Will AI replace KM?
My answer is No, for the following reasons.
|image from wikipedia|
I have been working in Knowledge Management for a long time now, and the history of KM includes examples of one technology after another claiming that it will replace KM or make it obsolete.
- In the 1990s, it was Expert Systems that would make KM obsolete
- Then in the late 90s, it was Groupware that would replace KM
- Then Enterprise Search would be the saviour of KM
- In the mid 200s, Social networking became the new trend that would supercede KM (“Social is the new KM”)
- And of course SharePoint – “all you need for KM”
- Then came Enterprise 2.0, and Enterprise Social. They would become the new KM
- In 2015 I met a purveyor of Semantic Search wearing a T-shirt reading “John Snow may not be dead, but knowledge management is”. Made obsolete by his technology, obviously.
- And now Big Data and AI and Chatbots and IBM Watson are set to “make KM obsolete”.
AI is a game-changer, for sure. It makes it possible to make new and rapid correlations from within massive datasets, but someone has to create the datasets, and clean them, and then train the AI, and then interpret the correlations and draw knowledge from what they observe (because we all know correlation is not causation). As I posted here, in the context of Big Medical Data at the European Bioinformatics Institute,
Big Data does not become Knowledge because of it’s size – people have to add Knowledge to the data to make sense of it. The huge data resources of the EBI have to be combined with the specialist knowledge of the staff, and the application of the knowledge is the sense-making step
Also AI and Big Data still only work in the realm of documents, information and data, and in the processes of analysing and retrieving; they don’t help with the transfer and creation of knowledge through conversation, or with tacit knowledge. So AI will be a massively powerful tool in the KM toolbox, but it won’t replace the toolbox. We will need the roles and the processes and the governance to interplay with the technology. KM shifts up a gear, but still will be needed.
To the extent that people need to use knowledge to make decisions and judgments, then Knowledge Management will be augmented by technology, but not replaced.