On a Thursday evening we decided to go to an iStore (apple shop) to buy an iPhone for my father-in-law in a nearby mall. We were looking around and suddenly my eyes fell on a short guy. I smiled, and he smiled back, and he started walking towards me and we shook hands. I told my wife this is Mohammed. She and my elder daughter remembered him as he was the guy who helped us buy our iPhones in the past. I told him our requirements and Mohammed in his usual best gave us the best deal and I had made up my mind. We finalized the color and it was the moment we were waiting for “Un-boxing the Iphone” moment. Till then it was all fine. Then he irritated me. He did not know my name. It was an off-putting moment. I wondered why did he spoil his own excellent customer experience?
That Saturday we had a Bengali Lunch at a restaurant. Rocky took our orders. What was interesting about Rocky was that whatever we selected he would mention it is not available! Then he would then go on to suggest something interesting. He maintained a very good demeanour and that was a good experience. We accepted and ate what all he ordered for us. I was waiting for the feedback form to literally write what was so good about him and the experience. Since he was not coming, I asked for his details. He requested me to go to Zomato and give recommendations which I politely said I will do. Yes, I tried but the site was down. There goes the feedback and recommendation for Rocky.
I took a late evening flight last week and when I collected my luggage, I saw the driver Mr. Ramesh standing with a placard. He called out my name and welcomed me to the car. I was very happy with the in-car experience, he was dressed well, he didn’t speak on the phone and played some nice songs. I was very happy. I thought he will give me a feedback form. Since that was not forthcoming, I gave him a five-star chocolate!
I was having some futuristic thoughts and then I thought of how we are moving at an incredible pace. Are we moving into a world of humans vs machines or humans with machines?
What if Mohammed had a machine which informed him that:
- Here is a very valued customer.
- He has bought 4 times from you.
- He has had a very good experience in the past and this is his name.
- He has bought for himself, his wife, his daughter and this time he is buying for his other family member.
- So, ask him how was his experience with those gadgets and check, for whom is he buying?
What if Rocky got that online feedback automatically from me that yes, I am enjoying the food as well as the ambience. A machine could have told him that the images scanned from the past two hours shows that the customer is enjoying with family and this is a good time to capture that moment for reference through a tab with a rating.
What if Ramesh knew that all the things he did, he had done on purpose? By calling out my name (as they always get the name of passenger), playing those nice songs, which made me emotional as well (Arijit ofcourse) and he mindfully did not pick up any calls while driving. There could have been a device installed to monitor the emotional feel of the passenger and it automatically gives a wifi connectivity and I get to give a 5-star rating for the experience
In the book “Hit Refresh” by Satya Nadella there is a mention of Historian David Mc Cullough who describes how Wilbur Wright used everything he could humanly muster – his mind, body, soul – to coax his gliding machine into flight. The grainy old film shot from a distance fails to capture his grit and determination. But if we could zoom in we’d see his muscles tense, his mind focus, and the very spirit of innovation flow as man and machine soared into the air for the first time, together. When history was made at Kitty Hawk, it was man with machine – not man against machine.
Today we don’t think of aviation as “artificial flight” – its simply flight. In the same way, we should’t think of technological intelligence as artificial, but rather as intelligence that serves to augment human capabilities and capacities.
We can think how human gifts such as creativity of Rocky, empathy of Mohammed and emotions displayed by Ramesh can be mixed with powerful AI computation. The ability to capture substantial amounts of data (in my case my name, my past purchases, my restaurant moods, in car moods and feelings) and do pattern recognition more quickly would have given me a heightened “humantech” experience from just a human experience which was already a given.