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machine-human collaboration

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Machine-human collaboration is a model in which humans co-work with artificial intelligence (AI) systems and other machines rather than using them as tools. As in most successful collaborations, each brings to the table abilities that the other lacks. The purpose of machine-human partnerships is to use the particular strengths of both types of intelligence, and even physical capabilities, to fill in the other’s weaknesses.

There are numerous fields of machine-human collaboration. Some examples include:

The computer game Foldit uses machine-human collaboration, in addition to collaboration between humans, to fold simulated proteins. The folding is an attempt to understand how real world proteins involved in the causes of human disease are formed. In the game, a player acts on a protein structure with manual and AI-driven operations. The AI is put to use where it excels and humans are left to areas where their intuition and imagination let them exceed machines.

Two amateur chess players in collaboration with an AI system running on three PCs won against a field of supercomputers and grandmasters. The human-AI team also created a new class of chess in the process, which they called centaur chess.

In 2014 a Japanese venture capital company, Knowledge Ventures, elected an AI system to its board of directors, putting machine-human collaboration at the highest levels of business.

Within the military, UAV drones fall into the collaborative category where, for example, a machine takes the front lines with human virtual support.

The Talos suit in development by the United States military augments a front-line human with a power exoskeleton. The exoskeleton’s integrated heating cooling, vital monitoring and heads-up display (HUD) make the collaboration similar to that in the Ironman movies.

Machine-human collaboration is heralded by many as the third age of computing. (The microprocessor and the internet were the two developments that brought the previous ages.) Many futurists predict that in the third age, humans will consider AI systems as partners with special skill sets. Others, however, fear that relying on AI will result in a shortage of work for humans and may make people lazy and stupid.

Watch Shyam Sankar's TED talk, The rise of human-machine cooperation:

This was last updated in January 2017

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