Tag Archives: artificial intelligence

🔥🔥Artificial intelligence more profound than electricity or fire.

A deep dive into artificial intelligence this week looking at some of the announcements about what is possible today as well as a look into the future disruption of the workplace.

Possible today.

The possibilities from artificial intelligence are picking up steam again (did it ever really stop?).

Airing on YouTube later today, Google CEO, Sundar Pichai and Youtube CEO Susan Wojcicki are interviewed on the successes and challenges tech is bringing to the workforce today.

We already know one soundbite from Sundar in the interview:

Artificial intelligence will be more profound than electricity or fire.

He also talked about how much we already use artificial intelligence in our day to day lives. Just yesterday, someone was stunned at how easily I could find a photo from a few years ago thanks to Google Photo’s ability to recognise objects in a photo.

Popular definition of artificial intelligence remains something out of a Jetsons cartoon though and this definition has been generations in the making. Rosie the robot, from the aforementioned cartoon first appeared all the way back in 1962. The result is that stories of what artificial intelligence can do in discrete situations get extrapolated beyond what is actually possible.

What is possible today though is still astounding.

Microsoft recently showed that artificial intelligence can imagine a bird from a short piece of text: “Create a bird that is red and white with a very short beak.”

The result is the image below.

There is clearly plenty of imagination going on in that photo – nowhere was the shape of the bird mentioned, nor that it should be placed on a branch.

However, the researchers showed that this imagination came from historical knowledge of vast numbers of photos viewed. More images showed birds on a branch than flying. So really this is more literal imagination and human-like imagination. When the researchers suggested drawing a bus floating on a lake, it struggled.

This still opens up potential new tools bringing new opportunities. This for example might eventually change the meaning of stock photography or allow Photoshop to fix images quickly.

Just last week, Photoshop rolled out an AI tool to select objects within an image – something that was a laborious task in the past.

Some might contend that it cannot do it as well as if it was done manually and that is probably true but it is unlikely to be noticeable in most scenarios.

Even today things go wrong with photo editing with Vanity Fair recently giving Oprah three hands – something a future AI might be able to warn of or prevent completely.


Whilst there are plenty of opportunities with artificial intelligence, perhaps the biggest fear is around the workplace with people imagining upheavals on a much larger scale to the disruption of the textile industry in Great Britain as factories came online.

The World Economic Forum have released an excellent report looking at the future of the workplace and how jobs might transition in the future. Download it here.

Some of the highlights:

  • Women are more affected by this disruption than men (57% of jobs disrupted)
  • Government, trade bodies, companies and individuals will all need to work together to minimise disruption
  • Administrative and production roles are expected to see the most upheaval by 2026
  • Something that always gets overlooked is the impact on leadership roles. How will those change? The Harvard Business Review takes a look.

One aspect that is already changing is the ability to make better and faster decisions based on sifting through the vasts amount of data that companies now generate.

Here bias may have an impact on businesses. Artificial Intelligence has been shows to have the biases of their programmers built into them. As companies adopt uniform technology platforms, their ability to make unique decisions that outperform competitors may reduce, making it even more important to understand how decisions were came to.

⚰️⚰️2018 – the death of the chatbot?

This week the focus is on chatbots and smart assistants. 2017 saw the rise of the chatbots but January has only just begun and we are seeing the first mutterings of their fall.

Will 2018 see the fall of the chatbot?

Goodbye Facebook M

Last year, Facebook were rumoured to be switching focus with its Facebook M platform, which allowed approximately 10,000 people in San Francisco access to a personal assistant powered by ’M’.

You could ask it to order flowers, a taxi, book restaurants etc. but the technology proved a step too far and in the end the result seems to be a suggestions feature added to Facebook Messenger.

Facebook rarely managed to get more than 30% of requests automated, which is problematic if you want to scale to even the entire userbase of North America, let alone the world.

By far the majority required human intervention and clearly it didn’t look like that was going to improve anytime soon.

The use of people alongside the machine was positioned as a way to accelerate past the efforts of Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, who had a significant head start. In the end the general purpose approach of the assistant proved to be its downfall.

It highlights how far away technology is today from truly understanding us, despite what you read in the press.

It was also text based rather than the voice activated approach of Amazon and Google’s offerings. It feels much more natural to ask an assistant questions rather than open an app and type in requests. I’d rather just go to the Uber app and press a few buttons. That may just be my preference though as I don’t live inside my mobile messaging apps.

Regardless, Facebook M is no more whilst Alexa and Google Assistant go from strength to strength. For now, the general purpose chatbox is put out to pasture, whilst smart assistants rule the day.

Chatbots vs Smart Assistants?

At first glance, other than the voice capability of smart assistants, they look pretty much the same.

They are different. Very different in my eyes.

The smart assistant is a new interface to technology in the same way the mouse transformed computer interfaces and the app changed the mobile experience.

Chatbots are a layer built on top of the app or web interface, whilst the smart assistant is a revolution in the way we quickly retrieve/process information.

That is not to say smart assistants will completely replace the mouse or the mobile app, but some types of apps will surely disappear.

So if smart assistants are the future and not chatbots, is this the end of the chatbot?

The end of the chatbot?

No. Despite the huge sales of smart assistants we are still far away from them being ubiquitous. The app interface and the web are going to be the major way we interact with companies for many years to come.

They also reduce the load on call centres, which saves companies money and is I suspect one of the primary motivators behind adoption.

Gartner thinks that by 2020, chatbots will be handling nearly 85% of customer queries – that would lead to a significant cost saving overall and the decimation of the call centre industry.

Regardless, the foundations of the technology behind the chatbot is not far from the technology required to integrate into smart assistants so the investment is likely to be positive into the future also.

Even better, it gives companies benefits today. People are increasingly savvy about using messaging apps and, unsurprisingly, would prefer to get answers to their queries quickly without hanging around on hold to companies.

Chatbots can deliver on this promise – when they are implemented well.

Many feel like a text reinvention of a company’s telephone routing systems or The old Microsoft assistant, Clippy rather than using any form of artificial intelligence but that I suspect will change in 2018.

Chatbots that aim to solve specific tasks rather than trying to solve everything will succeed. This sets expectations up front and improves the overall experience.

One of my favourite chatbots is by Duolingo, which teaches you how to speak in different languages through a conversation.

When it comes to business to business marketing, chatbots can also level up the experience, providing the information that the specific individual requires rather than generic content written to appeal to everyone (and nobody).

This more natural interaction could also mean the death of the form – though we are still a long way away from that and results in building better relationships – making chatbots a natural fit for an account based marketing strategy as well.