How AI Makes Applications Friendlier

By John Paul Mueller, Luca Massaron

There are a number of different ways in which to view the question of application friendliness addressed by artificial intelligence (AI). At its most basic level, an AI can provide anticipation of user input. For example, when the user has typed just a few letters of a particular word, the AI guesses the remaining characters. By providing this service, the AI accomplishes several goals:

  • The user becomes more efficient by typing fewer characters.
  • The application receives fewer errant entries as the result of typos.
  • The user and application both engage in a higher level of communication by prompting the user with correct or enhanced terms that the user might not otherwise remember, avoiding alternative terms that the computer may not recognize.

An AI can also learn from previous user input in reorganizing suggestions in a way that works with the user’s method of performing tasks. This next level of interaction falls within the realm of suggestions. Suggestions can also include providing the user with ideas that the user might not have considered otherwise.

Even in the area of suggestions, humans may begin to think that the AI is thinking, but it isn’t. The AI is performing an advanced form of pattern matching as well as analysis to determine the probability of the need for a particular input. Weak AI is the kind found in every application today, and strong AI is something that applications may eventually achieve.

Using an AI also means that humans can now exercise other kinds of intelligent input. The example of voice is almost overused, but it remains one of the more common methods of intelligent input. However, even if an AI lacks the full range of senses, it can provide a wide variety of nonverbal intelligent inputs. An obvious choice is visual, such as recognizing the face of its owner or a threat based on facial expression. However, the input could include a monitor, possibly checking the user’s vital signs for potential problems. In fact, an AI could use an enormous number of intelligent inputs, most of which aren’t even invented yet.

Currently, applications generally consider just these first three levels of friendliness. As AI intelligence increases, however, it becomes essential for an AI to exhibit Friendly Artificial Intelligence (FAI) behaviors consistent with an Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) that has a positive effect on humanity. AI has goals, but those goals may not align with human ethics, and the potential for misalignment causes angst today. An FAI would include logic to ensure that the AI’s goals remain aligned with humanity’s goals, similar to the three laws found in Isaac Asimov’s books. However, many say that the three laws are just a good starting point and that we need further safeguards.

Of course, all this discussion about laws and ethics could prove quite confusing and difficult to define. A simple example of FAI behavior would be that the FAI would refuse to disclose personal user information unless the recipient had a need to know. In fact, an FAI could go even further by pattern matching human input and locating potential personal information within it, notifying the user of the potential for harm before sending the information anywhere. The point is that an AI can significantly change how humans view applications and interact with them.