The Tech Natives and AI
Christopher Isak, Founder and Managing Editor of TechAcute takes a look at AI through a Millennial lens.
MSL: First of all, how well do you think Millennials understand AI and how receptive are they to AI driven technologies and services?
Christopher: I think all of us, not just Millennials, often misinterpret what AI is and is not. AI has become a bit of a buzzword slapped on products. Does it refer to an artificial entity that can think, grow and is self-aware, or is it a machine that can actually mimic natural cognitive functions such as learning and solving problems?
Because AI is still largely undefined and lacks scope, it's tricky to truly understand. I believe personal AI assistants like Cortana from Microsoft, Siri from Apple, Alexa from Amazon, the Google Assistant and other such services will do the pioneering work for AI-driven technologies. These essential user experiences, which Millennials are highly receptive to, will shape future interactions with all types of AI for the better.
MSL: How do you think Millennials will engage with AI products and technologies differently from other demographic groups as consumers and in the workplace?
Christopher: Collectively, Millennials differ from other demographic groups in many ways, but I hesitate to put them into a drawer with respect to AI. As individuals, they have a wide range of feelings and opinions about products and technologies. I will say, however, that Millennials are more likely to interact with AI if they grew up in a household that embraced digital devices and the internet quite early in comparison to others.
If Millennials like and trust AI as consumers, they will very likely demand the same ease of solving problems in their work environments. From my point of view, Millennials will be the most active users of AI technologies and the most critical in questioning the systems.
MSL: If Millennials are more comfortable with AI than other generations, will it create a generational divide and where will that divide be drawn?
Christopher: There is already a divide between those who support AI and those who don't, but it is not a matter of demographics. As an example, the line will be drawn between people who use self-driving vehicles and those who will not, under any circumstances, let AI control them, their location or anything about them. Let's play out a possible scenario. Once governments start using self-driving vehicles, the divide will either support or oppose AI.
MSL: As a Millennial yourself, what do you like most about how AI is influencing society?
Christopher: While there is a lot of discussion about privacy protection and data usage, I find it interesting how some companies leverage AI with contextual user data to improve the experience in ways we couldn't imagine a couple of years ago. My smartphone can suggest apps I'm likely to need based on my usage pattern, time of day, geographical location and other metadata the phone manufacturer or owner of the AI assistant knows about me. When I wake up, I get the news I want. When I leave the house, I get an app to buy a commute ticket. When I have a meeting coming up, my phone tells me about it, the participants and the route I have to take to get there.
These functions are really what an AI assistant is about. It assists you, helps you, makes your day simpler. These features and functions are just the beginning and I am very interested to see more soon. It's only now, after a decade, that smartphones are truly smart, even though they might not yet be truly intelligent.
MSL: What are your biggest concerns about AI and how it will be used?
Christopher: While leveraging AI to advance the human race and protect our world is desirable, we must make sure the technology is equipped with rules. Humankind is controversial, to say the least. A newly "born" entity that knows nothing but logic could consider humans not only irrelevant, but even see us as threats to the existence of the planet and therefore a threat to the existence of AI.
MSL: What are your top predictions of AI's impact on business and industry?
Christopher: To name one example, Amazon played a crucial role in generating demand for product quality, customer service and delivery speed. All of that combined to create a high comfort level users were not familiar with. Beyond tackling retail, Amazon put a lot of effort into raising the bar even further with things like Amazon Dash buttons or asking your Alexa AI assistant to order more cookies for you. These developments changed the way we consume.
AI has even more potential for disruption in business and industry. If a company uses AI to make decisions, why would they keep analysts and other knowledge workers around? If AI can optimize team performance to a record high, why do they need managers? If robots already do a great job on all fronts, why keep workers? And most intriguingly, if AI always makes the right decisions and never sleeps, why do we need CEOs? We could take this further and further until we're talking about a dystopian future, but I really don't feel that negative about it or think we should be too critical. When leveraging AI, one of the most important aspects is to not stop thinking on our own, but to stay relevant and keep improving.
MSL: Any last thoughts on AI?
Christopher: I believe this field of science, research and development has massive potential, but as with every technological milestone, we need to make sure it cannot be turned to harm humans. AI can be used not only for consumer entertainment and commercial uses, but also to discover cures for terrible illnesses.
We cannot rush into this space blindly. We should rapidly think about how to regulate and govern progress not to slow our options down, but to preserve our environment and life as we know it. AI must always recognize humans and the living environment as priorities and necessities for its own existence. For Millennials and every generation before and after us, this is most important.
Christopher Isak is the founder and managing editor of TechAcute, an online magazine focused on technology-related topics and news for consumers and businesses. He is also an information technology (IT) and business analyst for Global Media Services (GMS), where he supports global enterprises and helps enable collaboration on an international scale. Christopher provides his perspectives on how Millennials perceive and will interact with AI and how it will shape the future world.