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Artificial intelligence both substitutes and complements human capabilities

The best possible future for integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into the workplace sees AI- related skills like data science being paired with quintessential human skills such as creativity, empathy, and interpersonal communication. This according to a new study from the Stockholm School of Economics, Copenhagen Business School, and the University of Geneva.

AI increasingly performs cognitive tasks previously thought to be unique to humans. In the workplace, this has raised an important question: does AI substitute or complement human abilities? To find out, Sebastian Krakowski (Stockholm School of Economics), Johannes Luger (Copenhagen Business School), and Sebastian Raisch (University of Geneva) studied data from no less than 3,281 chess competitions.

Today’s chess matches provide a good way to study competitive interactions involving humans and AI. The reason is that novel, alternative game formats involve interactions between a human and a machine, where AI is either used as support throughout the game or deployed to play entirely on the human’s behalf. By studying player and AI performance in official chess tournaments, the researchers found that AI both substitutes and complements humans’ competitive capabilities.

AI and Humans working together

On the one hand, AI substitutes humans’ traditional cognitive abilities in chess-playing with its superior computational capabilities. On the other hand, it allows humans to make use of cognitive abilities unrelated to chess-playing to complement its computational superiority, for example by tweaking and deploying the machine in creative ways.

“These results are important for the workplace and human resources. While AI outperforms humans in several cognitive tasks, business contexts are complex and changeable, making complete substitution of humans by machines impossible. Moreover, AI reaches its limits when the data is limited, or a clear objective is lacking.”

– Sebastian Krakowski

Staying relevant

Humans need consequently to adapt and continuously develop cognitive skills that complement machines to retain their competitive advantage.

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