Artificial intelligence

Meet the US start-up that is building AI technology based on collective human intelligence

Unanimous AI says it blends human decision-making processes with AI algorithms

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 March, 2018, 2:07pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 March, 2018, 2:07pm

The mere mention of artificial intelligence (AI) often conjures up images of ultraintelligent robots that process millions of gigabytes of data, before spitting out insights that would have taken humans months of laborious work. But a US-based start-up believes that humans still need to be at the centre of it all.

San Francisco-based Unanimous AI has developed artificial intelligence technology based on swarm intelligence – known as the collective behaviour often displayed when groups of people or animals amplify intelligence by working together as a group.

The company blends human decision-making processes with AI algorithms to determine the best solution in a question posed to a group of human participants, referred to as a swarm. The swarm is tasked with collectively finding the best answer to the question posed to them, while Unanimous AI’s algorithms assess everything from the amount of time it takes for a participant to come to a decision and even the level of conviction they have in their choice.

“We have had great success in predicting and forecasting things like the results of sporting events, political events and even the Oscars,” said David Baltaxe, chief intelligence officer at Unanimous AI, who added that its swarms have even outperformed traditional AI systems when it comes to forecasting and predictions.

The company had a 94 per cent success rate at this year’s Academy Awards, accurately predicting the Oscar winners for all but one of the 16 major award categories, said Baltaxe, who was speaking on the sidelines of last week’s Credit Suisse Asian Investment Conference.

Unanimous AI is one of many AI start-ups around the world eager to tap into the global artificial intelligence market, which is expected to reach US$21.46 billion in 2018. In recent years, scientists and researchers have achieved breakthroughs in the AI industry that have produced systems that have better reading comprehension than humans, the ability to drive a car without human intervention and even the skills to beat the world’s top Go grandmaster.

However, many of today’s AI systems often exist externally from the people they are meant to serve. Unanimous AI is bucking the trend with its technology because believes that it is important to still keep humans in the decision-making loop.

“When groups of people get together, the output is much more accurate and satisfactory to all participants because everyone is participating,” Baltaxe said.

Unanimous AI’s technology is often used by companies to tap on the collective intelligence of its consumer base on product optimisation and market trends, and can also be used internally by companies when they need to make decisions such as budgeting or even forecasting, Baltaxe said.

“Humans are social, hyperconnected creatures, and it is critical to us that the human judgment doesn’t get lost … the concerns are that the ‘A’ in artificial intelligence might become to stand for alien intelligence, where we won’t be able to relate to it at all,” he said.

“AI systems may be able to have great control over our lives, but [if the systems exist externally] we may not be able to comprehend why they come to certain decisions.