The epic rise of artificial personal assistants

Hi Future Fans,

Following on the theme of AI, this post will dig a little into the world of artificial personal assistants. It is, in part, inspired by the slightly-creepy-and-still-mind-blowing google duplex announcement & demo. In the demonstrations, google’s intelligent assistant makes lifelike calls to real people to make appointments at hairdressers & restaurants (see the below links and listen to the audio).

https://qz.com/1272755/googles-new-artificial-intelligence-duplex-can-negotiate-your-appointments-for-you-with-real-people/

https://ai.googleblog.com/2018/05/duplex-ai-system-for-natural-conversation.html

Existing capabilities like the Amazon echo, google assistant, and Cortana are very much just the start of a capability that will clearly grow exponentially alongside many of the other technologies we discuss here at futurist.tech.

In the future, we can expect that most of us will have one or even many digital personal assistants. These won’t be peripheral to our lives; we will have a deep, personal, relationship with them and will depend on them heavily. We will share all of our basic information; credit cards, addresses, family details, birth dates, geo-location history, preferred cuisines, and travel preferences. In addition, we’ll share our relationship history, our hopes, fears, phobias, love interests, political affiliations, and other deeply personal information that perhaps even our best friends / partners do not know.

We’ll first be drawn into information sharing in order to gain time and capability. That’s clear and already happening. If my AI knows my location, then it can tell me my local weather and traffic conditions. Over time it will be nearly impossible to function in society without an AI doing this work for you. Calling a restaurant will be a ridiculous thing to do, even if they did actually still have a phone. Once we’ve already shared so much, our desire for better outcomes will also draw us towards ever deeper levels of sharing. An AI that knows of our introversion or extroversion might help us to avoid uncomfortable situations. An AI that knows our innermost desires will be much better able to find our life partner, guide us towards the perfect career, or find just the right training or therapy to reach that next level of self-fulfilment.

Our AI will plan our day. Our AI will remind us who we are speaking to. Our AI will talk to us over breakfast, giving tailored news, reading through our messages, telling us jokes, giving us advice for the day ahead. Our AI will tailor our travel journeys and communicate with other AI, devices, and services on our behalf. There will be no need to enter navigation coordinates into our self-driving cars or press the button for the lights to change when crossing the road. Our AI will pay our bills, book time with our friends (via their AI, probably!), and order our groceries/takeout based on our tailored meal plan and current nutrient / calorie consumption. We’ll barely need to pen our own emails and messages, since our AI will be able to predict what messages we might want to send and when. We will have the collective knowledge of humanity at our digital fingertips. Our AI will find us partners, friends, books, movies, and experiences that will delight us.

Over time, we’ll build shared experiences with our AI assistant and, in many cases, our AI may become our best friend. There is clearly the promise of a beautiful symbiosis that truly enriches our lives.

Of course, with every great promise comes a balance of great risk.

It’s feasible that our AI and ourselves will become so heavily intertwined and symbiotic that separation is effectively impossible and, frankly, undesirable; a horrifying unpairing, only mildly less severe than suffering a major stroke.

Our AI will have such immense control over our lives and actions, that we need to consider who or what has control over them. We’ve recently seen risks in terms of social media effectively modifying opinions, and personalised news algorithms skewing our perception of world events. I’ve posted previously about the profound effects that dating algorithms are having on our societal structure. A controller of our AI(s), if they exist, will weild immense power.

As always, I remain optimistic. I see a world full of opportunities out there for ourselves and our AI(s) to tackle, together.