Truphone co-founder James Tagg recently addressed the critical role artificial intelligence (AI) will play in helping smartphones and other technology platforms evolve. Tagg, who authored ‘Are The Androids Dreaming Yet,’ kicked off his presentation in Mountain View, California, by exploring some of the basic differences between humans and machines.
“Human brains are fundamentally ‘broken’ in certain ways, especially when it comes to accurately remembering a specific event a few weeks after it occurred. Yet, we can recall more than 1,000 faces – in less than 370ms (each),” he explained. “We also understand hierarchy quite well, although we have difficulty with recalling names. Plus, humans adhere to strong rules of etiquette around face-to-face communication.”
Obviously, says Tagg, machines are not constrained by etiquette and limitations such as memory loss, although they are currently unable to recognize faces and interpret scenes as intuitively and rapidly as humans.
“Although computers and robots already ‘compose’ music, poetry and art, machines still require human guidance. Of course, a computer can’t really decide what to paint at this stage, so it merely follows instructions,” he continued. “Remember, machines are just barely capable of passing very limited Turing tests. They are nowhere near having the ability to wake up in the morning with a creative epiphany.”
As Tagg notes, Alan Turing invented the computer, helped win World War II and left us with one of the greatest puzzles of our time. Simply put, can computers do everything a human mind can do? Or, when will smartphones and other such devices be as intelligent as us? Certainly not before 2053, says Tagg, and we are likely looking at 2080 and beyond. In the interim, software developers are working to design bots for smartphones and other devices based on current technology.
According to Amir Shevat, head of developer relations at Slack, the upcoming generation of bots should be capable of passing the Beer Test, rather than a Turing Test. So, what is the Beer Test?
“I was [once] asked to interview several engineers and product managers. In addition to assessing their tech and product skills, I had to answer this question: ‘Would you go out for a beer with this person?’” Shevat explained in a recent VentureBeat article.
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“It’s a simple question but one of great depth: Do you think this person is someone you’d want to work with every day? Is this a person who will not only be effective but is also a good person? I would say that a person who passes the beer test is delightful, interesting and fun.”
To be sure, says Shevat, there are several reasons engineers should be interested in coding delightful bots rather than humanized bots. First and foremost, designing humanized bots capable of passing a Turing Test is “super hard,” as the process involves advanced natural language processing (NLP) and complex conversational skills.
“[In contrast], the technologies for building a great conversational user experience are available today,” Shevat concluded. “You can provide a great service without requiring all the complex skills humans have. As we move to the conversational office era, it is time to take the step forward and provide your service as a bot — not an impersonator bot, but a friendly and approachable bot.”