AI Today Podcast #001: Why Does AI Matter?

AI Today Podcast #001: Why Does AI Matter

Show notes:

In their inaugural podcast hosts Kathleen Walch and Ron Schmelzer discuss their reasons for Why AI Matters.

  • It improves the ability for businesses to serve their customers in reliable and efficient ways
  • AI can help people and organizations make better decisions and fewer mistakes
  • AI removes repetitive, boring, but necessary tasks from people’s daily lives. AI can work tirelessly on a single task without losing focus or drive.
  • AI allows people and companies to deal with a lot more information than they can possibly handle on their own. (The intelligent assistant)
  • Self-driving cars and autonomous systems of all sorts.
  • AI can do tasks that are too dangerous for people to perform or go into areas that are too dangerous for humans (robots, drones, etc.)
  • AI can find the important information in a sea of data (needle in a haystack)
  • The big reason: for the same reason we explore space… because that’s where the frontier is!

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A transcript of the podcast is available below:

Kathleen: Welcome to Cognilytica’s AI Today Podcast. I’m your host Kathleen.

Ron: And I’m your host Ron Schmelzer and this is our first of multiple podcasts we’re doing on a topic of what is happening today that is relevant in the field of artificial intelligence and what you’re going to be hearing from us over the course of multiple podcasts is upcoming topics, features, things that are newsworthy, information and of course our focus and feedback and opinions on the topic of artificial intelligence.

Kathleen: Great and so our first podcast is going to be on “Why Does A. I. Matter?”.

Ron: And part of the reason why we’re doing this as our first topic is because we believe that the question is not necessarily being asked enough. We’re doing all this artificial intelligence stuff, but for what reason. Right Kathleen?

Kathleen: Correct. So that’s what we’re going to answer today and this is our opinions on why A. I. matters.

Ron: Yeah. So I think let’s get things started a little bit I know people are really thinking about A. I. and they think about all the great technology the things that can be done but first and foremost the real applications of A. I. that we’re starting to see make impact for businesses today have to do with improving the way that companies serve their customers, make it more reliable, make it more efficient and especially what we’re seeing in the realm of chatbots. I’ve had some pretty good experiences talking online to some customer solutions that I was actually talking to a bot but it served me at 3’o clock in the morning when the phone service is down. I didn’t have to wait until the next morning to go through that long annoying call center to reach somebody who didn’t really know what the problem was and I can get that solved immediately. So for me even though that’s a very narrow, as they call a weak focus of A. I., it was very helpful. I don’t know Kathleen what do you think about that approach to using A. I. to really improve the efficiency and effectiveness of business-to-customer communication?

Kathleen: Yeah and I liked how you had it at 3 a.m. Because I think that one challenge companies face right now is always being there for the customer and call centers have a limited window of maybe 8 to 5 everyday and they’re not open on the weekends. Where I chat bot can be available 24/7 and they might not be able to answer all of your questions right now but they’re pretty good at getting most of them answered. So I do think the ability for businesses to help serve their customers and help be there for their customers 24/7 is definitely improving with A. I. .

Ron: Of course you know one of the downsides to that people say it’s pretty obvious right now that you’re talking to a bot especially when you start having conversations that may not necessarily being complete English sentences if you use in a chatbot or talking about things that may be a little off topic or even things that are on topic but require you’re not communicating all the information like “oh my system is down” like okay what does that mean. So they’re definitely some not necessarily optimal implementations of A. I. right now but I think from what we’re seeing the fellow chatbot the conversational interaction with something that’s pretty intelligent seems to be an effective use of A. I. .

Kathleen: And I think that we have a ways to go but you know but this is certainly a good starting point and I think that everybody acknowledges that, that’s what this is. So another point that I have is to why A. I. matters is that it’s allowing people and companies to deal with a lot more information then they could possibly handle on their own right now. Sort of like an intelligent assistant where it allows people to take information that they would never be able to read on their own or it would take weeks or months and compile it into a short period of time and be able to use that effectively and I think that this is applied in few instances where an accountant for example might not be up to speed on all of the latest policy changes that are taking place or not know exactly how to apply it and the intelligent assistant can help with that. I think that this was also shown during the election with taking all of the polling data and being able to process and understand it in a much fastest time.

Ron: Yeah, that is definitely the case. I think that’s where the big difference where A. I. is being applied instead of just search. Right, because I mean you have Google and Microsoft and all these folks who have really mastered the idea of search but all it’s giving you is just pages and pages of information especially if it’s internal to the company. Like what I really want to know is an answer to this question. So the whole idea of that smart assistant is that well I know that all the information is here but really I want the answer to my question how does this apply to my job or how does this apply to this problem them trying to solve. A. I. seems to be tackling that problem pretty well. So I guess the challenge is really about how do you make sure those systems are smart enough to be able to have the information necessary to answer that question.

Kathleen: Right and I think that there’s you know we’re still figuring that out but we’re getting there and I think that some applications have been shown to be very effective and you know like I’ve said it’s an assistant. So it’s not supposed to be replacing right now it’s supposed to be augmenting.

Ron: Exactly. So, I think sort of like piggybacking on that you know any other great uses of A. I. but also to answer the question why does A. I. matter is it’s really trying to help people and organizations make better decisions. Right? And fewer mistakes so it’s not just about you know having this information at your fingertips but especially this idea of the intelligence assistance really helping guide people saying well in this case this A. I. is not going to make the decision for you but really help you make that decision. We’re starting to see that a lot especially in medicine. You know with A. I. assisted for treatments and diagnosis and things like that, for a lot of applications especially in Military and government applications for decision making. Especially if you’re in a situation like say a battlefield environment where stuff is coming at you from all over the place. Humans were pretty good at making decisions but actually that whole idea of analysis paralysis too much information you can’t actually make an effective decision. So, why does A. I. matter? You know it’s not just helping you get information from a needle out of a haystack but it’s really about helping you make better decisions and I think the better we can build A. I. systems to do that the more useful it will be.

Kathleen: Right, right and then I think that it also you know to go along with that A. I. can help to do tasks that are too dangerous for people to perform and by too dangerous I mean it’s a situation that we would rather have a robot in or a drone in then a human being.

Kathleen: For example war or maybe a fire situation we’d rather have a robot or a drone go in then a human.

Ron: Well let’s get into it. I know a lot of people are really thinking about you know A. I. and they think about self driving car. Right? They’re thinking about you know robots, about drones, this is one of those things that people are talking about. Of course there is some fear about that but what do you think Kathleen as a whole idea of A. I. as applied to all this autonomous stuff?

Kathleen: Right. I mean I am very excited to see where self driving cars are going. I think right now it’s in its infancy and I know that laws need to catch up with it. Which is another, you know to answer why does A. I. matter I think that we need to be talking about this because we need to make sure people are understanding what this means and that, you know, we make sure that we have things and systems in place. Self driving cars is one of them. So we need to figure out in the short-term how human drivers and autonomous drivers can be on the same road and be safe.

Ron: Yeah. And that’s actually making a lot of news and so speaking of AI today, you hear this sort of little bit of ongoing, I don’t want to call it a feud but this conversation happening between Elon Musk on the one side saying, ” Hey guys let’s sort of slow down this rapid adoption of A. I. because we have cars that we’re going to be putting autonomous and they are going to be making decisions about should they speed up, should they slow down, should they avoid this collision. Systems are not necessarily mature enough to be able to make the right decision. If you are driving fast and then there’s this person walking across the street and you can swerve to avoid that person, but at the same time you might run into another vehicle. The A. I. systems may not be smart enough to make the same kind of rational decision that a human might make. So, I think that’s sort of the fears about a lot of autonomous stuff, and of course people watch too much terminator and everybody’s afraid of sky net.

Kathleen: Right.

Ron: They don’t like that sort of stuff, but at the same time I’m with you. What can you do in a universe where you have, you can call a car at anytime, it shows up at your doorstep, takes you where you want, you get on, you get off, and you never…It’s just totally autonomous. That’s the future that we’re still trying to figure out.

Kathleen: Right. And I had recently had read an article where people were talking about self-driving cars for example. You have to be careful about what you tell the car to do versus what you mean for the car to do. So if they say :take me to the airport as fast as possible.” Does that mean the fastest route within obeying traffic laws and speed limits, or does that mean literally get me there as fast as you can go? So, we need to constantly be thinking about that when we are building and implementing A. I. systems.

Ron: And so, sort of piggybacking, sort of a usefulness of A. I. , and why A. I. matters, that has both a positive and a negative side to it, so the whole idea of artificially intelligent system, removing the repetitive, the boring tasks. The tasks that people are doing over and over again, they are absolutely necessary, but they are completely boring, and you see this even today. You walk into a McDonald’s and they already getting the kiosk in operation. Olive Garden you can see these kiosks, and well maybe those systems are not necessarily A. I. they just eCommerce fingertips, it’s obviously not that hard to see the evolution of A. I. making an impact into a whole lot of white collar and service jobs that are occupied by people, and you can walk down the street and go into a strip mall and ” Yep that job’s going to be A. I. , that guy, those will be A. I. . Is it a plus or minus? You know, you can see both sides of the coin here, but we think it’s inevitability. The ability for artificially intelligent systems to do these tasks, reliably, efficiently without tire and of course cost effectively is there. So, that’s something we’re saying.

Kathleen: Right. But going back to the point that I had made before that this is an intelligent assistant, and it’s used to augment not replace in all cases, so we need to figure out and see where that’s going too. Because while it might be easy to go into the local coffee shop, or Starbucks for example and have it be all autonomic. Is that really the right experience for the customer, that there’s no human interaction. You need to take that into consideration too. People might go into the Starbucks in the morning so they can talk to a human before they go into work, and replacing the cashier with a bot, or robot might not be, it might have an adverse effect that Starbucks didn’t think about, that part of the reason why people are going into the coffee shop is to have a human experience. Another thing it does is humans are taught to up-sell and robots may not be. They are just taught to the task, and so maybe Starbucks sales of pastries start going down because of that. So, A. I. matters, and then you always have to think about the actual implementation of it as well. So, just because it may make the store more cost-effective, it might actually have an adverse effect.

Ron: Yeah. And I think maybe this is a good sort of place to wrap it up because we’ve been talking a lot about waves that A. I. matters, and you can even just make a general case that the reason why people care so much about A. I. is like for the same reason people care about space exploration. They may not see necessarily the immediate impact on their day to day lives today, but so much has come out of the process of exploring space, things that we use on a daily basis whether its thermal blankets, and baby formula even came out of the stuff, came out of the Apollo program, even microchips. That the process of exploring space developed technology and similarly we could say just the process of thinking about how smart can we make our systems, make our computers and machines if we just pursue that it might just improve everything else we’re doing, and that might really be the strongest reason why A. I. matters.

Kathleen: I agree. I agree it would be very interesting, and it’s very exciting that we’re this early into artificial intelligence to see where things go.

Ron: Okay. So, I think this is really a good place for us to start. This is obviously our first podcast of many that we’re doing on the subject, and continue to explore this idea of why A. I. matters. Dive deeper into each of these segments look at how A. I. is really being implemented and practiced, talk about cutting-edge applications, and thinking about how really it can apply to my day to day life even if I don’t necessarily see the application of this today I think this is really a good basis for the conversations that we’re going to be having over the next few years.

Kathleen: Agree. Alright listeners, well I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast and we’ll catch you at the next one. Have a great day.

Ron: Thank you for joining us.