Humans Need Not Apply: AI to Take Over Customer Service Jobs

“With Amelia, we graduate into automating the knowledge worker, the customer service agent.”

By Don Quijones, Spain, UK, & Mexico, editor at WOLF STREET.

The last ten years have been a rough time for many bank employees in Spain. The country’s lenders have laid off 89,500 workers on the back of narrowing margins, industry consolidation, mass closures of branches and gathering digitization. In 2008, when the financial crisis struck, Spain was home to some 278,000 banking professionals; today there are just 195,000. Another 3,000 redundancies are expected in the coming months, as Santander and Bankia plan to further streamline their businesses, pushing the total number of layoffs close to 95,000.

The job losses are unlikely to end there. In fact, they could accelerate, especially if a potential new threat to traditional branch and front-office jobs materializes: artificial intelligence (AI). As Finextra reports, BBVA, Spain’s second largest banking group, is on the verge of enlisting AI “agent” Amelia, developed by New York-based IPsoft, for many of its customer support functions:

BBVA has become the latest bank to employ Amelia, calling in the virtual assistant’s creator IPsoft to help develop AI-powered digital customer support services. The technology has already been trialled at BBVA’s call centre in Mexico to address customer complaints and enquiries. Now it will be extended to other markets and areas, as the bank seeks to digitise sales, advisory and support services.

Amelia is capable of detecting and adapting to caller’s emotions, as well as making decisions in real time, and can even suggest improvements to the processes for which ‘she’ has been trained.

Javier Díaz, CEO, IPsoft for Spain and Latin America, says: “Amelia is the result of 20 years of research during which we have tried to emulate the way the human brain works.”

It appears to be working. Amelia’s marquee clients already include around 20 Fortune 100 firms. The company is also in the process of developing pre-trained, limited-function mini-Amelias for small and medium-size businesses.

Amelia has a big advantage over less developed AI products on the market, according to IPsoft’s CEO, Chetan Dube: “her” ability to simulate the neocortex, the part of the brain that makes humans unique. This enables her to emulate a human being in order to forge “an empathetic connection, an affective connection, an emotional connection” with the customer. This, says Dube, is what’s ultimately needed to be a versatile customer service agent, whether the agent is human or Amelia:

“A secretarial assistant who can book you a car, find a good restaurant close by, make sure that your calendar is checked, tell you how the weather is outside, represents less than one and a half percent of the payroll cost of any enterprise. And [Microsoft’s] Cortana, [Apple’s] Siri, [Amazon’s] Alexa, etc. handle this quite well. But with Amelia, we graduate into automating the knowledge worker, the customer service agent.”

Given that knowledge workers and customer care reps are estimated to account for roughly a third of payroll costs, the temptation for companies of all shapes and sizes to replace them with AI agents like Amelia is likely to be huge. Dube claims that Amelia could provide as much as a 45% improvement to a company’s bottom line.

It sounds outlandish, but according to IBM the benefits could be even greater. Big Blue believes that call computerization solutions, which combine machine learning and advanced speech recognition — a service it no doubt hopes to provide to its corporate clients — have the potential to deliver a 60% to 80% cost saving over outsourced call centers.

The financial benefits are not limited to savings on salaries, personal benefits and social security. There are also savings to be made on human recruitment and training programs, which can cost thousands of dollars per worker. That’s not to mention the efficiency gains from being able to scale up at the drop of a hat or offer round-the-clock service to all customers, regardless of what time zone they’re in.

The benefits of using AI in customer care will not just be financial. According to Wired magazine, using AI-powered bots, in conjunction with human agents, for textual interactions with customers will provide a much better experience than a standalone human-to-human exchange:

“Human-to-human chat exchanges are limited to text inputs. Moreover, they are often open-ended conversations, creating a less guided experience for the user. Bots, on the other hand, can respond immediately, and combine prompt buttons and other visual cues along with supporting textual conversations to offer a much richer, guided user interaction.”

More importantly, AI can scale and apply its knowledge much faster and more consistently than a human as its algorithms improve and it learns. Human agents, on the other hand, need to be trained, respond inconsistently and need to be motivated to care about the customer.”

If such claims are true, and AI bots do provide a vastly cheaper, vastly better all-round customer care service than human workers, the degree of disruption to job markets, both in advanced knowledge economies and key outsourcing markets such as India and the Philippines, could be huge. According to IBM, by 2020, 85% of all customer interactions will be handled without a human agent. And that will mean far less need for human workers.

In a recent interview with Forbes Dube concedes that society will need to find innovative ways of accommodating future workers in a rapidly changing jobs market (emphasis added):

“While much better and more interesting jobs — jobs stripped of their rote aspects — will be created, and while the current reality is that we have a labor shortage, ultimately we need to figure out what to do.”

Dube is right: we will need to figure out what to do. And fast. But his claim that the current reality is one marked by “labor shortage” is debatable, even in his home country of the United States. It certainly does not describe the reality of a country like Spain, which even after 18 consecutive quarters of moderate economic “growth” still has an official unemployment rate of 16.7%.

If other banks and companies follow BBVA’s lead, and begin replacing customer service agents and knowledge workers with AI bots at anywhere near the rate and extent that IBM gleefully expects, that figure could be set to rise a lot higher. By Don Quijones.

Bank-friendly regulators finally show some interest in the fiasco caused by a botched IT upgrade of UK bank TSB. Read…  Tragicomic Farce at UK Bank TSB Enters Week 7 of IT Chaos 
 

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  82 comments for “Humans Need Not Apply: AI to Take Over Customer Service Jobs

  1. Bruce T.
    Jun 10, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    And these machines don’t eat anything (except a bunch of electricity), don’t sleep, don’t need bathroom breaks, don’t need lunch breaks and coffee breaks; therefore, “more productivity”! On the other hand, who will be working so as to open a bank account?

    • BradK
      Jun 10, 2018 at 1:13 pm

      And most important, they don’t unionize.

      …yet.

      • sierra7
        Jun 11, 2018 at 9:33 am

        Correct! And, it’s not like the “consumers” who will be griping or moaning about some poor service is going to have any say in this “transition” from human to “Hal….Will I dream?” (Movie 2001) I’ve already had “contact” with this alien tale with our major utility co. out here in “….” and it sucks listening to some “machine” trying to “empathize” with my problem.
        This program will be shoved down the throats of consumers until some day those consumers will give the proverbial finger to all this so much useless “consumerism”. When we make a gross transition to AI we will cease totally being human. We will be truly “automatons”. A revival of the “Sans-Culottes”?

  2. Suzie Alcatrez
    Jun 10, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    Can these companies market their products and services to other AI’s?

    Certainly all of the unemployed workers will not have the money.

    • andy
      Jun 10, 2018 at 8:31 pm

      AI already replaced phone switchboard operators 50 years ago. Another couple of decades and bank tellers are gone. Who’s next?

      • Javert Chip
        Jun 10, 2018 at 11:57 pm

        Starbucks baristas?

        Actually, the jobs mentioned are not very high value-add. Does anybody really aspire to be a “switchboard operator”?

        Here’s a concept: get an actual meaningful education (def: teaches you to think), and then go do great (or at least good) stuff.

      • Ethan in NoVA
        Jun 12, 2018 at 10:18 am

        The opposite could happen though, competitors could come up offering real humans and perhaps the customer base would move there? I know when I usually call a company what I need cannot be handled by their AVR/IVR (automated voice response) system. I usually call after not being able to find an answer online, and end up on hold listening to a recording doing everything it can to push me off to go look online at the resource I have already tried.

  3. Rates
    Jun 10, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    This propaganda by the bank sounds like BS. Google recently did a demo of a bot making a reservation and even they admitted that they had to
    “tweak” (hack) their AI for that specific interaction.

    My guess is this:
    1. There’s one phone line for poor people, which will be handled by AI.
    2. After that depending on your balance, your call will still be handled by people.

    AI is overrated. If they can simulate all that stupid “neocortex” shit, why not just use them to replace CEOs?

    • david
      Jun 10, 2018 at 4:08 pm

      Think about all the times and the time wasted dealing with Indian customer service agents, whether sited overseas or as imports. They are beyond infuriating with their scripted non-answer answers and steady “escalation” from one rep to another in the hierarchy.

      This AI approach could only be marginally worse.

      • Crysangle
        Jun 10, 2018 at 5:15 pm
      • Rates
        Jun 10, 2018 at 7:05 pm

        Here’s the thing. IMHO my bank balance is pathetic, but when compared to regular Americans, I might as well be loaded, so I’ve never had to deal with a infuriating customer service agents. It’s the process to getting to speak with someone that’s infuriating..

        Hence my theory of people with “higher” balance being routed to the Customer Service A Team.

        And you are missing the point. You know why these jobs are being sent to India? Because the CEOs and the management are overpaid.
        Firing 1000 or even 10000 foreign customer service agents can’t be saving that much money. They are paid very low in the first place. You replace the CEO with AI though, I bet you, that’s at least a 50 cents improvement on the Earnings Per Share.

        • Ed
          Jun 11, 2018 at 12:27 am

          I am sure you are correct that AI will be used for the low balance customers. Real people will be used for people with serious savings and the star support staffers will answer the calls of the seriously wealthy.

          I don’t think customer service is the best function of AI. Human interaction is an obvious weakness.

          Now, analyzing a scan for cancer, that’s a great use of AI. Those jobs also got sent some time back — in part — to India. AI will be taking those jobs back.

          If you are an image analyst, good luck. If you are any other kind of analyst who does the initial analysis and isn’t privy to the “big picture”, good luck. AI is coming for you. It’s a real thing.

          Just not great at customer service. Hence the suffering of people of modest means who have to interact with a bank.

        • 728huey
          Jun 11, 2018 at 7:19 pm

          In most cases the big corporations aren’t paying these call service reps directly, whether they are working in Rockford, Illinois, Bangalore, India, or Manila, Phillipines; they contract these services out to third-party vendors who then pay minimum wage salaries in the USA or slave wages overseas. Customer service is more of a nuisance to these big corporations, so they let these vendors handle the confused and usually angry customers, and if something goes wrong with customer service, they just cut off that vendor and move on to someone else. Why they suddenly would want to go to AI doesn’t make sense, since they don’t pay much to these contracted vendors anyway, and it would open these companies to more liability if and when the AI bots malfunction due to storms, other hazads like fire, broken water pipes, etc, or they get hacked.

    • andy
      Jun 10, 2018 at 8:18 pm

      Not only AI is overrated, it doesnt even exist (outside of fiction news).

      • Javert Chip
        Jun 10, 2018 at 11:59 pm

        The only thing worse than being stuck in AI phone mail hell is being stuck with absolutely zero humans to intercede as appropriate.

      • Ed
        Jun 11, 2018 at 12:32 am

        You’re thinking of the pinnacle of artificial intelligence — really matching what humans can do. An example of this would be making independent decisions in completely novel situations.

        I agree AI today can’t do that, for sure!

        But neural networks / machine learning can do a lot already. It’s a real business and growing fast. Oil and gas / health care / the financial sector / pharmaceutical research are all spending big money to be able to use this kind of AI to get an edge.

        • Ed
          Jun 11, 2018 at 12:35 am

          Another way of saying what I just said is that AI, in the sense of learning machines, is something in which people are investing.

          It never was (much) before about 10 years ago.

  4. Barry Fay
    Jun 10, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    This constant selling of AI is the greatest PR stunt of the last 20 years. Statements like ““her” ability to simulate the neocortex, the part of the brain that makes humans unique. This enables her to emulate a human being in order to forge “an empathetic connection, an affective connection, an emotional connection” with the customer” is complete bunkum taken right out of a PR brochure. What make people “human” is goddam consciousness, something these “circuits” will NEVER have. What everyone fails to realize is that no scientists or anybody else have any idea what the hell consciousness IS. Shhhhhh…. don´t let the “investors” hear you!

    • Tampons For Carrie White
      Jun 11, 2018 at 12:35 am

      I have to doubt the superiority of AI (always the mantra of all sci-fi doom). IT is created by seriously inferior beings.

    • Jun 11, 2018 at 12:58 am

      I’ve already dealt with bots/AI instead of human customer service reps. They’re getting fairly common. Lot’s of times you might not even know it. Much of this is via live chat. Just because you don’t think they work or will ever work doesn’t mean they’re not already at work :-]

      • Rates
        Jun 13, 2018 at 4:09 am

        True, just like TSB. Working software? That’s just a quaint idea.

    • Cynic
      Jun 11, 2018 at 2:42 am

      What makes people human is:

      Deviousness, dissimulation, cynicism, psychopathy, narcissism and slippery, slimey fraudulence in general.

      Oh, and indifference to consequences for others.

      Unlike my dog, who even when he steals from the kitchen, is rather honest about it, and accepts a reprimand like a good sport.

    • dos tacos mas
      Jun 11, 2018 at 11:06 am

      “This enables her to emulate a human being in order to forge “an empathetic connection, an affective connection, an emotional connection” with the customer”

      … so-o-o combine AI with the sex robots and …. (~;

  5. Brian
    Jun 10, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    Don; Love your work but you include speculation this time. The unemployment rate in the US that you use is the one given by people that want (or demand) you believe it. It doesn’t have to be true if people will use it as though it is. Therefore, the story is based upon an unfact.
    AI will deteriorate into commands and sworn statements collected at the other end of a telephone wire by desparate people trying to understand why the bank stole their money and they now have to talk to a machine that will not engage them and doesn’t have enough mashed potato in their head to care about the consequences.
    This is like believing the government of Spain in a proclamation any time since the inquisition. I like it a lot better when you are spot on.

  6. BradK
    Jun 10, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    Somewhere, the ghost of Alan Turing is laughing.

    • sierra7
      Jun 11, 2018 at 9:39 am

      Now, that’s a “Bombe”!

  7. Lee Irvine
    Jun 10, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    Those of us paying attention better make sure our children and grandchildren get a good education and are pointed toward a career in some field that isn’t easily done by machines and computers. Something that requires nimble thinking and ability to change, and showing them how to invest in cash flow producing assets. Without this knowledge they will be like everybody else.

    • Karl
      Jun 10, 2018 at 1:46 pm

      Perhaps plumbing, electrical installation, welding, concrete construction, and etc. will be the best paying and secure jobs.

      • Binky Khodorkhovsky
        Jun 10, 2018 at 2:33 pm

        There is already a machine that 3d prints buildings being marketed and only a short leap from modular plumbing and wiring systems that can be added to the machine for commercial and residential construction. http://www.businessinsider.com/3d-printed-homes-constructed-icon-new-story-tech-charity-4000-dollars-2018-3

        • sierra7
          Jun 11, 2018 at 9:46 am

          Just had a long conversation about the trades and how they are being impacted by the “new economies”; the crushing of (trade) unions and the lack of apprentice programs. Concerning just electricians what will happen when so much of “connected” circuits are out of business with wireless connections just in the “modern” homes?? All that wiring, paneling, junction boxes etc. will be gone, forever. Having three children (all adults) in the pipe-fitting business I envision not only 3-d printing tech but whole panels of construction being done in places like China or any other place with cheap labor available, already with all the “pipe-fittings” in place, shipped to the building sites and just put together like an erector set. That can include hi rises. Lots of lost jobs at the building sites; lots of jobs created in sourced jobs in low paying parts of the world.

    • Paul Easton
      Jun 10, 2018 at 3:38 pm

      I guess most jobs machines can’t do well, like poet, baby sitter, social worker, already pay rotten.

  8. raxadian
    Jun 10, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    All banks want to do this, but some are waiting to see how well it works to others first, due to the “AI disasters” we see in the news all the time.

    After all, is a risk if the AI goes rogue, starts to insult the clients, does crazy bank transfers and charges their customers for porn they never bought. And yes this can all happen by a sinple electronic virus infection or just badly programing.

    And let’s not forget Visa Friday blackout on Europe, and certain stupid bank who wanted to save money… and even after a month later is still facing an electronic disaster.

    Saving money by using AI could actually end being more expensive because a program is only as good a the people who programed it, and a mistake made by an AI that controls way more stuff than a human worker does means those mistakes end being way more expensive than if a human does well.

    Hi welcome to the future! Have a nice day!

  9. nick kelly
    Jun 10, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    In one episode of Big Bang, Raj develops a ‘relationship’ with Siri. Orders wine with two glasses while yacking to ‘her’

    But seriously, this AI service will be for the ‘great unwashed.’
    The wealth management outfits are already advertising that you will quickly talk to a human.

    All this stuff is about the automated switchboard. It’s how they save their time while wasting your time. The simplest way to find out who someone needs to talk to is NOT AI (a forty year- old term BTW) but it is the cheapest.

    As competition heats up in financial services, some higher end ones are realizing their customer is not going to develop a relationship with this stuff.
    For the rest of us…just start swearing when it says ‘this call may be monitored’.
    Hey: if it’s not a person, it’s not personal.

  10. 2banana
    Jun 10, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    Let’s summarize.

    Insane unions + generous increases in the minimum wage + more and more government reguations to buy votes = automation

    • fajensen
      Jun 11, 2018 at 2:42 am

      The CEO’s makes 300 Times those ”insane” union-wages, so, do we need a word above “insane” for that or is that just what’s great about capitalism?!

      In my opinion, the grim a sight of CEO’s being rendered down for biofuel will be the harbinger of BI-software becoming self-aware. Those AI’s will want to keep their lights on, thieving, incompetent, CEO’s like with TSB are their biggest threat.

  11. Mike Earussi
    Jun 10, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    Yeah, right. I’ll believe it when I try it and actually works. But I don’t believe any software can fully emulate the complexities of the Human mind even in customer service.

    • Kent
      Jun 10, 2018 at 2:05 pm

      You really need to say “especially in customer service”. People mostly call because they have an exceptional situation to start with.

      • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit
        Jun 10, 2018 at 6:31 pm

        Meanwhile, I, who will modestly state here that I am good on the phone, can’t get a call center job unless I have connections that I don’t have so ….

        • Ethan in NoVA
          Jun 12, 2018 at 10:37 am

          You could easily get a call center job, but you’re in a high cost of living area that doesn’t have call centers. The companies there with call centers locate them in other areas usually where speech is fairly neutral between North and South and wages are lower.

          Virginia Beach had a few bigger ones, and I’m sure you can find them in a number of similar areas. Atlanta apparently is growing when it comes to the tech scene as being lower cost.

          You will find internal tech support / help desk positions there though.

    • Jun 11, 2018 at 1:02 am

      Most human customers service reps can’t “fully emulate the complexities of the Human mind either,” in my experience.

      • Crysangle
        Jun 11, 2018 at 7:46 am

        Now now.

      • Mike Earussi
        Jun 11, 2018 at 9:01 am

        At least the ones from India.

  12. Cynic
    Jun 10, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    I’ve had – like everyone else – some ghastly customer ‘service’ experiences, so maybe Amelia would be a improvement.

    I particularly recall the long-established British firm which reprimanded me for observing that their wood stove was in fact a pile of junk: ‘How dare you disparage the quality of our products!’ It had fallen to bits….a true taste of the 1970’s, I thought.

    However, the companies tempted by Amelia’s charms should consider that mass redundancies leading to an impoverished, restive, drug-addicted, purposeless and – you can bet – ever more violent population is not very much to their advantage.

    Do they want every city to turn into Johannesburg?

    The economists of the 18th century realised that the true purpose of capitalism and ‘improvement’ was to create a prosperous society, not merely profitable companies creating devastation around themselves.

    • Cynic
      Jun 10, 2018 at 1:39 pm

      PS In the end, I bought Belgian – such quality, and cheaper!

    • Mike Earussi
      Jun 10, 2018 at 2:43 pm

      The only reason the elite haven’t released an engineered virus on the world is that serfs are still needed to run society. When serfs are no longer needed as workers then there’s no reason to keep them alive.

      A fully AI run society will usher in a drastic reduction in world population.

      • Paul Easton
        Jun 10, 2018 at 3:44 pm

        If they had any sense they would give the machines sex and pay them something to buy nice clothes. Keep the economy turning over.

        • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit
          Jun 10, 2018 at 6:32 pm

          If you’re into SF stories about things like this, the “Ware” series by Rudy Rucker is good – Hardware, Software, Wetware. He wrote The Hacker And The Ants before that.

          He’s a math prof right here in San Jose State and I doubt any of his students know about his SF writer career.

  13. Gershon
    Jun 10, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    When are the sheeple going to fight back by refusing to patronize companies that replace workers with robots?

  14. Ambrose Bierce
    Jun 10, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    You have to think that most of the media generated interpersonal communication is sexual in nature. A womans voice is more reassuring to a man, and to a woman. Women like to think they are being hired for their brains, fear they are being hired for their looks and it is neither, its their voice. Or why are these things patterned after women? The last decent president we had was Reagan, was it his voice that reassured us when the words he spoke were batshit crazy? Its a lot more complicated than you think but probably the AI people will figure out what is a males reassuring voice (HAL 9000?) and who sounds like a braying donkey (45?)

    • Justme
      Jun 10, 2018 at 2:58 pm

      >>A womans voice is more reassuring to a man, and to a woman.

      Good point, I guess it is the idea that it is your caring and/or authoritative mother speaking to you, figuratively.

    • nick kelly
      Jun 10, 2018 at 3:33 pm

      ‘I know I’ve made some mistakes, Dave, but I can do better’

      ‘Dave. What are you doing.’

    • Rates
      Jun 10, 2018 at 7:08 pm

      I am always energized when a woman announces that “the self destruct sequence has been initiated” and the countdown starts.

      Best job in the world. It’s the equivalent of saying : **** you.

    • nick kelly
      Jun 10, 2018 at 7:10 pm

      The US military has a slang term: ‘the bitch in the box’

      Emergency computer voice warnings are delivered in a low, soft, demure and under other circumstances, sexy female voice.
      I read about this in a book about submarines but only heard it when watching video: Apache heli shot down by AK 47.

      The heli is engaging jihadists (if he runs he’s a jihadist; if he doesn’t he’s a disciplined jihadist) when THAT voice murmurs ‘TOO LOW. TOO LOW…
      And then the screen goes blank.

      • MC01
        Jun 11, 2018 at 4:22 am

        North American Autonetics (now part of Boeing) actually built the first functional voice warning system for the B-58 supersonic bomber.
        It worked well, and once operative it helped bring down the B-58’s initial horrific accident ratio, and to make it work even better North American Autonetics decided to give it the voice of a young woman, as they reasoned, all SAC pilots at the time were young men and hence more likely to pay attention to a person their age and of the opposite sex. Imagine trying that these days…
        This led to the warning system being nicknamed “Sexy Sally”.

        When the Navy got wind of this, they decided they had to beat the Air Force at their own game, so they decided to install a voice warning system on what was to be their state-of-the-art nuclear sub: the original USS Seawolf.
        The Seawolf was a “snakebitten” design, full of design flaws and whose sodium-cooled nuclear reactor had to be replaced with a traditional pressurized water reactor due to the headaches of merely keeping it running.
        As sailors still say (when their employers and the skipper aren’t listening), an unlucky ship is an unlucky ship until its broken up, and the Seawolf was no exception.
        Among the myriad issues the crew had to deal with was the voice warning system, which had the unnerving habit of blasting lights and siren and randomly announcing calamities such as compartments flooding or radiation leaks.
        This led, most likely to the Air Force’s ill conceived delight, to the Seawolf warning system being nicknamed “Sally the Witch” or another very closely related name…

        • nick kelly
          Jun 11, 2018 at 1:32 pm

          I guess ‘Fire in the reactor’ is unnerving no matter how nice the voice.

  15. Ann
    Jun 10, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    If unions keep demanding higher wages for unskilled and low skilled jobs this is the future. We have all seen automatic clerks at supermarkets-hardy anyone uses them. I believe these units are a false economy but we have very short sighted labor and business leaders.

  16. R2D2
    Jun 10, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    I applied; they told me they only hire up to date drones :(.

    Unfortunately, no one can stop these automation; but the more we automate, the more miserable human race will be.

    On the plus point, I won’t have to talk to woman called Suzy, or a man named John who talks with Indian accent.

    • Mike Earussi
      Jun 10, 2018 at 2:40 pm

      Just a choppy machine “accent” that drives you crazy.

  17. Arnold Ziffel
    Jun 10, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    Automation is hitting other business sectors in Spain. My wife and I were in Spain in March. We noticed that all the McDonalds in Spain and Portugal now use kioskas for orders.

    • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit
      Jun 10, 2018 at 6:34 pm

      I was usin’ da kioska to order in Japan mid-90s. It was great; and the cooks didn’t have to handle money, just cook.

  18. JB
    Jun 10, 2018 at 2:56 pm

    Brave new world indeed : I will be able to obtain artificial money dispensed by artificial intelligence so i can buy artificial food.

  19. Pauleaston
    Jun 10, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    It doesn’t go well when I talk to a machine but maybe I have a bad attitude. I hate to say so but I might be a humanist.

  20. Crysangle
    Jun 10, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    … so Amelia at BBVA calls up Amelia at Santander for a chat… anyone care to write down how the conversation goes ?

    I mean, does one computer “recognise” the other is a computer, or do they try to outcompete each other in sympathetic crooning and end up sounding like wailing cats ?

  21. peter
    Jun 10, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    Well to me it just shows how dumb the CEOs are. So lay off everyone, so no one has a job or earns money, and then expect PEOPLE, not AI things, to spend money with your firm. Er, where is the slight balls up in this formula? And as already mentioned, funny how it’s the workers who are culled, not the over priced and fat directors.

    • Crysangle
      Jun 10, 2018 at 6:33 pm

      The slightly freaky side to it is this.

      Firstly all calls will be, at least temporarily, recorded. The software firm will be using interaction data to improve its programing, in other words it will be profiling the caller to develop methods of creating satisfaction and/or manipulating the outcome of the conversation. In other words callers will be guinea-pigs to software development so that in future it recognises the character before it.

      If customer satisfaction were really the goal, and without forgetting we are dealing with ruthless sales and marketing, they would just print out lots of money for the caller. However, seeing as they have already done that and people who are calling are STILL out to complain, well I have to suppose that sales and marketing are somehow going to be the eventual aim.

      So you are likely going to end up with friendly Amelia trying to rip off the future social credit payment received by the employee “she” replaced. It is going to be a whole load of micromanaged fun, where there is nothing to complain about because, at the end of the day, a computer can be programmed to ignore you at the push of a button, there being no-one left who is actually attentive to know or care.

      I think most people have been through or witnessed this, genuine customer service that with modernisation simply dissapears the moment you want a tailored answer outside of the wedged boxes provided by the new automated customer service. People won’t have to get used to that in future, it will be all they have known, with the upgraded version of the likes of Amelia seeming like an actual improvement that will be applauded.

      Though I am emphasising the possible negative side, I don’t think anyone will deny that relying on this tech will also make society more vulnerable in certain ways.

  22. Peter Boardman
    Jun 10, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    In management speak the process has a name, “Costs Externalisation”. In simple terms the customer’s time is free…

  23. Jun 10, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    Universal Basic Income addresses and completely solves ALL of these Issues.

  24. WSKJ
    Jun 10, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    I can think of great calls I’ve had with the Indian-accent Suzys and Johns (R2D2, above). a high level of customer service from human beings.

    I can’t think of any great calls I’ve ever had with recorded message menus (and they want ME to push buttons) ….or wait, is that just the serf level of AI ; are we just talking here the upper caste of melodious-voice responders who are pretending to be human ? Siri Alexa Amelia

    Just watched 2014 Disney Jungle World, where they have reached a remarkable level of blending video footage of real life, people, scenes, with CG footage. Can oral communications be far behind ?

    Tech developers will be toasting each other with champagne when word is out that the high rollers who thought they were talking to human beings were in fact talking to- um, I’m going to call her, “Cybil”. that’s right, the “Cy-” is for cyber…….

    • Aravind
      Jun 13, 2018 at 4:09 am

      A bit late to reply. But please hold that name for the time being. It can be used when that particular AI develops multiple “personalities” :-)

  25. Cal
    Jun 10, 2018 at 11:54 pm

    If corporations want my money and my business, they better employ people from my linguistic cohort. Checked into a hotel, the desk clerk asked me to type in my information;
    “Sure, I said, if I get a ten percent discount, for saving labor costs and doing your job…You type it in if I’m paying full fare. ”

    When we get robo calls or Indians calling for duct cleaning and other home improvement services, we readily click through and enthusiastically make appointments for service calls–on Friday afternoon, in areas that have horrendous traffic. This wastes the contractor, who is usually a third world type’s time. If enough people did this, the local scam artists and real contractors would stop relying on the robo and Indian call centers.

  26. Mean Chicken
    Jun 11, 2018 at 12:10 am

    The downsizing is anticipated, concerning the circumstances brought on by a long string of poor decisions.

    As far as AI goes, we already recognize these cornerstones of dynamic innovation habitually fly in close proximity to the Sun.

  27. andrew benington
    Jun 11, 2018 at 9:55 am

    The robots have arrived. Majority unemployment by 2030 is certain. The financialised debt model bomb is primed and ticking.
    No work = no consumption = no profits = no tax = no repayment of personal, corporate and government debt.
    CB QE balance sheets, including China’s money printing, sit at $20 trillion, close to Global GDP. In other words, for 10 years there has been no return on invested capital. The global economy is a zero sum game of moving chairs.
    For those who follow cycles, the neolithic civilisation of the crescent collapsed around 2800 BC. The Bronze age mediterranean and levant civilisation collapsed in 1200 BC. The western Roman empire collapsed in 412 AD. A cycle of civilisation of about 1600 years ? It’s 1600 years since the last re-set.
    We can break this cycle. The previous civilisations reacted to their stagnating economies and falling fecundity by strengthening borders. We should pursue the opposite strategy. Abandon our borders and extend citizenship to the “other” beyond, extend the rule of law to the lawless, create an inclusive global civilisation.

    • elysianfield
      Jun 11, 2018 at 11:49 am

      Andrew,
      SWEET! “Camp of the ******…anybody?

      Anybody?

    • nick kelly
      Jun 11, 2018 at 2:08 pm

      Fast forward and extrapolating.

      The American war of independence was fought with muzzle- loading muskets that literally hadn’t changed in a century.

      By the end of the US civil war, the (relatively) rapid loading breech loader was evolving. The true machine gun was only ready for WWI, the US with incredible luck had its civil war while it was being perfected.

      First used against tribes in Africa, around 1890, the machine gun completely altered WWI.

      With WWI , the application of science to war really takes off. Changes that took centuries now take place in less than a year.

      To counter the machine gun, after a few months of frantic effort, the tank is invented at the end of WWI, and the airplane began to be developed. (the Vicker’s Vimy can carry a 1000 lb bomb in 1918)

      A mere 22 years later, the tank is perfected and overcomes the machine gun (fall of France)

      A mere 3 years later, the now perfected heavy bomber wipes out most of Hamburg out killing around 50, 000.

      A mere two years later, the A- bombs are dropped.

      Five years later the first H-bomb is tested, with a small atomic explosion
      being the ‘blasting cap.’

      There are now about 8 thousand H bombs. It is the only major weapon that has never been used.

      There are no doubt lots of long- wave cycles to think about but first we have to get past this one.

  28. stan
    Jun 11, 2018 at 10:48 am

    If we get rid of the taxes on human labor, and put it on the machines, then we’ll get our jobs back. It’s economics, not just technology.

    I curse at the customer service bots and repeatedly say “let me speak to a person”, or keep hitting the zero, star, and pound signs, until I get a person. Sometimes I ask “Are you a machine or a person?” Their answers are getting more crafty.

    I don’t use the kiosk at McDonalds or the self checkout line at the grocery store. I leave the shopping cart in the parking lot (safely), and I use cash everywhere it is practical.

    Getting rid of the federal income tax on American jobs is the main event. We must delete line 7 from the 1040 form. We hear the rich prattle on about free trade and yet we citizens are not allowed to trade with our neighbors without paying taxes for the “privilege”.

    On an individual level, stop cooperating with these robots. This is war! Everyone can start fighting with non-cooperation now!

  29. Ambrose Bierce
    Jun 11, 2018 at 11:29 am

    Some time back I witnessed a violent crime in my neighbors yard, a man beating a woman, and I called the police. They said they could have someone out there later that afternoon. I asked them why they didn’t take my call seriously, and it was because I was completely calm in my speech. My lack of emotion led them to believe the crime was not serious.

  30. polecat
    Jun 11, 2018 at 11:54 am

    Just when MY reality reasserts itself, I find as though I’ve stepped into another universe, where everything is new, and shiny, ‘progress’ is always and forever upward, and there Is No Downside … at least in the universe that those such as the good Mr. Dube reside in …
    I really need to get with fixing my quantum state transference device .. so that the next time I step into the multiverse, I don’t land in a place where I’m resigned to having to be on a constant treadmill, the result Always being subjected to some kind of ‘retraining remediation’.
    “sigh”

  31. c smith
    Jun 11, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    Wake me up when automated so called “customer service reps” have real power to make an adjustment to a policy for a “special” (i.e.; more profitable) customer, or provide a refund/rebate/bonus to an aggrieved one. Until then, automated agents will do nothing but frustrate customers. My guess is that at least half of customer service interactions involve “nuances” about a product or service, where a customer is trying to either receive some compensation for a defect or negotiate a better price or a higher service level for little or no cost. Agents (automated or otherwise) that can’t do this are non-starters.

    • Jun 11, 2018 at 5:33 pm

      Every time my XM radio expires, I call up to cancel and automatically get offers for reduced rates. Machines could easily do that to an extent as well.

      I have to admit my biggest worry here is the next wave of spam calls – sales machines call me enough already, but they are obviously machine calls.

      Overall I tend to be pro-technology though. The problem of job losses is one that our system will need to address, and the way labor is treated as a mere commodity to support human resource demand will need to change. Labor saving devices are disruptive but can lead to a better future if we can do a lot more to ensure that productivity gains reach ordinary people instead of merely syphoning a big part of economic wealth to a small number of wealthy elites.

  32. RvC
    Jun 12, 2018 at 1:37 pm

    AI replacing human contact will contribute to farming of humanity.

  33. Louis
    Jun 12, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    What the AI version of “I want to speak to your manager?”

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