An Intelligent Outlook on Artificial Intelligence: “A New Species in Our Midst”
Teaming with AI, humans can reach levels of performance higher with it, than without it
John Gilroy, host of the Federal Tech Podcast, spoke with Daniel Serfaty, CEO of Aptima, about the breakneck pace of change in AI, what was different in this next wave, and the outlook for two very different intelligences to coexist and work together.
Although AI has been around for decades, what was dramatically different in this third wave, Serfaty said, was the emergence of applications that were bringing AI to the desktop. For the first time, people now had “full contact with something that sounds like artificial intelligence.”
It was also AI’s hunger for data, and that the more it has, “The more, quote unquote, intelligent it becomes.” Serfaty explained how the large language models and neural networks that underlie applications like ChatGPT learn not just the words of language, but the patterns of the entire collection.
While humans might read a few thousand books in a lifetime, AI can read millions. And it is not a static library. “It can link things and ideas in a way that perhaps the human brain cannot,” he said.
It was that pairing with AI, Serfaty explained, that can help humans reach levels of proficiency that are higher with it than without it.
“That’s really the idea,” said Serfaty. “The idea is not one of replacement, that the robots are coming to replace us, but rather of augmentation. Can we team together in a smart way, in an intelligent way, to achieve levels of professional performance and proficiency that are higher, or that we can reach faster?”
He pointed to the application of AI in education and training as an example, where AI is being used to do “what we call precision learning,” which he said represents about half the work at Aptima.
“So if you and I need to learn a new skill, the AI will learn, and know how to teach you differently than me depending on our progress and preferences. That’s a fascinating way to use AI to do adaptive training.”
A Force for Good
Another area he pointed to where AI had made significant inroads was in the field of medicine. In radiology, where there is a shortage of doctors, he said new radiologists have learned to team up with systems that interpret MRI, CAT scan, and X-ray imagery to improve performance.
For doctors who haven’t had the time to go through hundreds or thousands of images, he explained that having an ‘assistant’ that has gone through and learned from tens of millions of images can help them make better, more critical decisions.
He pointed to that as a “beautiful example” of AI being used for the good of all, helping make the lives of doctors more bearable and productive so they could invest more of their expertise and attention on cases that needed it.
An Intelligent Species in the Cockpit
An aerospace engineer by training, Serfaty pointed out how the role of pilots in the cockpit had evolved over 30 years, with automation, and now AI, increasingly sharing the flight management of the aircraft.
“There’s another intelligent species in the cockpit, and that teaming between the human and the artificial is really what makes the magic happen,” he said.
He pointed to space situational awareness as well, where AI was helping operators understand the enormous complexity of space where thousands of objects are flying around, and “not all of them nice objects.”
“You need to not only track them, but also to make sense of what is out there.”
“If there is one thing that artificial intelligence is very good at, it is detecting patterns, looking at complexity and showing you what you should pay attention to,” he said. “This is where the commander can say, ‘OK, you highlighted what I need to pay attention to,’ now I can use my brain and expertise to deal with the problem.”
The Great Race
Asked about the increasing investment in AI by the federal government and the Department of Defense, Serfaty said this was more than a technology race, but a question of national security.
“Our competitors or potential adversaries are seriously investing in artificial intelligence. Not just in weaponry, but in intelligence systems, in command and control, in systems that help decision makers and commanders make better and faster decisions.”
While the US excels in initiating and inventing technology, without continued investment, other countries will copy and catch up, he said.
“If we don’t capitalize on our head start and the extraordinary intellectual reservoir that we have in this country, we’re going to lose that race. If we lose that race, it’s like giving the enemy weapons for free, and we cannot afford that.”
On the need to invest, “We’re still ahead but unless we double down, adversaries may catch up. And because everything is based on data, it’s not just with metal or traditional weaponry that they will win, but also the information war and the cyber war. So we need to stay ahead.”
An Optimistic Outlook
AI’s tremendously disruptive capabilities naturally invite doomsday predictions and pessimism, but Serfaty said he was “very optimistic” about AI if used properly. “AI can signal a new era for humans, to understand that there is a new species in our midst that is not more or less intelligent, but that is different from us and differently intelligent than we are.”
He pointed to Aptima’s work and why it is focused on optimizing the pairing and teaming of the two intelligences.
“AI’s going to transform not just our work, but our entertainment and our lives. And we better embrace it. But at the same time, be careful about it, not to try to anthropomorphize it and make it human. It’s not.”
“We have some human qualities that I think are not going to be attained by artificial intelligence. And I am very optimistic that society is going to evolve in a positive way in the future when integrating artificial intelligence in a thoughtful manner.”
To hear more about the advances in AI, and the challenges and opportunities for their application, click HERE to listen to the full interview.