An increasing amount of focus is being placed on the integration of AI into traditionally human domains. Whether it be manufacturing, HR departments or cookery, robots are being built to help out in any given industry. It is easy to talk about the importance of smooth integration, but how can this be achieved? Are there already examples of this being achieved?

Human employees can learn to work alongside AI, pooling their strengths together for a greater outcome. This is also known as collective intelligence, as discussed by MIT professor Thomas Malone. In layman’s terms - the result can be greater than the sum of the individual parts. Humans bring archetypal human traits to the table, like empathy and emotional intelligence. Robots bring the ability to complete a task repetitively without ever tiring.

This combination can result in an emergent property which is more effective than anything either party could create alone.

There is plenty of fearful rhetoric about the so-called devastating impacts of the introduction of AI on the job market. We wrote about how this damages AI’s chances of ever building a successful relationship with humans in our workplaces.

The end result is likely to be much brighter if we listen to experts who tell us exactly how to integrate AI. Occupational psychologists, engineers and the like will be able to deduce the right situations in which to deploy AI for maximum effectiveness.


Malone concedes that intelligence is often a trait pinned to individual success. If a student attains great grades, or a policeman successfully tracks down a criminal, plaudits usually go the one directly responsible.

According to Malone however, there is not enough focus placed on the team framework that created that person’s success. They likely had support from a number of other people: “Almost everything we humans have ever done has been done not by lone individuals, but by groups of people working together, often across time and space.”

Collective intelligence describes the ability of a group of minds to solve problems or create solutions. It can encompass a group of people, animals or even bacteria. Each cell in a human organ, alone, would be useless. It is its relationship with other cell types that enable the organ to function.

However, in this case, we concentrate on the relationship between human minds and computers.

Ever since the rise of technology, humans have been using computers to create superminds. A supermind, Malone says, is any entity that consists of multiple intelligences that work together to achieve a goal. Every organisation, democratic government or community is a supermind.

Humans could not make a PC work alone, we require the capabilities of the individual parts inside the computer to make it work well. Granted, computer chips play a relatively passive role in this supermind, as they receive human instruction.

The development of AI and subsequent integration into workplaces is all about reducing how passive a computer is, and testing to what extent it can actively contribute to each organisation, or supermind, it is part of.

Examples of human and AI collaboration

Malone warns that we are not as advanced with developing AI as we might think. Even the most impressive supercomputer like IBM’s Watson is only programmed to perform excellently as certain games. The average 5 year old has more general intelligence than a system like this one.

This serves a couple of purposes. It tells us that we should not feel threatened as human workers by the perceived intelligence of AI systems. On the other hand, it makes it difficult to draw a line as to how advanced computers could eventually become.

Currently, we are seeing a host of companies which have taken the leap of faith towards AI, and have attempted to build their own supermind. Here are some of the ways in which AI has boosted our collective intelligence:

  • Autodesk’s Dreamcatcher AI has been created to take a range of filters on board for a piece of furniture. For example, you could tell it to come up with a range of designs for a chair which would hold 300 pounds and cost no more than £50 to build. It instantly comes up with thousands of designs, sometimes helping spark a new idea in a human engineer’s mind.

  • Swedish bank SEB has developed AI named Aida, which serves as a point of call for customers with queries. Aida can hold a natural conversation with customers looking for answers to frequently asked questions. In a step towards natural language processing, it is able to provide a different service based on a customer’s tone of voice. If it detects a frustrated tone, or is unable to help out, the customer is transferred to a human representative. Aida leaves humans with more time to address more complex issues with customers.

  • Hyundai is experimenting with AI exoskeletons in the manufacturing process. These are wearable bodysuits which respond in real time to the environment, and contain devices which allow the human wearers to execute their work with increased strength and endurance.

Humans need to face AI with a positive attitude in order for smooth integration. Viewing robots as a valuable part of a team will improve general feelings towards AI, and this is vitally important for an efficient working process.

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