Artificial intelligence is about to become much more intelligent.

Bots and services will soon be able to assist us in ways we never thought possible. The infrastructure and technology for this to happen is already in place, and you may already be using the A.I. products on a daily basis.

Many of us already rely on Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, and the Google Assistant. These bots run on our phones, on our bedside speakers, and in our cars.

I'm at CES 2019 this week and A.I. technology is everywhere. Almost every booth and every product offers some form of artificial intelligence. Cars that can steer for you, ovens that respond to your voice, a speaker that can tell you the weather before you leave on a trip.

I was impressed by the Roland Go:Piano, which allows you to play songs as you learn them, share your own creations, and control settings using Amazon Alexa. It made me wonder if everything in our lives will be voice-controlled soon.

In 2019, bots and A.I. will become even more useful. Incredible advancements are on the way. A.I. is going to change the world.

There's just one problem standing in the way of progress: You.

For bots to become more useful this year, the one roadblock--the major impediment--is that we are not quite ready to trust them, and honestly, it's for good reason. During one demo at CES that had to do with automated driving, the presenter was demonstrating how Alexa works when suddenly the bot chimed in, disagreeing with what the presenter said. Oh my.

It's a pivotal moment in time. Imagine a presidential debate next year that's moderated by a bot. How about a car that doesn't let you speed, and doesn't let you take an exit off the highway because it sees another car careening out of control several blocks away? Is your phone shutting down because you've used it too much that day? Blame the bots.

Or what about blocking calls so you can get some work done, but then allowing a call anyway because the bot determines that you need to know about an important problem.

We're about to let the bots think for us. We'll cede control.

It's coming this year, but we're not really ready for it.

Last year, Google demonstrated how a bot could make phone calls for you, booking an appointment with a hairdresser and making reservations. Bots can learn what we like, track all of our Amazon orders, watch our taste preferences at all times. They even say "um" on cue. What's curious about this development is that it seems like it's moving slowly.

It's not.

The old story about the frog placed in water that is slowly brought to a boils won't notice any problems applies here, as does the idea that a watched pot never boils. Basically, we're in the age of boiling pots. We're the frogs. We don't know that A.I. is getting much smarter over time, analyzing how we respond to an Alexa speaker, tracking how we drive to work--accumulating information. We're letting the bots do this, and we see the value.

I'm not about to tell you there's danger ahead, though.

However, I do agree with Elon Musk about one thing. The famous entrepreneur has stated many times that he believes we need more controls and safeguards in place before this all gets out of control, before we hand over the keys to the kingdom.

I would argue that, in some ways, we already have.

My son is one living example. He has used a GPS since the first time he could drive legally. He doesn't know where he's going half of the time, but the bot does. He isn't even entirely sure if a city or destination is north or south. It doesn't matter. The A.I. works every time. He arrives. Why bother learning directions when there's a bot that does it for you?

We need to do more than just start trusting bots more and more. My suggestion is that we all learn a lot more about how A.I. actually works. Not the programming per se, but at least the basics about which A.I. routines are at play, how the apps work--a basic grasp of what the A.I. is doing and why. As they say in the security field, trust but verify. You never just trust. That's a recipe for disaster, and we're the ones being cooked.

We need to let the bots earn our trust, to help us in ways that are new and novel but don't lead to misunderstandings or confusion. The solution is easy. It's all about self-education and paying attention to how A.I. works and how the field is evolving.

It's about knowing exactly what is happening.

The alternative to trust but verify with bots? Don't even get me started on that.

Published on: Jan 10, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.