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A Thoughtful Reader’s Reaction to Next Gen AI Hype

Recent hype at Wired Magazine about new personal assistant technology garnered a — perhaps unexpected — reaction

A Mind Matters News reader writes to ask “Is it just me or does it seem that the bar for what makes an AI useful, or even any good at all, is pretty low?” He is referring to a recent Wired gush, “I Tested a Next-Gen AI Assistant. It Will Blow You Away.” The writer began by explaining

The most famous virtual valets around today—Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant—are a lot less impressive than the latest AI-powered chatbots like ChatGPT or Google Bard. When the fruits of the recent generative AI boom get properly integrated into those legacy assistant bots, they will surely get much more interesting.

Will Knight, “I Tested a Next-Gen AI Assistant. It Will Blow You Away,” Wired, February 1, 2024

To get some sense of what’s next (gen), Knight decided to test vimGPT, an “an experimental AI voice helper.”

When I asked it to “subscribe to WIRED,” it got to work with impressive skill, finding the correct web page and accessing the online form.

Knight, “Blow You Away,”

Thoughtful reader: I mean, a simple Google search could have accomplished this! Why isn’t Google, quite appropriately, branding and referring to its search engine as an AI? And a very advanced one? This whole article is kind of laughable, especially the early part:

Although hardly an intelligence test for a human, buying something online on the open web is a lot more complicated and challenging than the tasks that Siri, Alexa, or the Google Assistant typically handle.

Knight, “Blow You Away,”

Tr: Seriously? That’s all Alexa does! It is constantly reminding me of what I need to purchase. Google helps people shop too; it has an actual SHOP function. They already handle the shopping pretty well.

And this promise from vimGPT’s creator, Ishan Shah, might sound delicious to some out there, but not to me: “Most apps will require less clicking and more chatting, with agents becoming an integral part of browsing the web.”

I really don’t want to chat with anyone very much, especially if they’re a bot, or a salesperson.

AI is an amazing thing that will probably make my life a lot better. But this example offered at Wired isn’t what I was dreaming of:

A model can, for instance, look at a photo of someone wearing a sweater, then hunt through ecommerce listings for similar garments below a certain price and add the cheapest to a person’s shopping cart. In another example, an agent informed that a person no longer wants to see posts from a particular user on a Reddit-like site can work out how to navigate the site’s settings to hide posts from the offending individual.

Knight, “Blow You Away,”

Tr: I already know how to shop. And I know how to block people. Well, it’s Wired. Why did I expect more?

Digital chatbot, robot application, conversation assistant, AI Artificial Intelligence concept.

Thought from Mind Matters News: For some Wired readers, the simple fact that AI is performing a function might make it suddenly seem like a valuable function in principle. People who feel that way are almost limitlessly patient. For example, we are told, glitches sometimes occur with these AI assistants:

In their experiments, the CMU team found that their AI agents could achieve a complex objective about 16 percent of the time—but that humans did so 88 percent of the time. Failures are often mundane, like failing to navigate a website and getting caught in an infinite browsing loop. But they might sometimes look like misbehavior, for example if an agent were to accidentally add dozens of items to a user’s cart or incorrectly friend an annoying user on a social site. Perhaps it’s a good thing that I can’t yet give vimGPT my payment information.

Knight, “Blow You Away,”

Thoughtful reader will doubtless agree that no payment information is a good thing… Meanwhile, Google, Microsoft, and Apple are all said to be developing technology in this space. And, glitches or no, they will, of course, want that payment information…

You may also wish to read: Is new AI driving the mass Big Tech layoffs? The jury’s out on whether that’s really what’s happening and, if so, whether it will improve profitability. The Big Tech companies may see replacing workers with AI as only natural. After all, that’s the future their executives were told from childhood to expect.

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A Thoughtful Reader’s Reaction to Next Gen AI Hype