AI is starting to drive survival of the fastest

Chetan Dube, founder and CEO of IPSoft believes businesses will live or die by AI adoption

"We are living in a digital Darwinist era," says Chetan Dube, founder and CEO of IPSoft, speaking at the company's Amelia City Lab on State Street, New York. With a view of the Statue of Liberty over his left shoulder and the iconic Staten Island ferry chugging over his right, Dube talked about the company's latest iteration of Amelia, a digital agent he has dubbed ‘the most human AI'.

While the blonde white avatar is hardly representative of today's diversity requirements (that's perhaps a little unfair as Amelia is completely customisable), it is nevertheless pioneering the embryonic market of cognitive agents. It's important to make a distinction. Amelia is much more than a chat agent. In fact, the term chatbot seems a little demeaning, especially when you get to see the depth of intelligence that Amelia can bring to call conversations.

Chatbots typically manage calls through a structured, scripted framework called a decision tree. Amelia, with the considerable help of Professor Christopher Manning, a leading machine learning, computer science and linguistics expert at Stanford University, is managing complex, contextual conversations, information requests and user verifications. More fluid, less woody.

"There is a blurring of the lines between human cognitive capabilities and what machine cognitive capabilities are and we are really starting to answer that ever-allusive Turing question - can machines think?" says Dube. He references stories from MetLife and Electronic Arts where customers who had dealt with Amelia on previous calls actually asked to speak with her again, as she was "the one that was really helpful". In Amelia he clearly sees the potential. While it may not be singularity, it is nevertheless a step forward in how a machine can not just supplement existing customer service departments, it can transform them.

Dube refers to a large banking customer that currently has a call volume of 1.2 billion a year, just for credit card related queries. For mere mortals, it's undoubtedly a huge headache, but for Amelia, well, it's her raison d'etre. The point is, as we have heard it so many times before, AI has the capacity to go where humans cannot.

So, is Amelia going to take jobs? In short, of course she is but as Dube argues, the sort of mundane, "robotic jobs" she excels at will, in theory at least, free workers to focus on other tasks. Inevitably though this will be a moveable feast. Some businesses will see it as an opportunity to scale down, others to grow. Dube believes it is the latter but whatever the tactic he is sure of one thing - if businesses don't start thinking in AI terms, they will struggle.

Don't be a Dodo

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