Are AI Assistants the Face of Singularity?
No offense, but your mental image of AI is probably adorably simple. But 2001: A Space Odyssey was made an embarrassingly-long time ago—time to stop picturing the blinking diodes of an all-powerful, self-aware mainframe computer.
Artificial (General) Intelligence
It’s a great movie, but let’s get something clear here: the technology we mean when we say “AI” should really be called “AGI.” AI, or artificial intelligence, is a bit of a simplification. What today’s engineers, customers, and enterprises are actually dealing with is something specific: Alexa, x.ai, Google Home, and Watson are extremely powerful bots, but they can only handle so much. Even with all the machine learning they utilize, they’re improving only one specific subject or task at a time. Don’t get us wrong: thanks to these programs, your schedule is easier, your news gets to you faster, plus you can ask for pretty much anything through voice command.
That’s Siri’s Job
That being said, AI assistants are maturing and expanding. We are surrounded and augmented by them. Why would you physically go turn on your stereo when you could outsource that to Alexa? The easiness and helpfulness would be foolish to refuse, in the office and in our personal lives alike. That’s fine—but we should acknowledge that it’s also starting to define us. As Allison Schneider of X.ai noted during a recent AI discussion at the Made in NY Media Center in Brooklyn, we are so surrounded by bots that it’s becoming unclear how much credit for our work we should take when we’re interviewing for our next jobs. Think of it this way: when’s the last time you drove somewhere unfamiliar with just a paper map as a guide? Or—god forbid—wrote a letter in cursive? These are skills we don’t need anymore, and wouldn’t highlight in an interview. They aren’t relevant. With schedule-building bots at the ready, are we destined to forget how to organize, too?
Less Reliance, More Alliance?
We aren’t living in WALL-E’s world yet; all this AI still has a plus side. We’ll hand over responsibilities to programs more capable than ourselves, and our productivity will go through the roof. Our agendas will be instantaneous and exact, giving us free time to create, explore, learn, network, and just… think. AI will give us more time to be human.
The “iPhone” is becoming just the “I.”
So, the road forward is unclear. We need to balance our pessimism and optimism as we see where it leads. The “iPhone” is just becoming the “I.” The line between our tools and ourselves is starting to blur. Perhaps the singularity won’t mean a flipped switch. Perhaps AI will absorb us piece-by-piece until there’s nothing left. But until then, enjoy joking with Siri.
AI can organize your day, welcome you home, and call your mom. Maybe they’re not supercomputers, but when we have so many helpful bots, what can we even take credit for anymore?
AI, future of work, personal assistants, alexa
“Siri, what is this AI and how will it affect me?”