The Road to Artificial General Intelligence and What it Means For Chatbots

AI, AGI, chatbot

Chatbots and virtual assistants are among the most visible uses of artificial intelligence in its various guises. Now we’re starting on the road to AGI, how will that change how bots operate in the future, and what could it mean for your business.

Just as chatbots, virtual assistants and digital concierges get their feet under our tables, Artificial General Intelligence lands with a thud as the next big step in AI. AGI represents intelligence in the form of a bot or assistant that can answer any question you put to it or perform multiple tasks. It is an AI that doesn’t rely on scripts or a limited set of information. We’re on this road because AGI is the next logical step in AI evolution, quite a big step, like moving from DOS to Windows or a flip phone to a smartphone.

Interest in the subject has been piqued after John Carmack, the coding wizard at Id Software and more recently Oculus has set his sights on AGI as his next project. That’s after helping invent the first-person shooter with the Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake series, tinkering with spaceflight and building rockets as Armadillo Aerospace, and helping bring better VR to the world as a recent addition to the Oculus Rift team.

The guy is beyond wicked smart and if he sets his sights on AGI, others will follow. While many competent coders will probably sigh and move on to something else. Carmack announced the news on a rare post on his Facebook page, stating…

“I have sometimes wondered how I would fare with a problem where the solution really isn’t in sight. I decided that I should give it a try before I get too old. “I’m going to work on artificial general intelligence (AGI).“I think AGI is possible, enormously valuable, and that I have a non-negligible chance of making a difference there… I am going to be going about it ‘Victorian Gentleman Scientist’ style, pursuing my inquiries from home.”

The tech tabloids soon leaped in with excitable stories, but were typically vague on the detail. But you can bet AGI will be one of the hot topics in all the upcoming 2020 world in tech pieces. Yet, as smart as he is, it could take years of effort for a true AGI to grace the world with its presence. And when it does turn up, what will that mean for bots in general?

AGI in your AI bot

Currently, no one or business needs to worry about your current AI projects becoming obsolete overnight, as mentioned – this is a years-long project even for the major teams developing AI systems, yet alone one guy in his Victorian smoking jacket.

As AI evolves, research suggests that “Researchers predict AI will outperform humans in many activities in the next ten years, such as translating languages (by 2024), writing high-school essays (by 2026), driving a truck (by 2027), working in retail (by 2031), writing a bestselling book (by 2049), and working as a surgeon (by 2053).” AI already helps with many of these tasks, but there’s plenty of room for improvement but those dates seem pessimistic given the speed of AI development.

For now, scripted chatbots will remain as efficient as they always have been in their super-niche way. There’s nothing wrong with that, huge numbers of businesses have started out with a scripted bot that fulfills some simple need, helping guide them on the road to digital business and AI services.

Current AI bots using natural language processing and deep learning will remain the standard for bot development for a few years to come, while virtual assistants will add more features to their repertoire, getting close to looking like AGI but only through linking to a huge array of APIs and external systems.

The AGI Cometh

When AGI arrives, it will be appear as yet another smart service, a simple front end to complex neural networks, heuristic magic and intense-level machine learning. One that allows people to ask any question and get a pragmatic or useful answer.

AGIs could be deployed on the front page of any website or app, replacing the number of FAQs and existing bots across a business. For all its power AGI will take some time to find its place in business, helping in healthcare and transportation first, as chatbots have, and then opening up to the wider world.

The use cases will be huge and various, and the implications massive. Consider an AGI that sits on top of a political election debate and instantly highlights lies, mistruths, mistakes and can debunk fake statistics all in real-time. Or a job interview AGI that literally knows everything there is to know about you and isn’t afraid to ask those awkward questions.

These uses could change the world, and while there will be plenty of layers of protection through legal restrictions, operating rules and developer choice, people will have to get used to something that could know almost anything, for better or worse.

Perhaps the best advocate for AGI will be its ability to help mankind solve the many problems we face, from the environment to science and medical and societal problems. Once there is a service that people trust above vested interests and politicians, perhaps we can save the planet. Of course, there will be those who see AGIs as another stepping stone to money-bags riches and actual crime, but if the AGI is smart enough, hopefully they won’t let themselves be used for that purpose.

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