If you’ve grown up on a steady diet of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Star Wars, like most of our generation has, a world where robots and humans must live and love side by side is not hard to imagine. In fact, I’m surprised this hasn’t happened already. It’s strange that 70 years later, I’m still talking to black cylinders called Alexa and Echo, rather than resident humanoids that are part of my family. What is surreal is that a 1984’esque scenario is more likely to come true under the modern day political regime than the ‘I, Robot’ world, which was first imagined by Asimov in the 1940’s. How is it that so many years later we are still struggling with the morality and fear of artificial intelligence residing amidst our world.
At the recent Nasscom ILF event, we met Sophia, the social humanoid robot created by David Hanson. She is modeled on Audrey Hepburn and can display 62 facial expressions. However, she is only 2 human-years old and it was obvious that she has a lot to learn in terms of social and contextual relatability. When asked, ‘Of all the places you have visited, which is your favorite?’, she kept saying, “Hong Kong, because that’s where I was born and my family is.” That is perhaps an appropriate answer for a 2-year old to give, but you or I (or any socially aware 10-year old), would probably have thrown in a few comments about how excited we were to be in India. This interaction only reinforced the idea the AI has a lot of ‘growing up’ to do.
While Elon Musk is busy preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse and WW III, others like Bill Gates are strong proponents of AI and its benefits to the society. Enterprises everywhere are jumping on the AI train to help solve for margin pressures. Our clients are using chat bots to reduce calls to contact centers, upsell beauty products, and also help employees raise IT tickets and understand company policies. They are using AI to drive better vendor management decisions, faster fin-crime and fraud detection, touchless cognitive insurance claims and seamless trade finance processing.
Then there is blockchain – the wonderful technology that can help AI explain itself. The traceability and audit trail that blockchain provides can help explain the decision making process and the path taken to get there. Decentralized Bots will be able to better trust each other and can be programmed to operate within the confines of the smart contract (thus avoiding any apocalyptic scenarios). The greater availability of decentralized data would make the AI models more rigorous and increase their applicability in more areas. We are now focusing on this decentralized intelligence: how AI and blockchain can help each other become better versions of themselves.
In the meantime, I await my ‘humanoid best friend’ who will keep my identity and my financial history on a distributed ledger; track my family’s location and well-being anywhere in the world; and discuss Camus and Kafka with me while making my morning coffee. Too much to ask?