Trainer, Tutor, Assistant- and all at a fraction of the cost
AI, at its most base level, just takes in information and makes decisions. As you probably know, AI is already being used today to make simple decisions, such as predicting what you want to watch on YouTube. But what is the stuff that can’t be done now, but soon will be? What does the advent of AI mean for actual everyday people?
One big thing is to make people healthier. Do you ever wonder why it’s so hard to figure out how to just be healthy? Why does that world seem so complex? It’s because there are so many variables. The really hard part is that many of the variables are specific to you, so by its very nature optimizing your own personal health is not a simple thing that anyone necessarily has the time or energy to do. I wrote an article on being healthy, and when I did so I had to be careful to only suggest things that will work for most people. An AI could tell you exactly what you specifically need to do to be maximally healthy.
The way it could do this is: you could give it access to your genetic information and real-time biometrics (pretty easily done through a one-time tissue sample and then just wearing an Apple Watch). From that information alone it could give you better recommendations than any article, YouTube video, book, or other source of advice you could consume. That’s because it would know a lot better about what you specifically need at a specific time.
Another example is having an AI tutor. Khan Academy is probably the top company working on this. The idea is to solve this age-old dilemma about teaching: when teachers lecture to a class, half of the class is bored, half is confused, and like 2 people are being taught at the perfect pace.
It’s a resource problem. The teacher can’t teach at everyone’s pace, because then they’d have to hire one teacher for every student. The AI, however, would give a student example problems, which they could analyze and determine the student’s skill level. It then would teach the student at their own pace. I like this one because I can still see a clear role for a human teacher to play- classroom dynamics such as keeping order and instilling motivation would not be easily accomplished by an AI in the near future.
Another job that an AI could do would be that of a personal assistant. It could schedule meetings, make calls, organize rentals, book tickets, plan trips, and do other things like that. These may all sound like distinct tasks, and indeed they are. But they’re all relatively simple tasks, and ones where we’re just starting to see AI lending a digital hand. That’s what’s going on when your phone makes “Wednesday at 2” from your text convo with your boss clickable, and it suggests that you make a calendar event for that time. And if you think an AI can’t make calls for you, that’s already happening.
The common throughline of all of these applications is that having an AI work on these problems is kind of like having a person who is really bad at everything else but pretty good at this one specific task working on your problem. The advantage here is that this worker is on-demand, 24/7, and it never gets tired or wants to do anything else. It’s like hiring a personal trainer, tutor, and assistant, who do many aspects of their job better than their human counterparts, for a much smaller cost.
There is, of course, a horrible future where none of this comes to pass because of some issue with either the machines or the humans making them. In this case, AI could end up being a really bad thing for humans. Examples? Your personal trainer’s company gets hostile taken-over by McDonald’s and starts telling you to eat Big Macs. Your tutor is run by an extremist institute and keeps insisting that the best thing for your education is to binge-read Mein Kampf. Your personal assistant screens out every interesting meeting you could have because the company that gave it to you decides that it’s not on brand. And even worse stuff is possible in the long term.
These examples aren’t exactly subtle, but they’re not far from what’s possible, either. It’s up to us to shape how these technologies are used.