If you think chatbots are hot right now — with how they’re being used in psychotherapy, turning into racist trolls, and presenting an existential threat to Apple — just wait until they turn into full-fledged personal assistants.
In five years time, digital personal assistants will even more important than your smartphone, says University of Washington computer scientist Pedro Domingos, author of “The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World.”
“What you have right now on your smartphone is dozens of apps,” Domingos tells Tech Insider, “with each app doing it’s own thing.”
On any given Friday night, you use one app to find a restaurant, another to buy a movie ticket, another to figure out how to get to where you’re going, and another to find a date to take out with you.
“It’s incredibly annoying,” he says, since the apps “don’t talk to each other and you have to learn all these different interfaces.”
The personal assistants of the future, whether they’re based on Siri, Cortana, Alexa, or a yet-to-be-named upstart, will take care of that for you. According to Domingos, the assistant will work behind the scenes, juggling these apps so you don’t have to, plus the zillion other apps available.
Based on your eating history, for example, it could find you a restaurant that suits your taste that’s next to the movie theatre with the film you’ve been talking about seeing, then give the quickest route from your office or home.
Underlying the personal assistant revolution is machine learning, the artificial intelligence technique that powers Netflix’s movie recommendations, Amazon’s product recommendations, and Facebook’s ability to spot your friend’s face.
Machine learning is a radical departure from traditional computing because it relies on algorithms learning about material and learning how to behave really than from following the prescriptions of a programmer. Domingos says the Google self-driving car is a prime example: nobody knows how to program a car to drive; it learns from human drivers.
Similarly, the next wave of personal assistants will learn your habits — and look out for you.
“Part of what your assistant is going to do for you,” Domingos says “is if you’ve just gone to a bar and you’re starting to get pretty drunk and you’re probably going to stagger out in 15 minutes, it calls an Uber car so it will be there when you stagger out.”
What a time to be alive.