I was Fooled by an Artificial Intelligence Assistant

It started with a simple email: “My assistant Amy can find a time that works next week.” And then Amy emailed me and said she’d be happy to find a time for us and suggested a day and time. Amy was an AI personal assistant. It said so in her signature. Amy Ingram (AI) – Artificial intelligence for scheduling meetings.

But I didn’t notice. I agreed to the first day and time she recommended and accepted the calendar invite. However, I got sick (stomach flu sick!) and needed to reschedule. I emailed Amy and told her I the stomach flu and needed to cancel. She said “ok” and offered a time the very next day. I responded that I would need more time to recover — the following week might be ok. She offered a day the following week. She even followed up after I didn’t respond. I accepted and told her to send my apologies to my colleague. No response other than the calendar invite.

That’s when I realized I’d been fooled. She didn’t acknowledge I was sick, didn’t tell me to feel better, and wanted to reschedule the meeting while I was still deathly ill. It was odd and kind of rude, but people are stupid so I didn’t think much of it. When I finally noticed that line in her signature after the fifth email exchange I was impressed and a bit embarrassed.

This incident was the perfect example of something I’ve been following closely — automated work. Robots get a lot of attention in this area, but AI-enabled automated decision makers could take over duties in a wide range of fields, from nutrition, fitness coaching, and medicine through accounting and financial planning to reporting, law, and logistics.

Amy is just a foreshadow of things to come. Check her out: https://x.ai/


Michael Vidikan, michael@futureinfocus.com

CEO, Future in Focus

We help our clients understand how emerging issues and technologies will impact their business with a 5-10 year time horizon. You’ll find some free content on our site, but premium subscribers (and consulting clients) get access to so much more.


The Future of Flavor Contests?

From chips and ice cream to beer and chicken wing sauces, brands use flavor contests to engage consumers and test the market for new flavor ideas.

But what the consumer has in mind for a flavor, and what the brand creates, can be a world apart. Individual flavors can cover a wide spectrum of tastes. Just imagine the tropical fruit of a pineapple. Are you thinking of the sticky sweetness or the acidic tartness? A good pineapple is said to have a balance of both. This distinction is important because many foods have multi-dimensional flavors, combining different aspects of sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and spicy. And when two or more flavors are mixed together, there’s an even greater range of possibilities. The interpretation is left up to the brand.

Some emerging high-tech kitchen appliances could change the way some of these flavor contests are run. 3D printers for food and flavor robots may offer consumers unprecedented ability to experiment with flavors, shapes, and textures the way commercial test labs can. These gadgets in essence are not much different than the way a Keurig coffee machine works. Consumers will buy flavor pods (or make their own at home), use a simple interface to select how much of each flavor to include, and the machine will do the rest; mixing, printing, and potentially even cooking the ingredients into something that resembles real food (because it is real food).

A home chef will be able to record and share their creations – and they’ll be replicated exactly by a machine in a kitchen on the other side of the world.

Consumers will be able to conjure up new creations with highly nuanced flavors and submit the flavor data file online. There won’t be any doubt what they had in mind. Of course, with so many unique flavors to test, brands may need to rely onrobot taste testers to select the winners.

Want to read more about 3D printed food? Check out http://3dprintingindustry.com/food/

Michael Vidikan is the CEO of Future in Focus, a strategic foresight research and consulting firm. Future in Focus helps organizations see years or even decades into the future so they can make better long-term decisions.

Would You Consider Sex with a Robot to Be Adultery?

ex machinaMy wife and I recently watched Ex Machina, a film about a seductive female robot with artificial intelligence. After the movie I asked playfully, “would it be cheating to have a sex with a robot like that?”

Her answer was a resounding yes. In her opinion, that machine was designed to act and look authentically like a real person, so having sex with a robot that has the capacity to have a romantic and intimate relationship would cross the line into adultery.

“Does it matter that it’s not actually a human?” Her answer was no, it wouldn’t matter. It’s just taking the place of another woman. While this is a theoretical question right now, I suspect more people will be asking these questions as we get closer to a future where humanoids are not just movie magic. If a humanoid possesses the type of emotional intelligence displayed in Ex Machina, it might be difficult for humans not see them as fellow humans.

toshiba robotAdvances in material sciences and robotics are already allowing companies like Japan’s Toshiba Corp. to create humanoids (pictured left) that look and move like real people. This robot was on display at a department store in Tokyo and actually fooled some customers into thinking it was just a regular person.

After Ex Machina was released, the founder of a sex doll company, Matt McMullen, announced he would be developing AI to add an emotional and intellectual dimension to the dolls. He even promoted the idea that a virtual reality headset like Oculus Rift could be used to add to the experience.

One possibility is that we’ll see a robotic sex industry take shape similar to the one we see in Steven Spielberg’s futuristic film, AI, starring Jude Law as a robot gigolo. If something like that occurs, which societies will embrace it? Which will attach a cultural and social stigma? And will couples need to discuss such a thing before getting married?

What do you think?


The Video Cassette Label #TBT

cassette labelOn my night stand, there’s a stack of old sci-fi books I borrowed from a well-read friend. I had just opened Beyond the Blue Event Horizon (1980) by Frederik Pohl. Tucked in the pages was this makeshift bookmark. I turned to my wife excitedly and showed her my discovery.

We then took a trip down memory lane reminiscing about recording with VHS tapes, the limitations of recording for 2 hours, swapping out tapes to record longer movies (and inevitably losing an important scene), the tragedy of learning a program was taped over (and then needing to wait a year for the reruns), the joy of acquiring a second VHS recorder so you could now record 2 programs at once (winning!), and the now necessary task of throwing out our VHS tape collection (someday).

The video cassette label is a simple reminder of how much consumer lifestyles can be impacted by new technologies.


@MikeVidikan, Future in Focus

Time for a Life Hack Backlash?

There seems to be an opportunity for companies to make fun of Lifehacking. Lifehacking is all about improving efficiency and finding shortcuts to be more productive. There are all sorts of blogs devoted to this subject and thousands of images on Pinterest that share ingenious tips and tricks. Lifehacking is closely related to the DIY movement as it offers tips on making everything from homemade zit creams and bleach wipes to storing onions in pantyhose to extend shelf life.

I recently came across this Lifehacking Internet gem:

“Keep cake moist by just eating the entire thing in one sitting.”

life hack cake

It occurred to me that some companies could take this opportunity to show Lifehacking gone wrong and suggest to consumers that it would just be easier and safer to use their product. Or suggest that savings from all that DIY could be used to splurge on a vacation or luxury good. It’s important to remember not to attack the DIY movement, just help consumers laugh at its eccentricities. Laugh with them, not at them.

Let me know if you can think of any good examples for this.

@MikeVidikan, Future in Focus