AI is starting to drive survival of the fastest Credit: IPSoft
Artificial Intelligence

AI is starting to drive survival of the fastest

"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.

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Marc Ambasna-Jones

Marc Ambasna-Jones is a UK-based freelance writer and media consultant and has been writing about business and technology since 1989.

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