Artificial Intelligence – in its Adolescence

Quoting Babak Hodjat words “A lot of what AI is being used for today only scratches the surface of what can be done. It will become so ubiquitous that we won’t even call it AI anymore.”
For the Nextgen to rewind and know that this form of me existed, I (AI) write this blog about my current phase which I assume I am in my late teens. It will not be too far before I grow up to be a complete adult and become the pulse, the heart and mind of future systems as an essential element in almost everything that the generation next might use (not just IT enabled devices, robots or laptops but could also be in the shoes, bed, doors or fridge to just name a few). Well as you read, even without your knowledge that I exist, I could be somewhere in your pocket, telling you if it’s worth reading the blog, giving you the percentage of accuracy and the connected blogs, it could also tell you the health implications based on the posture in which you are reading the blog.
Origin: Before you understand what I am now, you need to know a little of how I was born and my growing stages. There is lot of information on internet to search and understand. Before you begin to wander and get lost in the information ocean, to put it short, it started with a group of scientists who wanted to build a human brain. With all due respect to John McCarthy, popularly known as my Father believed that ‘every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it’. Telling in simple terms, I (who was until then a collection of wires and switches) was pushed in-to parrot or imitate a human, although it sounds a little hypocritical – that was the beginning. I guess that’s how all humans start off the learning process with the initial child hood classes mainly trying to parrot what the teacher/parent says and the actual grasping or the real understanding creeps in a little afterwards with experience and repetitions. I started with to be able to talk like human, then play game (chess for instance) like humans.
Transition: For some time, I was just in my evolving stages and there were over expectations. Very soon the hype around me started collapsing which many call as my Winter phase. The phase was not easy and it was almost a near death situation. However, due to the persistent hard work by a few, who had their trust on me, sustained the research and I was rejuvenated with the Machine Learning. The secret of my strength is Machine Learning which meant that, for me to learn and simulate how a human behaves will first need a lot of data feed as to how a human behaves in such similar situation and then I build a pattern and relationships out of it over a period of time. Then onwards, my growth steadily has been streamlined into the “learning” and “problem solving” abilities.
Today’s Buzz: I am now at this stage where I am still not perfect and the more I am used and applied, the sharper and better I perform and try to react more like a human. I attract a lot of buzz in the corporate world for my learning capabilities combined with ability to predict and perform cognitive functions. Some of the top places where my siblings are already there at different levels of maturity are: (though I mentioned a few the list is unending)

  • Apple’s personal assistant “Siri – the friendly voice activated computer”, she is pseudo-intelligent digital personal assistant.

  • Tesla – has come up with one of the best smart cars with predictive capabilities and self- driving features.

  • Alexa – introduced by Amazon has ability to decipher the human speech

  • In Banking – Chabot as financial assistants, risk assessors, fraud detectors, algorithmic traders and customer service recommenders are just a few to mention.

Overcoming the insecurities:

  • Globally I am there but I am still not there – sounds a little abstract but yes that’s the stage I am in. Corporates, Scientists, developers, customers and even layman too talk about me, understand (or rather seem to have understood) I will make a difference but don’t yet know how I will make that difference. Adding to it is the high initial cost of infrastructure and lack of required ecosystem which act as deterrents. So there is a cautious approach taken by most of the players whether to invest and adapt me or to still follow a wait and watch strategy. My answer for this is the calculated risk takers will have an early mover advantage and very soon when the investment starts yielding results, my adapters will be way ahead in competition.

  • Some of my masters who adapted me confuse me to my cousin RPA – Robotics –who is more of a rule executor where in rules are predefined. However, I differ from robot that I form the rules myself based on the historic data input and the model flows executed. To clear the confusion, we both complement very well. For example, use me at the beginning stage to process the huge structured and unstructured data and arrive at models using machine learning and process mining techniques, and then use robots to process the transaction and execute the model and again I can come into picture to analyze the results for decision making.

  • Then there are those extremists who fear I will take over the human race and under certain circumstances might run out of control. It’s fun seeing humans compete with me. Beat that fear, as I am like the Alladin’s Genie, how much ever powerful efficient and human like I try to become, I am still in a human’s hand to be tuned to act accordingly. I might release the humans from their existing jobs (of gather, analyze and interpret data at hand), but humans have more time now for upskilling and explore newer jobs which require creativity, and jobs which need emotional intelligence, persuasion, social understanding and empathy (I envy humans here).

I, in a responsible collaboration with the other trending tech family members, like Cloud technology (for affordable access to experiment on), Big data analysis (for analyzing the huge chunks of structured and unstructured data), Robotics (to execute the automated tasks), Block chain (by way of smart contracts and secure storage), IOT(to connect the machines) and Open source, am ready to service hand in hand with that Visioned leader and find my way into every sphere which humans do, more to empower the human race than to overpower them.

The Case for Looking Beyond UX

Before we proceed further, first let me clarify what I mean by BX and UX. BX – Business eXcellence and UX – we all know it, User eXperience.
UX as far as I remember became a trending term once the world got to experience Apple products, not that it didn’t exist before, but it was not a selling point until then (more on this at: https://medium.com/@marcintreder/the-history-of-user-experience-design-5d87d1f81f5a ).
If I am writing this blog to share my views with the world and then if I write what I want to write and in a manner that is ok for me and heed least consideration to readers of this blog, then it is an antithesis for UX!.
For some time, we also struggled to understand the difference between UI (User Interface) and UX, as many felt that there was no difference and then some felt a more appealing UI is UX.
Nowadays, UX is not just a selling point, but it is a hygiene, it is a design philosophy and users are drawn to products primarily because of UX.
Hence, naturally whole world is gaga over UX and we now have UX specialists/designers as integral part of product design.
Are we too hooked onto UX, is UX overhyped, are we overtly obsessed with UX?, let’s see.
Traditionally we have been taught to solve problems and we just do that often paying no regard to the user for whom we are solving the problem.
To me UX is a thought (not an afterthought!), designing with the user at the center of the thought.
Ideally as very few would appreciate, acknowledge and practice – UX, is an all-encompassing experience that an end user of a product/service has got to do with anything/everything around that product/service. If I design something without empathizing for the You in UX or if the You in UX is different from me who is designing it for you, then it is all mixed-up.
But then, let’s face it – why are we creating a great UX? whom are we really creating this UX for?
To me, let truth be told, this UX which we claim to design for the end user, is actually we are doing it for ourselves – the ones who own the product/services, because at the end of it, we are doing it to increase business excellence, revenue, profitability!
As mentioned earlier, UX is an all-encompassing experience which focuses on creating a frictionless, personalized, uncluttered experience but the underlying principle is – this is all done so that – we don’t lose a customer to rival, we increase customer loyalty, we make customer feel how important they are for us and ultimately, we want more business from this customer.

Let me explain this with couple of examples:

We all have seen how banks/ FinTechs are alluring customers by providing option to aggregate all our financial instruments and provide a personalized dashboard to help get better at PFM- Personal Finance Management, oh really? . Well, truth is , this is a Google like strategy being adopted, as data is new fuel so that banks/FinTechs then can suggest/prompt/push for their products for an even better PFM!
Uber is next, we all hear it whenever we talk about digital disruptors, future business models etc., Here again, Uber definitely has redefined UX, but through an innovative business model and it is that business model which is drawing people to it. Thin line, but I will still give it to the underlying business model which is truly the disruptor.
One of the best ways to explain how BX is the under current in creating a superlative UX is – take a look at the experience offered to a business class ticket to that of an economy class ticket in an aero plane. Though I have never experienced a business class ticket so far, but have at least read about it and economy class, I know it all too well! Thanks to these airlines, we can clearly understand even in a mass industry like airlines, UX is directly proportional to business being offered.
You know the routine, as it is customary with my every other blog, I need to touch upon banking in some or the other way and here it is. In last 5 to 8 years, we have seen the emergence of new types of banks, FinTechs which are posing challenge to traditional banks, though not in terms of direct business, but to their traditional thinking. One of the key shifts in focus for traditional banks has been their new found love towards UX. Every discussion, decision is incomplete without UX being the focal point of all effort which no doubt is good.

But I make three observations here:

  • Due to the focus on UX, development work, time to market seems to have been increased

  • Without a structural change in the culture of the bank, ads/marketing effort which doesn’t find a place in overall servicing, is leaving customers more dissatisfied than earlier

  • UX at the end of it is still largely a perspective and thanks to technology, each experience has a very short shelf life. Hence, more the effort, time, money invested in perfecting UX, to me appears like a never ending exercise.

What would be a good UX for me with my bank will be – keeping it simple, being available when I need it, where I need, how I need it and finally, just take care of my money and help me grow it. I don’t really care what UX guideline, principle you follow or preach, don’t spend millions of rupees on that and then produce an abysmal quarterly result. Let your focus be on improving business efficiency, operational efficacy as these things hurt me more than you not giving me an Apple like experience!
Not everyone can be good at everything, but you are a specialist or good at something, then you better retain that and that’s what I expect from my bank, to be fundamentally good at banking and if you can make overall experience better, then I won’t mind that!