Artificial intelligence does not have to be very sophisticated to make a difference in people's lives, say scientists who found that even a 'dumb AI' can boost human performance. In a series of experiments using teams of human players and robotic AI players, researchers found that the inclusion of "bots" boosted the performance of human groups and the individual players. "Much of the current conversation about artificial intelligence has to do with whether AI is a substitute for human beings. We believe the conversation should be about AI as a complement to human beings," said Nicholas Christakis, professor at Yale University in the US. Researchers conducted an experiment involving an online game that required groups of people to coordinate their actions for a collective goal. The human players also interacted with anonymous bots that were programmed with three levels of behavioural randomness - meaning the AI bots sometimes deliberately made mistakes. In addition, sometimes the bots were placed in different parts of the social network.
More than 4,000 people participated in the experiment. Researchers found that not only did the inclusion of bots aid the overall performance of human players, it proved particularly beneficial when tasks became more difficult. The bots accelerated the median time for groups to solve problems by 55.6 per cent. The experiment showed a cascade effect of improved performance by humans. People whose performance improved when working with the bots subsequently influenced other human players to raise their game, researchers said. These findings are likely to have implications for a variety of situations in which people interact with AI technology, researchers said. The study was published in the journal Nature.
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