Leveraging Artificial Intelligences and Allied Technologies to Augment Human Intelligence by Arun Kapur


In the past few years, I’ve been observing and commenting on what is now being referred to along the lines of ‘disruptive artificial intelligence technologies’. I have worried that we are looking at this trend and associated emerging technologies in a myopic sense – something that we outsource all of our work to. The current perception is that technology will do our job for us, to such an extent that they might replace us. For me, this is distressing because it leaves us less involved and engaged in how we are shaping our future. If this is our general perception, that these technologies are meant for us to continue living our lives as we currently are, albeit in an easier way, then we are not factoring in the long-term picture. I certainly feel that technology has made life easier in many aspects, but I firmly believe that it is only one facet of what it is meant to do. There are many other dimensions to the use of technology than merely making life easier for us. Considering this myopic view of technology one ends with scenarios where technology will replace human beings in jobs, and the much prophesied Artificial Intelligence dystopia will be upon us shortly. On the other hand, if we were to augment these new technologies to enhance our work, then what we would be able to achieve can only be limited by imagination. At its very basic, Augmented Intelligence stands for using existing and emerging technologies to advance human capabilities, skills and achievements. The Augmented Intelligence theory which I talk of believes that human beings have innate senses, skills and abilities which when actualised to their fullest potential can make for a much better world. I acknowledge that there are specific routine tasks that machines will be able to do better. Then again, this supports my worldview of Augmented Intelligence as we can leverage these to our advantage to enable us to work on matters that require the human touch. The only criterion I place in my Augmented Intelligence theory worldview is that we need to be lifelong learners, in constant learning mode.

In my role as a faculty, principal, advisor and above all, a learner, I have been trying to change this perception of aversion to emerging technologies over the last many years. Moreover, for deeply rooted fear induced perceptions to change, we need clarity on the matter at hand which can only be obtained by looking at it from a longer-term view in a logical and rational manner. Also, it is not that all of a sudden that this fear of better-than-me efficient machines has emerged. One can trace it back to a few centuries when the ‘Luddites’, a group of English textile workers who were threatened by the emerging weaving machines, began to destroy these types of machinery as a sign of protest. Some might argue that the Luddites were not opposed to technology but to the use of the same by manufacturers that went against labour practices. The point being, resistance to technology has been there and will continue to be there. This is where I would like to emphasise my point – we have been taking a short-sighted simplistic view of technology. It is true that technology will remove some jobs but at the same time add many more. When the ATM revolution was thriving, many feared that bank tellers would be jobless. However, what I’ve noticed in my country, India, is that this has enabled banks to free up many employees to open up new branches to cater to the increased demand. Automation should be seen as a boon, not a bane as it has freed up people to do something more meaningful. Of course, if you are not good at what you do, then it wouldn’t take a machine to replace you. I often deliberate with educators who are worried about whether technology will make them redundant in the coming years. To them, I say, “if you feel technology has the innate capability to make something as complex and diverse as learning easy and replace you as a teacher, foregoing the student-teacher bond and interaction, then in all likelihood, you deserve to be replaced.” As mentioned earlier, the need to be in constant learning mode cannot be emphasised enough.

Again, we give meaning to things. If we see it as a threat, then our mind is processing how to overcome this threat and in that process, miss out on the countless possibilities where we could augment this so-called “threat” for our benefit. I have talked to my colleagues and fellow educators on the need to augment these so-called intelligence and technologies for enhancing our intellect. One of the myths that has been around for ages is that we use only 10% of our brain prowess. An article in the Scientific American on this topic goes on to provide the following explanation, “Although there’s no definitive culprit to pin the blame on for starting this legend, the notion has been linked to the American psychologist and author William James, who argued in The Energies of Men that “We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.” It’s also been associated with Albert Einstein, who supposedly used it to explain his cosmic towering intellect. The myth’s durability, Gordon says, stems from people’s conceptions about their own brains: they see their own shortcomings as evidence of the existence of untapped gray matter. This is a false assumption. What is correct, however, is that at certain moments in anyone’s life, such as when we are simply at rest and thinking, we may be using only 10 percent of our brains.”

Whether the myth turns out to be true or part of the article quoted above is right or if new research comes up with something different altogether, what we can do now for sure is leverage these technologies to enhance our potential across different domain areas. An example that comes to mind of this nature is the power of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) that are delivered by faculty from universities across the world that augment the use of technology and other-intelligences to make learning personalised and available to a larger, diverse audience. This was in the realm of the impossible a little over ten years ago. In the current world of Augmented Intelligence, an individual in learning mode has endless possibilities.

Artificial intelligence has the potential to help us achieve our lofty goals and ambitions. By leveraging the power of artificial intelligence, we can automate tedious and time-consuming tasks, making it easier for us to focus on higher-order thinking, unleashing our creative prowess, and identifying what it is that we are able to do best. Additionally, artificial intelligence can help us to make better decisions by providing us with insights and recommendations based on data.

There is no doubt that artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the way businesses operate. AI is making it possible for businesses to automate tasks that used to require human input, such as customer service and marketing. AI can also be used to identify patterns in data, which can help businesses make better decisions about where to allocate their resources. They are also creating a level of personalisation to services which could not even be conceived before because we did not have this level of data and even if we did, humans could not process them as fast as machines do. Take the case of Netflix. Most of us are blissfully unaware of the AI & machine learning tech that is operating at its backend that has ensured its widespread success whilst completely eliminating the competition it had in the late 1990s and early 2000. This is what Netflix has to say:

“Machine learning impacts many exciting areas throughout our company. Historically, personalization has been the most well-known area, where machine learning powers our recommendation algorithms. We’re also using machine learning to help shape our catalogue of movies and TV shows by learning characteristics that make content successful. We use it to optimise the production of original movies and TV shows in Netflix’s rapidly growing studio. Machine learning also enables us to optimise video and audio encoding, adaptive bitrate selection, and our in-house Content Delivery Network that accounts for more than a third of North American internet traffic. It also powers our advertising spend, channel mix, and advertising creative so that we can find new members who will enjoy Netflix.”

However, there are some concerns about the use of AI in business. For example, there is a risk that AI could lead to job loss, as businesses increasingly rely on automation to get things done. Additionally, there is a risk that businesses will not be able to keep up with the pace of change that AI brings, and will eventually be replaced by companies that are more comfortable with new technologies, like in the case of Netflix that rose from a being a DVD rental company to become one of the giants in entertainment with 160 million members in over 190 countries.

One of the reasons that people are reluctant to embrace or work with new technology is that it involves technical skills such as coding or programming. This is not factually correct. There are many areas in technologies like AI, Machine Learning and Blockchain where identifying the strength of all stakeholders and the industry one is working on and being able to make sense of huge volumes of data and finding interconnections across disciplines are far more valued that coding. While we are on the topic of coding, I want to point out the advancements made by OpenAI in this field. OpenAI is an AI research and deployment company whose stated mission is to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity. Last year they released their OpenAI codex which translates natural language to code. What this means is that you can give it a command in plain English and it will write the code for you (example provided at the end of the article). This would have been inconceivable a few years ago. It is not yet available to the wider public but as the technology emerges from its beta testing, I am confident that it is going to augment the coding skills of a lot of non-technical people which could help them actualise their potential. If coding has been a  barrier to realising your grand vision for life, then this should get you one step closer to that goal.

This brings me to another point I would like to bring to the fore – about the pace of advancement. It probably has been talked about in numerous forums by various experts before, but many are yet to fathom the nature and speed of this change, that is until it hits them. We’ve had multiple revolutions before – industrial, manufacturing, service, knowledge, automation – but the one before us is unlike any we’ve seen before. To the keen observer, it will become clear that the frequency of these revolutions has been continuously accelerating. So much so that while the industrial revolution took nearly two centuries to gain full steam, what we have now before us will develop to the same potential in less than two decades. What we should understand is that we have the choice, possibility and competence to shape what we want out of the future. We should make the unfamiliar, familiar. We should use technology to augment our intelligence to open up possibilities, which will help us actualise our potential. That, I believe, will dictate the future of the human race. And for this to happen, we should equip our learners with the skills and processes that go beyond cerebral development. Our current and future learners should be educated about Physical, Emotional, Social and Spiritual development in tandem with Cerebral development. These unique qualities that we possess as human beings will help usher in the Augmented Intelligence (AI) utopia.

Input given to OpenAI system = Create a booking system for my website

Output generated in ~ 5 seconds

/* Create a booking system for my website */

var bookingSystem = document.createElement(‘div’);

bookingSystem.innerHTML = ‘<h1>Booking System</h1>’;

bookingSystem.innerHTML += ‘<form>’;

bookingSystem.innerHTML += ‘<input type=”text” name=”name” placeholder=”Name”>’;

bookingSystem.innerHTML += ‘<input type=”text” name=”email” placeholder=”Email”>’;

bookingSystem.innerHTML += ‘<input type=”text” name=”phone” placeholder=”Phone”>’;

bookingSystem.innerHTML += ‘<input type=”text” name=”date” placeholder=”Date”>’;

bookingSystem.innerHTML += ‘<input type=”text” name=”time” placeholder=”Time”>’;

bookingSystem.innerHTML += ‘<input type=”text” name=”message” placeholder=”Message”>’;

bookingSystem.innerHTML += ‘<input type=”submit” value=”Submit”>’;

bookingSystem.innerHTML += ‘</form>’;


The article first appeared on Substrack on 27 April 2022