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Can the Marriage of Watson and Amelia Produce the Perfect Robot?

By: Jerry Thurber Friday January 29, 2016 comments Tags: AI and HR

Once conceived as a metal humanoid complete with retractable arms, blinking lights and a synthesized voice, a robot made no attempt to hide what it was: a man-made machine programmed to perform a specific set of functions and tasks. It served a purpose, to serve the human. It absorbed, amalgamated and analyzed large amounts of data.  It took the danger out of jobs and kept everyone safe. It had no need to compete with humans or harm them -except to eliminate the occasional villain of course. 

The concept of using artificial intelligence in our day-to-day lives hasn’t changed much over the years other than the fact that it’s become a reality. In many ways, the objective is still the same; to automatic redundancies, increase efficiencies, reduce costs and generate revenue, i.e., make our lives easier and secure. But here’s where it’s evolved… 

Today IPsoft Amelia and IBM Watson’s cognitive technology come close to passing the Turing Test: a test used to measure a computer’s ability to think, behave and respond like that of a human. It’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between Amelia, IPsoft’s virtual assistant, and a real live person on the other end of the phone. Amelia even looks like a snappily dressed, blond haired, blue-eyed woman. Not only can she understand what people ask -in 20 languages, she also responds appropriately to the caller’s emotions both visually and verbally. All that aside, here’s where Amelia and Watson fail: they struggle with simulating our less intelligent behaviors. They don’t make enough mistakes and they don’t lie well. Not to worry though, they’re working on that. 

As humans, we’ve been anthropomorphizing objects since the dawn of time. Before we learned to talk, stuffed animals sang and danced in our faces by family members, friends and strangers. As we grew, we named our dolls, our footballs, our plants and cars, even parts of our bodies. The habit of naming inanimate things and talking to them never really left us, even as rational adults. So speaking to an avatar about a problem in the coming future, in some ways, isn’t that much of a stretch though I’d prefer to hear the error-free truth from a human let alone a robot.

There is already a movement afoot to have Avatar like support for human resource problems. It''s perfect for benefits administration. How well will it work for recruiting and assessing candidates? Is that next? 

About the Author: Jerry Thurber