The Four A’s Pyramid Framework for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (Part 2)

Defining Augmentation – Making the Leap From Analytics to Augmentation


Following on from the previous introduction article on the Four ‘A’s Pyramid Framework, we need to determine how we will make the leap from simple analytics to augmentation.

The combination of big data technologies with highly parallel computing power has enabled huge advances is data science, analytics and machine learning. Particularly giving us the ability to better visualise and understand the data being analysed.

Leveraging these advanced analytics including clustering and predictive algorithms on the surface appears to be very easy. There are many platforms now that make the task of training and deploying a predictive model relatively easy. However, while this maybe initially true, this simple setup doesn’t consider a number of important factors that will deliver robust and resilient intelligent systems longer term.


Lets consider the definition of Augmentation.

Augmentation is about providing the capability to support human activity via computational methods.

This maybe by providing visualisation of information and insight though clustering or ultimately via regression and classification to predict the correct outcome for a given application. Augmentation has the ability to take on the simple tasks previously done by a human, freeing the human to perform the more interesting or complex tasks. There are wider social and workforce implications with this, but they will be covered in other articles. For this article we will focus on the technical aspects.

There are gaps between the platforms and frameworks that are currently available and what is actually needed to provide smart, robust and resilient systems for augmentation.

So what is missing?

Well what we need to understand is that training a predictive model is not a one off task and the data will inevitably change over time and will vary to what the model was trained on. This essentially has the effect of reducing the performance (accuracy) of the model over time. One approach to solve this is obviously to continually train the model, which does make sense and has the potential to deal with varying data over time (active learning). But this itself brings its own set of challenges. Including how do we select the right sample of data to use to train the model. How do we prevent localised skews or abnormalities in the data. How do we ensure that infrequent events are represented and can be part of the generalised model.

In addition we must factor in confidence levels from the model to determine if a specific prediction should be fully automated or needs to be reviewed by the user. The specifics of this will of course vary from application to application, but a standard way to perform this would be useful.

Also another key area that appears to be missing from the current platforms and frameworks is a standard way to feedback from the human as part of this close interplay between the user and the automation that underpins the augmentation. When the human flags a mis-classification, how does the machine learning model factor this into the re-training of the model.

Producing a system that can make accurate predictions only takes us part of the way to delivering a system that can augment tasks successfully over the long term. Any machine learning platform will need to provide algorithms and solutions to the above identified gaps before we can produce robust and resilient intelligent system.

What needs to happen next is to deliver platforms that can augment manual workflow by providing semi-automated systems that support business process and enable the subject matter experts to focus on the more involved and complex elements of the business

While there is a lot of excitement and optimism of what we can achieve with machine learning algorithms and techniques, we need the platforms and integration layers to facilitate a number of capabilities to support augmentation. Identifying these missing capabilities is the first step towards an intelligent system. The next is extending the platforms to deliver these capabilities.

See the introduction to the four A’s pyramid framework