Siri, Watson, Crystal: Raising the Next Generation of AI
May 21, 2015
By Adina Daar, Research Consultant
Lately I’ve been getting to know some new colleagues. Andrew and Amy can schedule and reschedule any appointments on my behalf. My personal entertainment curator, Max, sources the media I will most enjoy. I also have a conversation coach named Crystal who is helping me learn valuable communication skills for the workplace.
Andrew, Amy, Max, and Crystal are all part of a growing workforce in the United States. They don’t have offices. They don’t have lunch breaks. They don’t get paid and they don’t even have bodies. They are artificial intelligence (AI) software. Brave new companies, like x.ai and CrystalKnows, are contributing to the ranks of Siri, Tomtom, and Watson in helping people achieve everyday tasks in smarter ways. Now the big question is what will make us want to work with them?
At Sachs, we are interested in the human facets of both customer and AI. As we begin to partner with companies that integrate personable AI into their customer experiences, we look forward to helping them grow, learn, and develop in this exciting area.
Here are some of the traits that we think are essential for an AI’s growth:
Let’s start from the beginning. Intelligence is more than “knowing things.” It’s the ability to learn, react, and evolve to apply what is learned in new or different contexts. It’s also about being able to work around barriers. An AI that grows with us and can learn what works/doesn’t work in different scenarios (rather than giving us info to do what we will) is a more helpful guide. Can I ask ‘What should I do?’ (Go ahead and ask Siri right now.) The point is, intelligent advice is very valuable.
An AI without language is a smart computer system. It’s important that communication is not a barrier, and words (both spoken and written) are powerful means to learn, build, and get things done. It’s not surprising then that a focus for AIs has been ensuring “natural language” – to speak how we speak. That’s beginning to take new shape because we do not all speak the same. A tell-tale sign of a strong and enduring partnership is that a communication style emerges naturally. Now imagine if you, Siri, Amy, and Crystal can develop that kind of synergy when communicating. That’s understanding.
AI’s are moving to the “front of house” in many ways (both for our business relationships and our relationships at home.) The ability to skillfully and sensitively deal with issues is essential as AIs becomes our representatives. Think of it as the manner in which you would want your friends and family to be treated – sometimes it’s about being matter of fact and drawing a hard line, while sometimes it’s about being flexible. Often it is about being able to pull from both of these areas at the same time to draw a line down the middle.
AIs are far more humanized now than they were in the past. That’s to the credit of naming them and an emphasis on developing their personalities. Expressing different emotions and interests is also important. Let’s say the AI personal assistant develops an interest in fashion and wants to suggest some things for your upcoming meeting – that could be wonderful. Personality diversity often adds to richness.
Ultimately, below the surface of all of these aspects of an AI is empathy. Let’s look at an automated telephone systems for example. It used to be a brutal experience to call in need of assistance (to have no choice but interact with a voice that knows and interprets nothing.) For a lot of people, the goal was to “get to a person.” Over time, phone AIs have developed the ability to listen, to understand, to pick up on different needs, interpret different scenarios, and react in a personalized way. Can they actually share the experience and feel what I feel? Is seeming like they care enough? I’d say when it goes both ways – if you seem to care about me and I seem to care about you --we are off to a good start.
Not surprisingly, these traits are also what make humans great collaborators.
That’s an important distinction because we are also subjected to experiencing our own relationships with AI. I would prefer to have a relationship built on trust and understanding, rather than one where I bark orders (repeatedly) at Siri (but that’s my preference.)
Kids of the 90s will recall the experience of “raising” digital pet friends in the form of the Tamagotchi. I envision that we will have the opportunity to approach AI in this style once again. They don’t come “out of the box.” They need to learn to grow. We both do.
What AI have you welcomed into your life? Please share your thoughts on our social channels!
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