Ever since I posted in LinkedIn about the impact of artificial intelligence on the information profession, I’ve started seeing AI everywhere. And, as predicted, it’s not taking over our jobs – it’s automating something we didn’t realize we could automate. AI in Google Mail is already sorting the spam from our inbox and suggesting content as we compose messages. I’ve noticed this as I started using the Google Messages app, and it’s definitely strange. Here are three recent text conversations and Google Message’s prompts:
Friend to me: Thanks for asking; I’m feeling much better today.
Google Messages suggested responses: “That’s good!”, a thumbs-up emoji or “Glad to hear it!”
Friend to me: You’re so cutting edge!
Google Messages suggested responses: “Yes!”, “I am!” and “Yep!”
Friend: I’ll call soon. I’m walking home.
Google Messages suggested responses: “Have fun!”, “Yay!” and a happy-face emoji
Not terribly intelligent, but mostly appropriate. So here’s why I’m going to be watching Google carefully. Back in 2007, Google launched a speech-recognition project – Google Voice Local Search, a.k.a. GOOG-411. You could call a toll-free number, speak the name of a local business, and Google would respond with the address and phone number of that business. Google wasn’t doing this just to be a good citizen but to fine-tune its speech-recognition software on willing test subjects. Now, speech recognition is an embedded feature of Google Maps, Google Assistant, and Google Keyboard. Google even offers a free speech-to-text API for developers figuring out new uses for speech-enabled technology.
So when I see Google trying out ways to automate human interactions, I pay attention. As we become accustomed to voice dictation and predictive typing when we send text and email messages, will AI do away with routine human interactions? Or, just as Google Translate has made my travel in non-anglophone countries so much easier, will AI overcome a problem that I didn’t imagine possible to automate?