By now, we’ve all heard of Silicon Valley’s shiny new technology: Artificial intelligence and chatbots. They bring the promise of an industry-wide transformation that many believe will reach the scale of the personal computing industry or the commercial internet.
Funding in artificial intelligence startups has increased more than fourfold — to $681 million in 2015, from $145 million in 2011 — according to the market research firm CB Insights. The firm estimates that new investments will reach $1.2 billion this year, up 76 percent from last year.
It’s clear that hopes are high, but, as with any technology, there are limitations. In this case, the technology is the limitation. It took six decades for the first A.I. platform to pass the Turing Test, and we are most likely at least another six decades away from machines being able to ever act without the help of humans — if, indeed, that day ever comes. But, for now, let’s take a look at some of the areas where the hiccups are occuring.
1. We still need the human touch
Facebook’s M is the first A.I. platform to prove that humans may have been the missing ingredient in previous efforts to perfect A.I. With its mix of machine-based and human customer service, M is succeeding where many voice assistants, like Siri, have stumbled. A team of customer service agents — called “trainers” — actually monitor every M communication. No wonder the platform seems so intelligent. However, this begs the question, if humans are what’s so great about M and are essential to the platform, why even use A.I. to begin with? And is M an example of true A.I.?
Then there’s the matter of human perception. Machines like Siri are not intuitive, and they can’t use their “judgment” when it comes to something like booking a flight. If you simply ask for the cheapest flight, an artificial assistant won’t take the initiative to tell you that one flight is slightly cheaper than another but also 10 hours longer. You’ll get the cheapest flight, but you’ll also get a headache.
Machines cannot deviate from what they are programmed to do, and they are definitely not as good at altering their responses to changing situations as humans are.
Beyond that, machines simply cannot understand concepts such as caring, creativity, understanding, and togetherness. No matter their level of intelligence, machines will always lack the human touch.
2. Jobs are safe
Innovative companies that take on A.I. successfully will be those that combine human knowledge with A.I. in order to optimize their employees, not replace them.
Smart companies are buttressing a core group of employees with more power and resources in the form of A.I. This helps with some tasks but still not with all. Again, humans are needed. Who’s giving the direction? Not a machine. Who’s coming up with ideas? Not a machine.
3. Bots will never take the helm
The ability to create machine intelligence that mimics human behavior and thinking would be a huge scientific accomplishment, but even A.I. experts are not promising it will ever happen. So, while smart machines and A.I. continue to grow, there are some instances where they will never be the preferred method.
The days of using A.I. to book meetings has given way to A.I. booking flights and food orders. The goal of A.I. has always been to minimize the pain of mundane tasks, but most A.I. platforms, like Siri, actually end up causing the user more work, due to numerous mistakes and miscommunication on the part of the machine.
Siri’s communication has definitely improved with Apple’s iOS 9 update, but A.I. has actually been a huge letdown, so far. And no matter how far it comes, humans will always be at the helm.
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