I cannot imagine my life without AI. Here’s why.

AI is useful, but not perfect.

Jason Fan | September 14, 2019 @ 10:02 am


“Hey Google, wake me up at 8.00am.”

“Ok, your alarm is set for 8.00 am.” 

I have a confession to make.

I am addicted to my Google Home device. 

More specifically, I am addicted to the convenience that artificial intelligence (AI) brings me. 

AI refers to the ability of a computer program or machine to think and learn. Essentially, it makes our devices “smart”. In the case of my Google Home device, it uses AI in order to recognise my voice, and execute commands.

Instead of going through the hassle of setting my phone alarm, I can simply tell my virtual assistant to do it for me. If I am lying in bed, unable to fall asleep because I want to know the capital of Fiji, my virtual assistant is there to help me. 

The convenience is unbeatable, and it makes my life so much easier.

AI has been integrated with our daily lives

Whether we realise it or not, our lives are increasingly run by AI.

A study in 2017 revealed that while 34 per cent of respondents thought they had directly experienced AI, 84 per cent actually use one or more AI-powered devices.

In 2019 and beyond, the number is only going to get larger. And like it or not, it seems that AI is already quite integrated with our lives.

Realising I am about to be late for work, I fire up my Grab app. When using a ride-sharing app such as Grab, AI is used to estimate the journey time, based on data collected from previous journeys. 

AI is also used to find the fastest and most precise route to my office, using current traffic conditions as a guide. 

I reach my office just in time (phew) and begin checking my emails. AI is also used extensively in something as basic as email, although most people may not realise it.

Incoming mail gets filtered by AI into different categories, ensuring that nearly all the emails which land in your primary inbox are authentic. Other emails may get sorted into other folders, such as spam. 

In fact, Google claims that their AI-filtering system prevents more than 99 per cent of spam from reaching your inbox. 

AI is not perfect

After a long day at work, I proceed to take a Grab home for a well-deserved rest.

While the app estimates that the driver is a mere five minutes away, the car only arrives after 15 minutes. 

It turns out there has been an accident on the highway, leading to an unexpected traffic jam. While I know the driver is not at fault, I find myself being slightly annoyed that the estimated time is wrong.

AI, it seems, is not perfect and can also sometimes make mistakes. 

AI is also used by social media giants such as Facebook to decide which ads will be shown to individual users. 

For example, if your search history revolves around travel, then you will be shown ads related to flights and hotels. For the most part, this makes sense. 

But if you were, for instance, researching the history of watches, then you might find that the Facebook AI has determined that you are now an avid fan of expensive watches and start pushing luxury watch ads on your Facebook feed.

(Clearly, these people do not realise that I can barely afford to order fish with my cai fan. AI might be smart, but not smart enough to discern that most 25 year-olds cannot afford a Rolex.)

AI does not learn like humans

“Ok Google, tell me how to get to the National Library.”

“The National Library is a 15-minute drive from here. Drive 600m and take the PIE….”

“Stop. I mean how to get to the National Library by bus.” 

Apparently, even after interacting with me for six months, my virtual assistant still does not realise that I do not own a car.

Human interaction is still necessary

Despite the apparent smartness of AI, it is still a machine.

While AI is undoubtedly many times more efficient than humans, it can sometimes lack creativity and originality. After all, it is only capable of learning from previous experiences.

It might not be able to think outside the box, or learn like humans do. AI often has issues selecting the right response, especially in a situation that it has never encountered before. 

Feeling hungry and adventurous, I asked my virtual assistant to teach me how to bake a cake.

“Ok Google, give me a chocolate cake recipe.”

My virtual assistant began rattling off instructions on how to bake a cake, without realising I have never baked a cake before.

“Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 9-inch cake rounds. Dust with flour and tap out the excess.”

Wait, what? Butter the rounds? Dust with flour? I have no idea what any of this meant.

“Mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a stand mixer using a low speed until combined.”

Hold on, what if I don’t have a stand mixer? Can I use my hands? How slow is a low speed?

Unfortunately, my virtual assistant seems unprepared for how unprepared I am. 

“Sorry, I can’t help you with that yet.”

Sigh. While I have no doubt that my virtual assistant is able to instantly provide me the best recipes available online, it does not take into account that some of the instructions would not make sense to a novice. 

My virtual assistant can tell me almost anything, but apparently it is not quite capable of teaching.

“Hey Mummy, can I bake a cake without eggs? How to mix ah? Is the oven switched on?”

Sometimes, nothing beats human interaction, like in this video: 

Top photo via Google Store.

This sponsored article by Beanstalk Singapore has reminded this writer that while AI is smart, it may not be the best teacher. 

About Jason Fan

Jason dreams of visiting every country in the world and not dying in the process.  

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