The letter from Elon Musk, Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis, and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman along with globally respected AI researchers drove the tip of the spear to the heart of the Artificial Intelligence debate.
It’s a warning letter containing just 22 words: “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”
If this draconian communications tactic was designed to command the undivided attention of a nation obsessed with the evolution of innovative new technology, the coalition crushed its mission.
This opening salvo calls for a pause on gargantuan AI experiments and attempts to throw all the icebergs in Antarctica into the fray to freeze the arms race between companies competing to dominate perhaps the most promising technological discovery in the history of the human race.
But is The Warning As Far-Fetched As Detractors Believe?
It depends on who you ask. Deborah Johnson, a private money lender who serves as Vice President of Originations at Moneyboots Capital and a top e-discovery consultant for the nearly trillion-dollar legal industry in the US, believes it’s not too far off the mark.
Are The Threats from AI Real?
Johnathan Callazo, one of the world’s brightest innovators in drones and robotics believes that the broad strokes of this heated debate are reminiscent of the reaction to every major shift in technology from the Internet and social media to self-driving cars based on apocalyptic scenarios that may or may not unfold in 30 years.
But Johnson pulls no punches about the damage automated customer service systems have already done to consumers and businesses. She told Business Intelligence Weekly that “Artificial intelligence has completely annihilated the customer experience in corporate America.”
That being said, she does point to one notable exception in Chewy, which positions itself as a customer experience company that happens to sell pet food.
Brands That Push AI Aside To Focus On Customers Are Winning
To borrow a phrase from the late Steve Jobs, Johnson characterizes Chewy’s responsiveness to consumers as “insanely great.” Her claim that a human being always answers the phone within four seconds or two rings is widely documented in the news and in earnings reports to Wall Street.
Chewy’s secret sauce is that it shares the consumer’s hatred of automation in favor of human intervention. To honor its commitment to unshackle itself from the limitations of customer service technology, the company has assembled a crack team of customer experience experts who are available 24/7 to shower the consumer and their pets with love and attention.
Johnson’s face lights up with adoration when she shares her personal story about how when Chewy discovered that, ironically, her nearly 16-year-old cat Chewy passed away after a long battle with congestive heart failure, it sent her flowers along with a heartfelt sympathy card “from your friends at Chewy.”
Imperfection Creates An Opportunity to Build Loyalty
Having built a customer-centric organization that dwarfs even the mighty Amazon in the $78 billion pet industry with a staggering 40% market share, any Fortune 500 CEO would be hard-pressed to argue that they got it wrong. Especially because If Chewy ever does get your order wrong, they tell customers to keep the food and then rush the right order out at no charge in 2 days or less.
On the other side of the argument, the robotics and drone genius back at Ostrich Air reminds us to remember that AI technology is in its infancy and will rapidly mature as costs inevitability drop, innovation rises and products become safer to use, giving humans time to embrace it and learn new skills so they don’t become obsolete.
“AI is best applied to addressing simpler issues and problems. By eliminating repetitive tasks from the customer experience team’s daily routine, they are empowered to focus on the more complex issues. AI simply cannot now, nor will it ever, “care” about customers and their problems in the same way a human can,” he said.
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