I recently attended a Gurteen knowledge café, hosted by Ipsos MORI at their offices near Tower Bridge in London. This was the very building in which some years ago News International, Rupert Murdoch and Rebecca Wade had their offices. Images of The Sun newspaper, The News of the World and the seamier side of British journalism flashed through my mind. This frisson of excitement quickly subsided. We were there, after all, to discuss serious stuff: knowledge.
Colin Strong (@colinstrong), Ipsos MORI’s global head of behavioural science, gave a brief introductory talk on the dilemma we face today with information overload.
He reminded us of the infamous 2016 TV interview on the UK’s EU referendum, where Michael Gove dismissed experts as elitist. Colin asked us how we reconcile this view with big data and artificial intelligence.
He introduced a new word, coined by @astradisastra on Twitter:
“fauxtomation”: when workers get rendered invisible to maintain [the] illusion [that] machines and systems [are] smarter than they actually are
Were you aware that behind many of the algorithms used in artificial intelligence today, there are people tweaking the data to deliver results that the machines cannot deliver on their own? This might be legacy systems that don’t ‘talk’ to each other (no interoperability as yet) or perhaps to deliver what we now call ‘fake news’.
Our topic of conversation was people’s knowledge vs artificial intelligence.
As usual in one of these cafés, a series of short conversations was held with people from varied backgrounds.
The conversations I participated in roved widely, covering cognitive biases, production lines and the Nudge Unit.
In one conversation, we talked about the amount of data that Transport for London (TfL) uses to keep public transport running in London and how when you ask someone about their journey they invariably tell you something negative.
If, however, you ask them about a positive experience on the London Underground, the chances are they will tell you about their reaction when they are confronted by a handwritten notice on a white board, in the ticket hall, beside the ticket barrier.
Each message has been thought about and carefully crafted by a member of the station staff.
Some are clever and make you think, some are kind and some are funny. More often than not, you read it and go on your way with a smile on your face.
There is no way that artificial intelligence is ever going to deliver this feel good factor.
(images found via Google search)