AI has come a long way since the term was first coined by Stanford professor John McCarthy in 1956. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of customer service interactions will be powered by AI bots. Even sooner than that, Gartner says in less than two years-time digital assistants will be able to mimic human chat. That not only includes listening and speaking, we’re talking conversing with a sense of history, present-moment context, varying tone and an awareness of timing. They’ll “know you” and recognise your face, just as a friend would. Freaking out yet?
Rewind back to current day. In today’s world, although chatbots have been around for years and seem to be advancing extremely quickly, the limitations are prevalent. Since Facebook Messenger’s WeChat debuted at its F8 developers conference last April 2016, tests report that the technology “could fulfil only about 30% of requests without human agents.” To add to that, the technology created to process human requests hadn’t been developed far enough, resulting in disappointing usage.
This for me is the biggest limitation of current day AI, chatbots in particular. I’ve come across several online businesses using some kind of chatbot technology in place of webchat. The issue? Exactly that. The fact that I can tell it’s a chatbot as opposed to a real person is an instant turn-off from a human perspective, let alone a customer point of view. I find the conversation wooden, and more often than not it gets to a point where my requirements go beyond the capabilities of a chatbot; where what I really need is more human interaction, less automation. In B2B terms, being treated with anything other than a personal touch might result in customers feeling less valued by the business they’re interacting with, and worst case – taking their custom elsewhere.
Facebook experienced first-hand the potential dangers that come with AI automation. An inability to recognise fake news and intrusive interruptions have also contributed to its downfall. Meanwhile in March last year, Microsoft’s chatbot Tay hit the headlines with racist tweets as a result of its system being hacked, while Google stated their chatbots could eventually become so intelligent they may one day be able to disable their own kill switch. And let’s not forget IBM’s very own supercomputer Watson falling at the Turning test hurdle…
Don’t get me wrong, at IZEN we’re advocates for (and slightly obsessed with) advancing technology. However, the prospect of self-driving cars, being managed by “robo-bosses”, and AI eventually being able to outsmart us may take a little getting used to. But when it comes to showing real empathy vs mimicking reaction, genuine understanding vs pattern recognition, inspiration vs information, will any of this ever be possible without intervention from real people?
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