Proper role is support vs. supplant
The more we rely on artificial intelligence (AI)-driven systems to make our lives more efficient and competent, the less efficient and competent our lives are becoming. This adversely impacts customer service and support in many sectors.
In many cases, AI itself can be flawed—creating all sorts of havoc. In others, human oversight and due diligence to ensure accuracy and competency are sorely lacking. A prevailing policy seems to be the widely-known expression of Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman: “What, Me Worry?” It is indicative of an uncaring, too-casual attitude among those responsible for creating, managing, and maintaining AI apps, programs, and other offerings.
We all experience tech mistakes and missteps due to a lack of dedicated oversight. Apps are released into prime time without adequate testing and debugging. Complex and costly CRMs roll out without thinking through how to customize and personalize them to avoid bombarding recipients with unwanted promotional pitches and communications. Customer service chatbots provide little help to already-frustrated customers needing support. The list goes on…and on…and on.
As a result of all the dysfunction, users and recipients waste a lot of time dealing with tech glitches, unwanted communications, inadequate feedback, and problem-solving to correct subpar AI.
Support vs. Supplant role
I believe that a chief cause of AI malaise is the flawed assertion that it fundamentally replaces human involvement and interaction. AI can play a great, complementary support role in tandem with human beings. But “shiny new tech toys” do not eliminate the need for human due diligence, insight, capabilities, and experience.
Look at Frontier Airlines, which dismantled their live phone center in favor of all-digital, all the time. While there are many functions and responsibilities these AI-backed systems can perform, they complement but do not replace live phone support.
The wise move is offering consumers the option. As I’ve said before, I generally book Southwest Airlines trips online—reserving phone calls for times when human interaction is required. Knowing “real people” are a phone call away is very reassuring to many, and reason for many others not to travel Frontier.
ChatGPT magnifies AI discussion exponentially
Exploding discussions about this AI’s potential and pitfalls will only expand for the foreseeable future. Chatbot-fueled uses and options are all over the place. In some respects, I see this technology in the same way as money. According to showman P.T. Barnum, “Money is, in some respects, like fire. It is a very excellent servant, but a terrible master.”
As a writer, I can see using ChatGPT as a support tool—much like many others out there. When I’m looking for ideas and insights, I often scour the Internet as a brainstorming tool. Just as I don’t accept claims or assertions of fact without verifying the source and/or confirming information with multiple sources, I would verify ChatGPT-generated information.
But, too many folks already are playing with fire—viewing it as a master to supplant the need for human creativity, insights, and capabilities. Again, there’s a tendency to categorize all things AI as “the entire solution” as opposed to being part of the solution.
A New York Times article helps frame the discussion from another perspective. Writer Ross Douthat points out, “For months now, I’ve been slightly, well, bored by the proliferating examples of A.I.-generated writing produced by peers and friends and various Twitterers since the debut of ChatGPT in November. I can grasp intellectually the significance of the breakthrough, how it could demolish the college essay, change the nature of homework and remake or unmake all kinds of nonliterary knowledge work, setting aside minor questions like whether rogue A.I. might wipe out the human race. But the texts themselves I’ve found profoundly uninteresting — internet scrapings that at best equaled Wikipedia, notable mostly for what their political-cultural biases revealed about ChatGPT’s programming or the consensus of the safe information that it was programmed to distill.”
Just as digital didn’t destroy print or eviscerate broadcast television as was often predicted when the Internet went mainstream, I don’t see AI replacing human intelligence. I do foresee a huge tug-of-war triggering massive maelstroms along the way. Of course, there’s always the possibility—as Douthat states—that “rogue A.I.” will wipe out the human race.
The HAL9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey—a 1968 science fiction book and movie—was inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame in 2003. An associated description points out: “HAL is capable of speech recognition, natural language understanding, lip reading, and thinking well enough to beat humans at chess. Along with all these capabilities comes the capacity for malevolence. HAL kills its astronaut crew…HAL has had a lasting effect not only on fiction, but also on the real world. It has inspired astronauts, scientists and philosophers. Scientists ask how its capabilities can be duplicated and philosophers have asked whether HAL was responsible for the murders of the astronauts. All of us ask whether we want to create intelligent machines that may someday endanger us.”
More than a half-decade later, the importance of AI supporting—not supplanting human endeavor and control—is about more than positive customer service. If science fiction turns into fact, rogue AI well may supplant all of us.
Mark Lusky Communications helps companies that honor customers, workers, communities, the environment, and stakeholder governance tell their story to the world. Interested? Let’s talk.