x.ai And The Quest For A Digital Personal Assistant

The US-based company x.ai is building their business on a simple idea; it wanted to make it easier for people to schedule meetings. But there was a lot more to it.

But Dennis Mortensen, CEO of the company, explains that this goal presented an "extremely hard" challenge. So hard, in fact, that he suggests that it ought not even be possible.

Mortensen suggests that this probably would be easy, but x.ai has loftier ambitions than that. What x.ai aims to achieve is a human-like personal assistant, one that you would communicate with in the same way you would a real-life personal assistant.

x.ai's product requires the user to give Amy or Andrew access to their calendar, of course, but it also allows the user to sit down with their personal assistant and tell him or her that they're not a morning person, or that they like to keep Fridays free to close off the week.

Amy or Andrew will keep note of your preferences and book in meetings accordingly.

Mortensen says that a key area in which machines are superior to humans, and one that x.ai is looking to exploit, is the analysis of historical data. "She will go in and look at your calendar, so if you hired a human you wouldn't go back to January 1st 2010 and look at who you met with, why you met with them, how long you met with them, and do the same for the last five years. But Amy will do that for you," he says.

The goal of this program seems to be something like the Daily Schedule from Frank Herbert's marvelous 1997 novel The Dosadi Experiment. More than just a verbal interface to your computer meeting scheduler, it could help in many other ways.

In McKie's thoughts, the DS [Daily Schedule] was suddenly transformed into a valued confidante.

As though it knew his thoughts, the DS said:

"I'm still a machine. You are inefficient, but as you have correctly stated you have ways at arriving at accuracy which machines do not understand. We can only... guess, and we are not really programmed to guess unless specifically ordered to do so on a given occasion. Trust yourself."

"But you'd rather I were not killed?"

"That is my program."

"Do you have any more helpful suggestions?"

"You would be advised to waste as little time as possible here. There was a tone of urgency in BIldoon's voice."

McKie stared at the nearest voder...

"Are you sure he sounded urgent?"

"He spoke rapidly and with obvious tensions."

"Truthful?"

"The tone-spikes lead to that conclusion."

Via Computing; see also the x.ai website.

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