A Sports Analogy for Understanding Different Ways to Use AI

A Sports Analogy for Understanding Different Ways to Use AI

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  • The potential impact of generative AI on the economy, society, and work is polarizing, swinging from the positive benefits of a technological revolution to doomsday scenarios. The authors have come to think about this issue as points on a spectrum and have created a sports analogy to help think about it: AI tools can range from steroids, to sneakers, to a coach, each representing a different relationship between human users and the technology. Steroids elevate short-term performance, but leave you worse off in the long term. AI-powered tools can instead be used to augment people’s skills and make them more productive — much like a good running sneaker. On the most desirable end of the spectrum, AI-powered tools can be used like a coach that improves people’s own capabilities. This framework can be used to help conceptualize how we might craft AI-based tools that enhance rather than diminish human capabilities.

    As with many new technologies, the potential impact of generative AI on society is polarizing. There is a fear that this technology will replace human workersleading to mass de-skilling and widespread unemployment. And there is a hope that generative AI will instead supercharge human capabilities, leading to unprecedented boosts in individual and collective innovation and productivity. In our work at Microsoft Research on augmenting human cognition and decision-making with AI, we have come to think about these scenarios as points on a spectrum and have created a sports analogy to help think about it: AI tools can range from steroids, to sneakers, to a coach, each representing a different relationship between human users and the technology.

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