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AI Won't Kill You, But Ignoring It Might Kill Your Business

Posted By Meg Washburn


Chicago Tribune


Relax. Artificial intelligence is making our lives easier, but won't be a threat to human existence, according to panel of practitioners in the space.

"One of the biggest misconceptions today about autonomous robots is how capable they are," said Brenna Argall, faculty research scientist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, during a Chicago Innovation Awards event Wednesday.

"We see a lot of videos online showing robots doing amazing things. What isn't shown is the hours of footage where they did the wrong thing," she said. "The reality is that robots spend most of their time not doing what they're supposed to be doing."


The event at Studio Xfinity drew about 200 people, who mingled among tech exhibits before contemplating killer robot overlords.

Stephen Pratt, a former IBM employee who was then responsible for the global implementation of Watson, also was quick to swat down the notion that machines are poised to run the world.

The tech instead gives better ways to improve services, products and business, he said — besting humans in applications dealing with demand predictions, pricing, inventory, retail promotion, logistics and preventive maintenance.

"Amplifying human intelligence, and overcoming human cognitive biases — I think that's where it fits," said Pratt, founder and CEO of business consultancy "Humans are really bad probabilistic thinkers and statisticians. That's where cognitive bias creeps in and, therefore, inefficiencies and lost profit."

But machines won't replace humans when it comes to big-picture decisions, he said.

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