Business Unusual

Soon you will neither know nor mind talking to a machine

Facebook’s recent F8 conference focused heavily on its Messenger app. It currently allows users to use a variety of bots to arrange or obtain information more easily.

Getting news, buying flowers, booking cabs or arranging air travel can now be done via a text message anytime of the day or night.

What is a bot?

It covers a wide range of applications but they can be summarised as programs that perform automated tasks, many without human interaction, but some as a point of interaction with human inputs.

Non-human tasks

Bots like the Wikipedia's ClueBot monitor updates to the site and reverses edits that are classified as vandalism. It can check and correct as many as 9000 edits a minute and learns over time to be increasingly accurate in what it identifies.

Search engines use web crawlers that read and index the content of websites.

Some Twitter accounts like the Boggle bot plays a new game every 6 hours and keeps scores even though there is no human involved. Another called Stealth Mountain corrects anyone who tweets “sneak peak” and replies with the correction to say it should be “sneak peek”

There are dozens more.

Human tasks

Google’s search engine uses a natural language process to try understand what is being asked rather than simply find matches for the words typed in the input box. For example if you ask “Who is the Batman?” it knows that you are talking about a fictional character but that you most likely looking to know who plays the role and returns the names of all the actors that have played the role.

If you ask “Do I need an umbrella tomorrow?” it will return a weather forecast for where you are with the next day highlighted even though you did not expressly ask for the weather or specify where you are.

Microsoft has a caption bot that will describe what it sees in a picture and other that will determine if there is a person in it and what their gender and age is.

The How-Old bot correctly identified Bruce Whitfield's age (at the time the picture was taken).

The KLM messenger bot tracks all the details with your flight, ticket details, seat selection, dietary needs and updates on the departure time all while you can still message friends and look at pictures of cats.

X.ai aims to makes setting up meetings easier when someone requests to meet, you simply cc amy@x.ai and “she” will follow up and check your calendar for free time and check which works best for the person that would like to meet you. It would be interesting if two people with the bot look to arrange a meeting with each other.

It is a useful service, but this is also where we realise that there is still some way to go. The bot has a human checking all their moves, it is quite reliable but not quite there yet.

This was a similar response for those using the Facebook bots, they are a little slow sometimes and often don’t understand.

So rather than taking jobs away in the short term the new job of botsitter will create work for humans in the short term and even when they do get good enough to not need a sitter they will be doing work that few humans would want or would be able to do for as long and as accurately as humans.

One of the most impressive demonstrations of just how good AI can be is illustrated with a project to try create a painting to match Rembrandt style that might impress the master himself.

This is not a flash in the pan and while the tipping point may be a year or two away, it will not be too long before people will not only lament that fact that we don’t talk to people face to face anymore, they will remember fondly when we interacted online with other humans.

Read More
3 Business Unusual predictions for 2017

3 Business Unusual predictions for 2017

How speech, hacking and blockchain will generate lots of news this year.

The world in 10 years time

The world in 10 years time

The six megatrends the World Economic Forum believes will happen in the next decade.

A code of ethics for code

A code of ethics for code

Almost everything runs code now, we assume it is good code, but how would you know?

MailChimp - odds are you received an email from them in the last 7 days

MailChimp - odds are you received an email from them in the last 7 days

Email is 45 years old. MailChimp is 15 and has made this "old" tech big business.

When you find out this is true, it will make you angry

When you find out this is true, it will make you angry

There is no shortage of news stories, but determining which are true is no simple matter.

What a three-way Olympic swimming tie says about our strange measuring system

What a three-way Olympic swimming tie says about our strange measuring system

The metric system defines the world around us, but those definitions are not what you think they are.

Popular articles
Hooters introduces 'angel shots' to rescue women from dangerous dates

Hooters introduces 'angel shots' to rescue women from dangerous dates

Hooters SA has introduced the ‘Order an Angel Shot’ initiative for female customers who are feeling unsafe during a date.

Zuma taking over from Zuma is a good thing - Jacob Zuma

Zuma taking over from Zuma is a good thing - Jacob Zuma

Political Analyst Dr Sethulego Matebesi says it is concerning that the President is publicly and boldly endorsing his ex-wife.

South Africans get a kick out of Pornhub, Dr. Eve uncovers

South Africans get a kick out of Pornhub, Dr. Eve uncovers

South Africans enjoy watching pornography, so much so that they've made it onto the top 20 countries with highest hits on Pornhub.

Naked Scientist explains why mosquitoes 'discriminate' who they bite

Naked Scientist explains why mosquitoes 'discriminate' who they bite

Dr Chris Smith explains why some people are more desirable than others to mosquitoes.

Absa may have to pay R2.25 billion for unlawful apartheid era bank bailout

Absa may have to pay R2.25 billion for unlawful apartheid era bank bailout

M&G's Pauli Van Wyk speaks about Public Protector's preliminary report implicating Absa, Reserve Bank, Treasury and Presidency.

Consumer Commission to make a decision on Ford Kuga

Consumer Commission to make a decision on Ford Kuga

Spokesperson for the National Consumer Commission says they believe consumers are exposed to potential risks in these vehicles.

Reserve Bank Governor on outsourced printing of bank notes and 2017 predictions

Reserve Bank Governor on outsourced printing of bank notes and 2017 predictions

Governor Lesetja Kganyago says South Africa asked international companies to print banknotes as part of risk management.

House prices slump in some parts of the country

House prices slump in some parts of the country

Property economist at FNB, John Loos, says the drop in house prices is due to slow pace in economic growth.

Vaal Dam levels increase by 5.2%

Vaal Dam levels increase by 5.2%

Department of Water and Sanitation says recent rains have increased the Vaal Dam levels but more is still needed.

It's not the end of the road... Top tips to improve your matric

It's not the end of the road... Top tips to improve your matric

"Recognise that it’s not the end, it’s the beginning." Expert advise for school-leavers who want to improve their results.