Looking at the ways in which technology companies are investing in this area, Colin Lewis, a behavioral economist who provides advisory services in robotics and A.I., made the case that advancements in this field are on the brink of transforming the way people spend thier time.
But how is A.I. already affecting productivity -- if at all? Apple offers the voice-activated personal assistant Siri. Google Now continuously runs in the background on Google products, automatically organizing information and offering users reminders and suggestions. And earlier this month, Microsoft unveiled Cortana, also a voice-activated search and navigation system.
Lewis recently spoke with Inc. and discussed the way that people currently use these technologies. He also gave some predictions about the very next advancements in A.I. that will be a huge boon to personal productivity.
Why isn't this technology used more frequently? Could it be that it's just not advanced enough yet?
I put it more down to human nature. Our own procrastination if you like. We're not taught to simply pick up Siri. So it's people.
Are you suggesting that because this technology has learning capabilities, if individuals use it more, the better it will perform?
Exactly. Absolutely. It's like everything. The more we put into it, the more we get back from it.
What other kind of adoption hurdles do digital personal assistants face?
We want to see a reward. Every time we use a new app, there has to be a reward.
When you're building a schedule, you don't see instant gratification immediately. But when you have a schedule for a flight, or a meeting, and Siri or Google tell you that the traffic is heavy and you should be leaving sooner than you had planned -- that gives you some reward.
In what way can we expect to see the technology advance next?
I think when it can actually start to reason with you. Let's say you're debating an appointment. Which one is most important? And it can actually debate that with you and give you a hypothesis as it were -- why one could be preferred over the other.
How has your everyday changed ever since you started using Google and Siri religiously?
I believe it actually keeps me in a good time frame. I achieve things in an orderly manner. Without it, I would struggle. You know it's so easy just to spend that extra 30 minutes sitting in a cafe or chatting with colleagues or friends. These nudges, as it were, I think are terrific.
Whatever can nudge us in the direction of doing the things that we want to do. And that's what it's about isn't? We want to do these things.
I tend to break things into really small steps. Before I write [contributed Harvard Business Review] articles, I actually collate the research. What Siri should be doing is collating that research for me. It doesn't yet, but it will.
Any parting words?
Use it. Really, the more we use it the more it understands. It anticipates. That's exactly what I'm beginning to find.