Why AI needs more storytelling

By 4th June 2019 No Comments

Artificial intelligence is the hero of the future, according to Conny Svensson, Head of AI and Digital Transformation at global IT service company CGI.

‘Research shows that by using AI, you can double the development potential of a community. This is why it is time for companies and organisations to start sharing their positive experiences of AI openly’, he says.

You’ve probably seen this scenario before:

Self-learning robots outsmart humans and end up taking over the world. This is a common futuristic theme in Hollywood filmsIt is also one reason why many have an incorrect image of AI which inevitably casts a shadow over the possibilities with the new technology.  

The end, when killer robots take over the world, is not nigh. On the contrary, AI is becoming a natural part of many people’s everyday lives. Still, there is still some scepticism towards the new technology, according to a recent survey by CGI, IBM, PostNord and Sifo. 

‘Many people walk around with AI in their pocket without even realising it. Regardless of whether the technology goes under the name Siri, Google Assistant or Cortana, it doesn’t really tell a story that moves you. But there are other examples that do need good storytelling to communicate properly, says Conny Svensson. 

AI as the future hero

In cancer research, the implementation of AI has helped with the diagnosis of patients and development of new treatment methods.

An increasingly larger number of companies use chatbots as a part of their customer service offering.

IT giant IBM has developed an AI tool which, with a 95% accuracy rate, can predict when an employee is about to hand in their notice. 

It is easy to understand why predictive analyses can create added value to a company. But when something goes wrong, it is just as easy to blame the technology instead’, says Conny Svensson, and uses self-driving cars as an example:  

Far from everyone would feel safe in a self-driving car, even though the risk of accident most likely is bigger if there is a person behind the wheel. This is a clear example of how good storytelling could be used to increase understanding of the AI technology. 

The year 2020 is just around the corner – and there’s not a flying car in sight.
Shouldn’t technology have come further than this?

‘Humans are generally poor at predicting where technology will take us. Take the science fiction series Star Trek from 1969 for example: While the characters can time travel, they still use thick screen TVs.’ 

New technology is always overestimated in the short haul  we expect so much to happen in a short time and then we get disappointed when it doesn’t  and underestimated the long-haul potential.’

‘This is based on the fact that technology has an exponential rate of development and that people’s thinking is often linear. But technology shifts take place according to an S-curve; from a seemingly slow start we eventually end up witnessing big breakthroughs, explains Conny Svensson. 

The road to democratic AI

Conny Svensson summarises the ultimate story about AI to a sensible vision based on what is actually possible – but with the potential to truly catch people’s interest.  

He calls it the democratic AI: 

  1. Increased accessibility to AI:Remember that we are still at early stages of development for AI. In the near future, anyone will be able to make AI analyses in Excel that required advanced knowledge just a few years ago.’
  1. Increased understanding of AI: ‘Finland is at the forefront of AI technology, and began offering its residents an AI licensein 2017. The online course, where the student’s objective is to obtain a license, is free of charge to attend. It is currently being translated into Swedish and English in order to be available for Swedish citizens as well. The course can be registered as university credits at Linköping University, Sweden.’ Watch the Finnish Minister of Economy challenging Swedes to learn more about AI. 
  1. Increased confidence in AI: Artificial intelligence shouldn’t become a black box or perceived as an oracle, but rather act as our adviser and partner. We must both morally and ethically be able to rely on AI and that it comes to conclusions based on human values.’

Everything humans are not

What possibly is the greatest story about AI is that artificial intelligence can be everything that we humans are not.  

‘In human history, AI is a more significant milestone. It is the first creature, without flesh and blood, that we will artificially create and that makes us reflect on our humanity. An AI doesn’t get tired or have a bad day. It can perform a number of different work tasks in a safe and sustainable way, says Conny Svensson. 

He stresses that the development of AI is not about taking people’s jobs. 

‘While as AI will most likely affect the majority of work tasks in the future, it will entail performing monotonous tasks or acting as a tool to facilitate our everyday life. This is the story that companies and other AI users need to be better at telling, he concludes.

AI facts 

Different types of AI 

  • Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI). For example, Siri by Apple.
  • Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). An AI that has the ability to mimic human intelligence and human behaviour. It is also called Strong AI or Deep AI. 
  • Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI). An AI that does not have to mimic human intelligence

How does AI and storytelling work in practice? See how we at Spoon told the story about Volvo Truck’s autonomous vehicle Vera.

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Further reading

Bostrom, N. (2012). Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies.  
Harari, Y. N. (2015). Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.
Tegmark, M. (2017). Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.