What everybody’s talking about – especially computers

It’s the hottest of the hottest, and it’s on everybody’s lips. Or, better yet, on everybody’s devices. It’s the trend known as conversational interfaces, or chatbots, if you will. And it’s the sort of thing that might lead to Star Trek-like computers with an attitude.

How hot is this trend really? Stuart Frankel, CEO of Narrative Science put it his way: “Are conversational interfaces really a big deal? They’re game-changing. Since the advent of computers, we have been forced to speak the language of computers in order to communicate with them and now we’re teaching them to communicate in our language.”

What is driving and makes possible the trend in conversational interfaces is artificial intelligence.  AI has been around for decades, but research into it has exploded in just the last few years, resulting in what we now call deep learning. The algorithms that manage deep learning allow computers to sort through massive amounts of data to “learn” and make decisions that simulate human decision making.

Experts warn that deep learning does have its limitations. Like most computer applications, it’s only as good as the available data. Face recognition, for example, can be susceptible to bias if the data does not include a complete enough sampling of human faces. And some pundits say that deep learning is overhyped; the same results can be obtained with simpler versions of machine learning.

Proponents of deep learning believe that it represents that future of human/computer interaction, allowing your computer to pick you out in a crowd and carry on personal conversations with you and you alone.

And what will the business world do with this advanced form of computer learning? Talking spam! Just think. Advertisements that call you by name and know more about you than just your recent browsing history. Ads that chat with you, ads that accompany you through your day, ads that act like your best friends.

It’s a brave new world.