One of the most hyped buzzwords of the the 21st century is AI. Artificial intelligence. That, coupled with big data and technology companies that harvest data from their users and customers, sets the stage for AI and what it means for us humans as individuals and as a species.
As an example, already automation has infected manufacturing jobs en masse and that has created a massive upheaval in jobs. Automation, with AI overtones, takes jobs away. Another example, and one we’ve seen on the news recently, is self-driving cars– autonomous vehicles. Human drivers are not going away in the next few years, but being a taxi driver or truck driver may not be a long term occupation.
Artificial intelligence means disruption isn’t just on the way, it’s here already. Siri on the iPhone may have been a watershed moment because Apple’s initial version of AI spread rapidly and spawned competitors; Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, and now Samsung’s Bixby. Apple’s Siri has gained the most public recognition, yet this first attempt at AI is modest by most measures, a harbinger of the future by some, and laughable by many others.
Siri listens. You speak. Siri responds. That response can be a question, but usually it’s in response to a query, but more recently Siri also takes requests for actions. Yet, from my perspective, Siri remains much like a child; taking in information, responding to a few questions, always listening.
We’ll know that the future is here when Siri stops listening and starts talking.
Wait. Doesn’t Siri talk now? Yes, but always in response to a question or request for action. About the only talking Siri does is announce the name of a caller to my iPhone. Siri can read, yes. But not with understanding. Siri may know your name and where you live and where you are at the moment, but Siri doesn’t know much else about us.
When Siri starts talking to us about what we’re doing and why, we’ll know the future of AI has arrived. When Siri beings to tell us about events without us asking, then we’ll know artificial intelligence is a force to be reckoned with– if it’s not too late by then. When Siri informs us about topics she has recognized and observed as interesting to us, then we’ll know all the hype about AI is real.
For now, Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung Bixby, and others, are little more than parlor tricks with a voice, a childlike assistant with an artificial attitude, more promise of the AI to come than the reality which may get here. Some day. In the meantime, Siri will listen more, and respond to queries more, but there’s a day in the future when that changes.
The key will be when Siri stops listening only for our commands, and starts talking to us as an artificial intelligence that knows something about us already.