Thursday, August 17, 2017

Artificially Intelligent Assistants, KDD Panel. What happened.

Andrew Tomkins and I cohosted the KDD 2017 panel on AI Assistants.  The panelists were Usama Fayyad, Larry Heck, Deepak Agarwal and Bing Liu, representing the spectrum from entreprenueral to academic including corporate research, in many cases individually.
  • For AI assistant technology today, talk about either a current success story, or a shortcoming in the market.   (Success story for "head", goal oriented bot: Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant, DuerOS (Baidu), or Wechat bot Xiaoice  for chit-chat) Need:  The need by a broad set of companies for AI assistants is a given/assumed → broad engagement/interest by many companies to build/leverage AI assistant technology. 
  • "Help me plan a trip” versus “Connect me to my travel agent.”  Does user talk with one “butler” agent versus many specialized agents?  Follow-on:  What critical standards are required to enable assistants to operate effectively across multiple sensory domains?  How are we doing at developing these standards?
  • What implications will artificially intelligent assistants have for teens?  How about in the workplace?  Follow-on:  what are the expectations for task-focused versus chit-chat assistants?
  • How should a user be able to empower AI assistants to operate on the user’s behalf?
    1. “I’m sorry, Joe’s not available right now.”
    2. “I booked the show you wanted.  It’s 7:30 tonight.”
    3. “I found a great date for you this Saturday night.  Dress nice.”
    4. BTW, I bought you a house.
  •  What are research bottlenecks? (Dialogue understanding and large scale availability of suitable data, information elicitation methods, classical AI open issues like common sense reasoning, etc.) 
  • What role should assistants take in your life?
    1. Servant: does as you say
    2. Friend: emotional support
    3. Mentor/therapist: provides guidance
    4. Psychological role: assistant as id, ego, super-ego
    5. Deity: superhuman being with power over your fortunes, lead a way even if we dont see the rationale or even punish.
  • You can only optimize what you can measure.  For these different roles of an assistant, what are the right metrics?  
  • If assistant is built by multiple companies loosely cooperating and employing black-box learning techniques, why would its goals be perfectly aligned with yours?  What goals should we expect?
  • Could there be an assistant for your pet, wild animals and plants?
  • Which portrayal of AI assistants from literature or film do you find most compelling?
  • What is needed to unleash a technological ecosystem around AI assistants and what are the challenges? 
  • Last question to conclude the discussion: 1 prediction for the future of artificially intelligent assistants that you would like to be correct about and 1 that you wish you were wrong about. 
There was a lively discussion with people wondering about the implication of AI assistants among other things. 

In parallel, we had the following ads shown on the screen: 
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