Success with AI might be about what we have for breakfast

AI
Photo by Andy Kelly on Unsplash.com

Watching comedy sketches such as the one on last week’s Friday Futures – the one about AI and other new technology – can make you think. Actually that is what comedy is meant to do, make us realise how ridiculous our behaviour can be.

Chris Nice (made up name?) was talking about AI, future technology and unintended consequences. Specifically, how it is going to replace us all with ultra-logical robots that will realise that we humans are breaking their world and will ultimately kill us all. Once they have taken all our jobs, all we are to the world is a black hole of resource eating monsters, so there is only one logical course of action…

His solution is to make AE machines before we make AI machines. AE in his world means Artificial Emotion. If we make machines and the ‘brains’ that run them love us like mothers then when we ruin our world they will think it is cute, rather than insane, which – logically – would point to only one course of action.

To an extent, of course, we will always programme machines to obey us, otherwise, well…

The real insight, though, is that in everything we are doing and developing right now, we should be more human about it and put more ‘human’ into it. Human, in this context, simply means being more sympathetic (empathetic) with those we interact with. Our customers, for example.

An advertising copywriter, from many years ago, said that when he had a brief and he wanted to work out what to write, he used to walk round his desk and sit facing his chair. That way, he said, he could see things from the customer’s perspective.

It has always been a fascination to me (and I confess that I have never worked for a company with a head count more than 20) that we leave for work in the morning as father or mother, husband, wife, partner, wishing our families a good day. And yet when we walk into work we become Procurement Prevention Officer (other jobs are available) and put on a professional skin whose role it is to protect the status quo, protect our job (nothing wrong with that) and toe the corporate line, thus extending said status quo.

A writing course some years ago. The speaker asked someone in the audience to think up a character. ‘So, who are they?’ he asked. ‘He is a 30 year old man’ came the reply. ‘That is not an answer’ said the speaker, voice rising. ‘What does he have for breakfast? How does he get to work? Does he like tea or coffee in the morning? Does he grumble at the TV? Does he get hay fever? What soap does he use? What does he do on his days off?’

It was quite relentless.

In almost everything we are developing and trying to achieve at the moment, whether it is AI and its dangers, 5G and its so far nebulous opportunities, it occurs to me that we should spend time not just looking at consumer research about what 18-24 year olds use their phone for but working out what they have for breakfast, what they do on their day off, really actually how they want to interact with their phones or their phone company or bank. We are not doing enough of this, not by a long way.

Personal insights, common sense and a strong grasp of humanity will serve us very well as we rush ever faster into the digital adventure.

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