Walt Kelly’s Pogo said it best. “We have met the enemy and he is us.” There is a mad rush to get to the future of artificial intelligence and personalized robotic assistants.
For now, Siri is just a voice, but new enhancements to Siri’s memory and ability to maintain personalized context will move our Apple devices yet another step into the future, and for that I have mixed feelings and contrasting opinions.
Siri As Overlord
The future is personalized robots with artificial intelligence, and whether these show up as mere voice in a device, or as moving and nearly sentient digital creatures from the movie I, Robot is merely a matter of time. Already, Siri responds to our queries and commands, and that digital toothpaste is out of tube and not going back.
What of the future of Siri, AI, and Apple? Wil Gomez:
Apple’s Siri is a step in the direction of future robotics but Siri is headless; a voice from a computer, smartphone, or tablet that interacts well with humans, but has no physical personification, and that seems strange given that Apple is a hardware company.
Let’s call Siri a bot. But for now, Apple doesn’t have a robot, which, as Wil notes, seems odd for a company that prides itself on advanced hardware.
Regardless, the physical bots are coming and for now Siri leads the way having already been installed and ready to use on over 1-billion devices. Take that, Amazon Echo and Alexa. A few issues have to be solved and some technology needs to fall into place before our iPhone’s, as personified by Siri, become our new BFFs.
- First, cloud infrastructure. Apple is getting there but so far has managed to keep Siri running thanks to Apple’s convoluted cloud system which is comprised of home grown tech, IBM, Google, and Microsoft cloud technology. Apple needs to own this piece of the pie.
- Second, personality. It’s Siri’s human-like persona with an attitude that makes her popular and somewhat useful, despite less visible advances in capability (visible in Alexa and Google’s whatever-its-name-is-today).
- Third, Quantum Computing. This is the big leap that will give near sentient capability to Siri and competing bots which have their brains– not on the devices themselves– but stored in the massive confines of iCloud and other systems, and able, like a ghost that travels from person to person, inhabiting one body after another, to live within any device with a microphone, speaker, Wi-Fi, and enough power and battery to make it mobile.
None of these advances will happen overnight, and, at times, the progress will seem glacial instead of incremental. Many of us hope to create a relationship with our devices that borders on friendliness, rather than pure subservience. The robots in I, Robot were subservient but didn’t like it. I’m not certain that near-sentient cloud-based creatures will be more like humans, despite our desires, but I worry that they may grow sufficiently powerful that they decide to clean up planet earth of the pestilence that infects it today.