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Is Artificial Truly More Intelligent?


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If you’ve ordered anything from retailers on Facebook recently, you may have noticed the speed of some message replies. Just an instant after your initial “Hello, I would / am interested / would like to buy…” you’re greeted with a friendly “Hello there! We are very interested in your order, and will get back to you promptly!”

This ladies and gentleman, is the chatbot, a mighty useful feature especially for small businesses where resources are tight. It buys them a bit of time to get back to customers, and the customer gets the gratification of an instant reply. It’s a great solution for the instant generation that needs instant attention.

The chatbot is only the tip of the Artificial Intelligence iceberg.

We already spend a significant portion of our days glued to one screen or another. And AI seems set to infiltrate every aspect of our lives. Soon there won’t be a separation between digital and reality. Robots may one day be a mundane feature of life.

Google is building self-driving cars, and their DeepMind has become intelligent enough to master the ancient Chinese game Go. There are robot dogs that can now walk like living ones. Robot companions to help the elderly keep active, to teach our children in schools, to diagnose our illnesses.

In the future, there may be smart homes that recognize us by our heartbeats and speech patterns, which keep themselves clean, make our food and even talk to us.  There is talk that robots will slowly but surely be able to do all the jobs humans now currently perform, rendering us free to live idyllic lives.

Certainly AI can make our lives easier. For example, CIMB has recently launched EVA, tagged as an “enhanced virtual assistant”. It (she?) is an app that helps users perform banking transactions with their smartphones. Current services include checking account balances, transferring money, pay bills and top up.

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AI can also help improve the quality of life, as companions for the elderly and infirm. ElliQ is a robotic companion that can suggest music or audiobooks to read, that can reminds their owners to take a walk or take their medication. It can also learn, thus becoming better at predicting its owners needs over time.

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AI can even do creative work – the ad industry likes to believe itself immune and jobs secure because creativity is the great hallmark of humankind and cannot be easily replicated. Yet IBM’s supercomputer Watson was recently trained by Saatchi LA to write thousands of ads to launch Toyota’s new car of the future, the Mirai.

We are living our science fiction dreams.  But in the race to create smarter computers, better algorithms and more intelligent robots, are we risking our humanity? In our eagerness to create a world of steel and plastic, is there room for humble flesh and blood?

We believe that for now, we remain human, with all our quirks and imperfections.

Evidenced by our staunch love for books, despite the ready availability of e-readers. By how we still love shopping at brick and mortar outlets because we want to touch the things we are buying. How we still need to hear the sound of a loved one’s voice. By the way our smartphones and touchscreens click and beep because we crave sensory confirmation that our actions have been acknowledged (it’s called haptic feedback). We need to touch, see, feel, smell, hear- it’s a need that is wired into us and hard to replace.

This ad by Maxis for Mother’s Day approaches the topic in graceful style. In its vision of the future, AI knows all about us, does everything for us, takes care of us but is to be unable to replicate the intuition, understanding and sheer comfort and warmth of a mother’s love.

How is your brand responding to the advent of AI?
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