The human factor in AI

Cat Williams-Treloar
18 September

Since its inception in the 1950s, the idea of artificial intelligence (AI) remains a somewhat ‘alien’ idea to the majority of the population. Yet, these technological advancements are readily available and accessible within our daily lives. Consider the familiar voice of Siri comfortably inhabiting our smartphones, or uniquely curated Spotify playlists that are attuned to our personal listening habits.

While these familiar applications may seem commonplace, more radical advancements are continuously underway. Our lives are forecasted to be more automated than ever with the help of AI. The possibilities for this revolutionary technology can be truly mesmerising for humankind if only we open ourselves up to the responsibilities associated with it.

Our Current Relationship with AI

While the technological advancements of humanity have progressed, an intrinsic sense of what it means to be ‘human’ has been placed on  a philosophical “backburner” of sorts. We humans are innately creative. We are emotionally intelligent and broadly analytical. We create conversation and adapt to the environment in which we live. Our imagination and initiative can be part of our strongest weapon as long as we’re brave enough to let these traits take centre stage.

Technology, much like humans, is primarily programmed to ‘survive,’ with inventive and creative approaches secondary to daily functionality. Our early adaptations of technology exist to ‘complete tasks’; to assist with and repeat mundane actions in an efficient way. Artificial Intelligence differs in that it has the programmed capability to “evaluate, select, act, and learn from its actions” therefore acting more human by making strategic decisions. This idea of ‘programming’ tells us that humans are a key part of the process; creating machines which have the scope for adaptation and flexibility. In other words, technology that becomes less robotic.

Taking the Relationship to the Next Level  

Humans are social creatures. Instinctively geared towards fostering relationships, we possess ‘’soft skills’’ of compassion, emotion, and curiosity. These natural tendencies are so deeply rooted in our being that we often look past such attributes when fabricating something ‘artificial.’ In much the same way as we encourage our children to develop these positive skills through their integration into society, shouldn’t we consider programming these ideals to the technology designed to enhance our lives? Surely, we’d like them to have the ability to replicate and respond to our emotional needs. The need for ‘people skills’ is as important as ever in modern society, from work environments to leisure spaces, and, you guessed it, technological advancements.

Going back to our earliest notions of what it means to offer good customer service, it’s likely that most companies will, at some point, refer to the cliché-but-true idea of ‘service with a smile.’ This basic but desirable human action has the ability to secure a sale or deter a customer altogether. Perhaps, then, simple emotions are what we should transfer to our automated services. These behavioral characteristics are already starting to be applied within experimental retail. For example, Chinese retail giant Alibaba has rolled out an advancement in facial recognition which allows customers to ‘smile to pay’, using a 3D camera to verify identity, to capture the customer’s smile, and accept this as an action to pay.

Another example of this is a recent digital project by candy retailer Lolli and Pops. The company uses facial recognition for its customer loyalty program via Mobica, to create a personalized shopping experience. Through AI-enhanced analytics and unique customer data, including taste preferences, allergies, and other information, sales associates get all this information directly to their tablets as soon as the customer enters the store. The sales associate can then connect with the customer on a very personal level to positively enhance human interaction.

Putting this into Practice

While focusing our energy on ensuring that the human element in automation is not lost, we must also not forget about the importance of prioritizing the real people in our companies. These are the people whose energy and spirit are likely to have grown your company in the first place. The idea with AI is not to achieve ‘less human’ spaces, but to ensure that this digital intelligence is working in harmony with our employees. It should, after all, be an enabler and not a disruptor in the modern workplace.

When welcoming AI into a business-scenario, it remains key to understand the inner workings of your company. Would it be most helpful, for example, for AI to automate single tasks like data collection and customer responses? Or, would it be more beneficial to ensure your entire customer service department is seamlessly automated?  Understanding the best application for your business, and all of its unique needs is paramount to a successful relationship with artificial intelligence. Overall, AI is all about trying to make our lives better. The impacts on humanity as a whole can be wildly fruitful. Consider how your business can adopt AI through an approach of compassion and with a distinctly human touch.

Cat Williams-Treloar founded Humanisation, a Human-Centered Marketing Consultancy. Humanisation was born to help startups make a human impact in a digital world as they Go-To-Market across APAC.


Read more about Humanisation & our why here, or get in contact with

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