Notably, decades ago, even in the absence of sophisticated technology, screenwriters have tinkered with a futuristic concept. They have pushed boundaries of imagination with an ultra-modern conception of embedding intellectual characteristics of humans into machine systems, which researchers today refer to as Artificial Intelligence (AI). Since for nearly a century, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) was a classic portrayal of science fiction, which now seems like reality. Surprising isn’t it? Who knew our screenwriters could work well for a scientific futurist?
With Ex Machina, Matrix, Chappie, and the likes, we have witnessed way too many unscientific assumptions. But, it’s acceptable to limit that to the cinema, for the sake of creative liberty, right? But the question here is, will we possibly be co-existing with Chappie or Wall-E? As much as it sounds fascinating, psychological research suggests that we might not be ready for it. However, we may be accepting towards such an intrusion by a scientific breakthrough — an almost human-like technology in the near future, to an extent. Likely so, the approval may be restricted by our psychological underpinnings and also regulatory constraints for reasons justified. So, we need not worry to be taken over by lifeless robots. Before we understand the “why”, let’s address the “what and how?”.
Reflecting on the current space, we have experienced subtle involvements of AI in our lives. Almost without realisation, AI certainly has made our lives easy. Let’s start with the prevalent and dominating ones. We have Netflix, Amazon that curates personalised recommendations for us. How do you think that works? They don’t have human resources doing that for you. It’s the machines that replicate a combination of human’s cognitive processes such as learning, memory and reasoning. Or the much talked about, Google Photos for that matter, which has successfully transformed the art of photography through features of AI in its Lens Platform.
Think about those times when brands personalise the experience and tailor their offerings especially for you. Imagine, you revisit and check in to a Ritz Carlton or a Marriott, and you have your preferred newspaper, room scented with the choice of fragrant, accompanied with that top-shelf bottle of champagne or the inclusion of extra- plush towels. Or maybe on your first visit to Hilton, a robot (let’s call her Connie), provides you with tourist information, adapted to you, upon interaction with her. Wouldn’t you feel valued and special? The closest, human-like technology in our lives is Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant. It’s certainly amazing to have someone fulfil our realistic demands at our beck and call.
It is noteworthy that AI has also managed to make a mark in our retail experience. Think about the instant replies to your queries by customer service executives online. But, let’s ponder on the length at which AI can make our lives easy and our experiences memorable. Is AI capable of doing that across brands we interact with? Doesn’t seem like it and I will tell you how.
Although reports suggest that AI has contributed to the success of the retail sector. This is primarily because of digital engagements. What about the luxury space, that is highly depended on in-store experiences? Let’s narrow it down a little further. Let’s reflect on the emotionally resonating product within the luxury industry – Luxury perfumes.
The perfume industry has a strong emotional resonance because the fragrance is olfactory, and the smell is the strongest sense associated with memories and sentiments. In terms of the user experience, a survey indicated that the physical boutique experience is still the chief touchpoint in our entire shopping experience. In tangent with the dynamics of this industry, we have observed a change in the trend of buying fragrances wherein luxury perfume brands are taking cues from the niche while focusing on craftsmanship and personalisation. Suggestively, personalisation requires matching scents with our likes and dislikes; paying keen attention to our dress sense, the way we carry ourselves, the way we interact and what values do we associate to different scents. Convincingly, it is a very critical aspect of human involvement to pay attention to cues, both emotional and responsive, to understand us in this case. Inevitably, such a capacity is not confined within the current capabilities of narrow AI.
Let’s consider a different industry now. We have all heard of Elon Musk’s much talked about driver-less car. You must be looking forward to witnessing the transformation from hype to reality, or even owning one for that matter. But, give it a thought. Are you ready to trust a machine to make life-changing decisions for you yet? What if you are in a situation similar to the famous utilitarian trolley dilemma? Such cases cannot be dealt on the basis of mere logic or cognition. It demands morals, ethics, and conscience. That’s what the current artificial intelligence lacks. AI functions on an algorithmic “black-box” giving rise to scepticism in trusting decisions made by AI. This poses a pressing concern on regulatory bodies to handle it. The progressive complexities in the AI systems cause lack of explainability to the extent that even creators cannot always ascertain how AI makes decisions. With such confinements, we couldn’t possibly trust its decisions. The existing systems are weak that are wired to excel at only predefined tasks and lack sentience, conscience and the “general” intelligence of a human brain. The lack of this explainability has surged regulatory governances and privacy concerns.
Psychologists have proved that our minds are predisposition to fear new technologies. According to research by Ernst & Young, loss of control tends to trigger anxiety and, humans feel repelled by life-like robots – coined as “Uncanny valley”. Thus, although we are looking at achieving a revolutionary technology through AI in the future, such psychological barriers persist as we appear to be challenging the way our brains function. On a final thought, Stephen Hawkings raised concerns that AI could end mankind. However, irrespective of technological revolutions, I believe that the aforesaid underpinnings will create pressing boundaries on the possibilities of AI to defeat us in the battle of intelligence.