Negative Effects Of Technology – Will AI Drive Us Further Apart?

Artificial Intelligence In The Media

A couple of articles just caught my eye and that I found both exciting and somewhat troubling.  If you’ve seen any of the recent Microsoft commercials, you’ve seen the part that is exciting to me.  They are dealing with AI (Artifical Intelligence) and AR (Augmented Reality) and all of the possibilities/options that they bring to the table.

In short, the rapper/actor Common is standing on a stage, in a darkly lit theater, delivering a message about technology and the power that it brings to us, along with all that we can do with that power.  He speaks about AI while the background images flash from one action scene to another illustrating what he is saying.  If you haven’t seen that commercial yet, the link is embedded into the second sentence of this post.  Take a minute to watch it.

I love his message and I love his delivery. Common asks the question: What will you do with it?  Like I just said, we are utilizing that technology more than my generation (Baby Boomer) would have ever thought possible in our younger days. We are using this technology to make our lives better, easier and more efficient.  Microsoft and others have a major thrust on advancing the AI technology.

Break-throughs In Artificial Intelligence

One of the two articles I mentioned earlier was addressing the ways they are continuing to improve AI by making it more human-like in the way it communicates.  They are helping it to anticipate opportunities to interrupt (find pauses) to continue the conversation and even continue a two-way conversation for extended periods of time.  Up until now, AI has mainly been us asking for something and it responding.  But think about the ability to actually carry on a two-way conversation.  That really causes one to think about the answer to Common’s question: What will you do with it? And with all of the positive potential of this great new power, could there be negative effects of this technology?


AI In Chat and Messenger Bots

The next article I read was dealing with Chat and Messenger Bots.  This particular variety of AI is already in use with companies like Allstate Business Insurance, 1-800-Flowers and others.  To be honest, I’m ever so slightly conflicted with my statement that this part is troublesome.  I have no issues with companies using the technology to provide better service and quicker response times,  but how often do you hear “Your call is very important to us, so please hold on” for extended periods?  One of my employees listened to that exact message for over an hour and a half just this week.

You really have to wonder just how important my call is with that kind of wait… I’d seriously rather be working my way through the system with AI than to have to listen to that for any period of time.  But, it also removes the personal touch that can often make all the difference in how we feel about the overall interaction.

How Advances In Technology Are Already Affecting Us

a brain with integrated circuits I’m slightly troubled that we now live in a society where most would rather avoid the “live person” interaction in lieu of an automated system to take care of their needs. 

To further drive home the point, I heard someone call into a radio show that was voicing their gratitude/thankfulness that they had gotten to talk with their dad before he had recently passed away just to start the next sentence by saying that they had exchanged text messages just a few days before he passed. 

I watch people, every day of my life, walk around with a phone in their hands sending text messages, back and forth for extended periods of time, rather than pick the phone up and make a call.  I see people sending Facebook messages with their close family members and think that’s a substitute for getting face-to-face, or even calling to talk. And these are just a few of the smaller negative effects of technology that are hereI’m troubled that with the lack of personal interaction that we have come to accept as normal, that AI will only exacerbate the issue. I can almost envision that day when we tell our AI to call grandma and wish her a happy birthday so she ends up hearing a real sounding call, that may even carry on that two-way conversation, all without us having to even pick the phone up and tell grandma that we love her and we hope she has a great birthday…  and could be coming.

The Exponential Growth Of Today’s Technology

I’ve been in the technology industry for over 36 years now.  In that time, we’ve seen advancements that almost dwarf even the creative scriptwriters from early Science Fiction shows.  The computers that we commonly think if as phones today have more computing power than systems that used to fill entire buildings in the not too distant past. 

Today, we can simply say “Hey Siri” or “Hey Cortana” and they start to listen to what we are saying and then return to us the information that we requested.  We have devices in our homes that we can activate by simply calling a simple word/phrase (Hey Google, Alexa, etc.) and they begin to play the music that we requested, tell us a joke, give us a recipe, call a friend, send a text and a myriad of other tasks.  Yes, we use technology more today than at any point in our history and we do so without even giving thought to just how “Star Trek” things really are now.

I don’t want to take this too far (I hope I haven’t already) but Mother’s Day just passed.    And, if you had Alexa (or your preferred device) to send a message to Mom, I hope you’ll stop, pick up the phone and call… Just to talk.  Better yet, if you live close enough to drive by and have a glass of tea, and talk for a while, just because!  I had no intention of ending up here but my mom passed away a few years ago.  I called her four to five times a week and went to see her monthly (she lived 3.5 hours from where we live).  Sometimes it felt like a bit of a chore to make those calls because they typically lasted somewhere in the ballpark of 30 minutes. But, the thing I miss most now is not having the opportunity to make those almost daily calls.

The Future: How Will We Wield These New Technologies?

There’s no doubt we are on the brink of the largest technological revolution in history. So, as the technology continues to advance, use it to it’s fullest to make you more efficient, more productive, more responsive to daily circumstances, more responsive to business needs and to help create a better customer/client experience.  But, don’t allow it to be one more way that we separate ourselves from personal interaction.  The shovel is and has been, a very useful tool for a very long time.  It can be used to plant flowers/vegetables in our gardens, or it can be used to bury skeletons.  So as technologies like AI become more and more commonplace, I’ll challenge you to keep the question Common placed before us at the top of your mind.  What will you do with it?

BizTek Connection is your leader in all things IT and you can contact us anytime with questions. I welcome your comments!