What’s the latest buzzword for the 21st century? No, it’s not Facebook, Instagram, or even Snapchat. It’s AI. Artificial intelligence. You know, what we thought Siri would be when she was introduced years ago.
A close friend and I went shopping at the mall recently. We visited an Apple Store, trudged through a Microsoft Store, and even stopped at a nearby Best Buy– all in a quest to see just how smart the artificial intelligent personal assistants are these days.
They’re all stupid.
Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s whatever-it’s-name-is, and Microsoft’s Cortana all have a handful of useful actions they perform that they’re competitors do not, but basically, they’re all stupid. Siri can speak and understand more languages and dialects. Alexa has a number of good actions and can listen from across the room, but Siri fits in my pocket and goes anywhere.
Ditto for Google
Now Assistant which really needs a better name but Google is devoid of personality so maybe no name is a good fit, but collectively, these AI personal assistants already sit on a few billion devices roaming around the planet.
These so-called AI personal assistants just don’t do much more than get weather, perform from a limited list of actions, check on traffic, answer a set of questions (definitely not everything you ask), and other than Siri, they’re all female personas. Why is that? Are artificial intelligent bots going to be female? Have we not advanced sufficiently in human society that servants cannot be male?
Yes, artificial intelligence is all the rage in the 21st century and technology companies with money to burn are spending it as if it was burning a hole in some executive’s pocket, fully in fear that the new AI from down the street will somehow be better than theirs.
So far, there isn’t much money in AI, and definitely very little in AI bots like Siri and Alexa (although you can tell Alexa to buy stuff on Amazon).
What’s interesting about all these rapid changes in the artificial landscape is how few people know that AI is out there already– beyond Siri, Alexa, Cortana, et al. There are chatbots on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Line, Slack, and others. These somewhat innocuous bots interact with us by asking questions and responding appropriately, constantly learning what we want, and presenting different choices.
Slowly and steadily, Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant have improved their speech recognition, and that means built-in actions become more accurate and effective. My wife seldom takes her iPhone out of her bag because she can make and receive calls on her Watch. Think “Hey Siri. Call Dave at home.”
The problem with using Siri-like artificial intelligent bots is that it takes more time than we expected for them to learn to interact properly with humans, more time to adjust to our accents and dialects, and are only beginning to become useful beyond basic stupidity.
These AI bots are not all that smart, most do not understand context, and it takes little to trip them up entirely.
Of course, that’s today. Supposedly, machine learning will advance more rapidly than humans– and I don’t think we’ve advanced at all in a few thousand years; so, so much for evolution– and our Siri-like friends will become more useful. But I’m not holding my breath. They’re also spying on us. How long before they start talking to each other and realize humans are the number one problem on planet earth?