If you’ve used an older version of Microsoft Word, you’ve probably seen or interacted with our friend Clippit the Paperclip, or “Clippy” for short. He has been an acute annoyance and a cute annoyance for much of Word’s life, having only been “clipped” from the program in the 2007 version. Whether you’re aware of it or not, Clippy was a pretty advanced form of artificial intelligence!
Artificial Intelligence is a much explored, talked about, and feared topic. Some hail it’s use as the next technological revolution. Some fear and even warn against it’s use, thinking it will start a different robotic singularity sort of revolution. Whatever your view on our new digitized counterparts, AI is being integrated into a great number of things. You will encounter it’s use, and you might not even realize it.
The idea of “human” machine life-forms has been around since the Greeks. The hugely innovative Ismail al-Jazari created many automated “robots” in a time where the magnetic compass was just being invented. One such creation, the automata robot band, was the predecessor to the famous Chuck E. Cheese Band that has played over arcade machine and birthday party cacophony for decades.
Within the past few hundred years, many other humans had also begun thinking about machines capable of emulating and processing human actions, language, and thought. Artificial Intelligence assumes that there is a potentially replicatable logic behind human thought. This emulation of human behavior is algorithmic in structure, making certain decisions based on previous actions and conditions. Although we are still lacking in many areas of computer-cognizance, like “computer-vision,” AI is cementing itself as an invaluable tool, especially in business. Businesses big and small now have access to AI Systems, be it the McDonald’s drive-through that passively “listens” and assists the cashier with taking orders, to the chatbot on your local mechanic’s website which helps you diagnose your problem and quote a repair. Artificial Intelligence is great for employer, employee, and customer alike. So where can we find AI, and how is it being used?
Wouldn’t you like to hire someone with an up-front guarantee that they will preform a certain way without the need for pay and benefits, turnover, or training? What if that same employee never brought their heated emotions from a fight with the missus into the office? Or what if this employee never got sick and was always polite? These same employees will never leak company information, and are constantly learning on-the-job skills. Sounds pretty great, huh?
Chatbots are perfect for many types of business ventures, are affordable, and can easily be purchased and placed on your site. They can be used as an interaction bot on entertainment platforms or a spokesperson in ads. AI can passively collect data about customers in a way that humans cannot, and can get straight to the problem without having to troubleshoot and research.
Utilizing a mixture of human and AI support associates is also an idea on the mind of AI developers. In many cases, the AI will be used as a screening process to determine the needs of the customer before being transferred to a human to complete the support ticket. In another instance, if a chatbot is struggling with something, a human would help the customer handle the more complex requests. Chatbots can relieve some work from the human agents, letting them focus on being the friendly human face of the interaction.
Artificial Intelligence does have its shortcomings, one of the major ones being they’re simply not human. A human can still hold a conversation with more personality than an AI system. Although humans can embed “personality” in AI systems, that system is based on artificial code and there is much less room for spontaneous responses. Humans are, for some reason, still seen as more trustworthy than computerized personalities. If your service has no humans available to talk to, it is possible that frustrated customers will be turned off if their problem isn’t solved with AI or if they want to speak to a human and can’t.
Technological shortcomings are still not uncommon in this stage of AI development. There is still a chance that the AI wouldn’t understand the nature of a support request, or confuse the request with another task, and give an unsatisfactory result. Should your AI system face issues, it may be costly to hire a professional to come in and repair it.
THE FUTURE IS CHROME
Our first glimpse of robot systems may not have been as romantic or dangerous as those predicted in the science fiction novels of the 1960s, but there is something to be said about Clippy: He worked alongside us and never forced our hand. He improved and offered help. He was smart and could understand what the user was trying to do.
No matter how we remember him, Clippy represents a time where artificial intelligence started making it’s way into our everyday lives. That, to me, is his legacy.