Why Your Virtual Assistant is NOT ‘just like Siri’

Fan of artificial intelligence? Go and thank Alan Turing (The Father of Artificial Intelligence) for that. But why is it that Siri and Google searches (and similar other artificial intelligent machines) cannot simply answer this:

Joan made sure to thank Susan for all the help she had given. Who had given the help?
a) Joan
b) Susan

Human Intelligence vs. AI

The above question is just one of Hector Levesque’s set of problems, designed to be easy for an intelligent person but hard for a machine merely running Google searches. It’s so easy that any human being who knows how to read and write can answer it, including your virtual assistants.

But no, not Siri or Google search. And for the following reasons, your assistant is NOT just like Siri.

Your virtual assistant has common sense.

Siri does not.

Common sense is simply a sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts. The question I mentioned above requires only common sense to answer. But only humans were gifted with it — it still eludes machines.

How does common sense work? You need to know things and be able to make deductions (reason). For example, you know that stepping in front of a speeding car is likely to get you killed, so common sense indicates you shouldn’t do it.

If the internet becomes unreliable, it is common sense for your virtual assistant to notify you and look for possible ways to communicate with you overseas or restore his or her connection. However, Siri won’t do that. It won’t find ways to connect with you. Virtual assistants are capable of forming a plan A, B, C or even D, so when your work encounters a hiccup be glad that you have a VA who can make a way, instead of a Siri who cannot deduce a workaround.

Your virtual assistant has emotions.

Siri does not.

Another thing which Brian Christian pointed out about machines mimicking human intelligence is this: Machines lack motives. For example, a chatbot has no particular reason to say what it says and it speaks without really listening.

But your virtual assistant knows how to consider your mood and be sensitive to your emotions. If he or she knows that something may upset you, then he or she won’t do it. But machines do not have any idea of whether you are tired, what you think about a certain issue and the likes. It is programmed to complete a task, and that’s all it will do.

Your virtual assistant learns and grows.

Siri needs to be updated.

According to Brian Christian, people produce timely answers, correctly if possible, whereas computers produce correct answers, quickly if possible. Brian won the 2009 competition for the Loebner prize as the “most human human” where his task is to persuade judges that he is a human and not a machine.

A computer can only give you answers from its database, repeating the same task over and over again based on its programs. Over the years, the machine finally wears off.

On the contrary, your virtual assistant who is doing the same secretarial or graphic designing service for you has room for growing and learning. Over the years, he or she can probably do better than before.

Artificial intelligence needs constant update, and even repairs. But human intelligence learns from experience – a great advantage that machines cannot surpass.

While machines seem to be an alternative for human intelligence, the human brain has complexities still beyond our understanding. Humans also functions a lot aside from simply completing a task. Still, your virtual assistant won’t be just like Siri. As a human, he or she is more than that.

After all, artificial intelligence is just created by humans.