nodes. The subjects were paid a US$2 show-up fee and a declining bonus of up to US$3 depending on the speed of reaching a global solution to the coordination problem (in which every player in a group had chosen a different color from their connected neighbors). When they did not reach a global solution within 5 min, the game was stopped and the subjects earned no bonus.
The human players also interacted with anonymous bots that were programmed with three levels of behavioral randomness — meaning the AI bots sometimes deliberately made mistakes (introduced “noise”). In addition, sometimes the bots were placed in different parts of the social network to try different strategies.
The result: The bots reduced the median time for groups to solve problems by 55.6%. The experiment also showed a cascade effect: People whose performance improved when working with the bots then influenced other human players to raise their game. More than 4,000 people participated in the experiment, which used Yale-developed software called breadboard.
The findings have implications for a variety of situations in which people interact with AI technology, according to the researchers. Examples include human drivers who share roadways with autonomous cars and operations in which human soldiers work in tandem with AI.
“There are many ways in which the future is going to be like this,” Christakis said. “The bots can help humans to help themselves.”