D. None of the Above: Chores I’d like an artificial intelligence to tackle for me
By Daniel Dunaief
I’m really writing this. Or am I?
Now that I’ve seen artificial intelligence in action, I know that the system, such as it is, can write impressive pieces in much shorter time than it takes me to write a column or even this sentence.
And yet, I don’t want a machine to write for me or to reach out to you. I prefer the letter by letter, word by word approach I take and would like to think I earn the smile, frown or anything in between I put on your face as a result of the thinking and living I’ve done.
However, I do see opportunities for AI to become the equivalent of a personal assistant, taking care of needed conveniences and reducing inconveniences. For conveniences, how about if AI did the following:
Grocery shopping: I’m sure I get similar foods each week. Maybe my AI system could not only buy the necessary and desired food items, but perhaps it could reduce the ones that are unhealthy or offer new recipes that satisfy my food preferences.
Dishes: I’m not looking for a robot akin to “The Jetsons,” but would love to have a system that removed the dirt and food from my dishes, put them in the dishwasher, washed them and then put them away. An enhanced system also might notice when a dish wasn’t clean and would give that dish another wash.
Laundry: Okay, I’ll admit it. I enjoy folding warm laundry, particularly in the winter, when my cold hands are starting to crack from being dry. Still, it would save time and energy to have a laundry system that washed my clothes, folded them and put them away, preferably so that I could see and access my preferred clothing.
Pharmacy: I know this is kind of dangerous when it comes to prescriptions, but it’d be helpful to have a system that replenished basic, over-the-counter supplies, such as band-aids. Perhaps it could also pick out new birthday and greeting cards that expressed particular sentiments in funny yet tasteful ways for friends and family who are celebrating milestone birthdays or are living through other joyful or challenging times.
For the inconveniences, an AI system would help by:
Staying on hold: At some point, we’ve all waited endlessly on hold for some company to pick up the phone to speak to us about changing our flights, scheduling a special dinner reservation or speaking with someone about the unusual noise our car makes. Those “on hold” calls, with their incessant chatter or their nonstop hold music, can be exasperating. An AI system that waited patiently, without complaint or frustration and that handed me the phone the moment a person picked up the call, would be a huge plus.
Optimize necessary updates: Car inspections, annual physicals, oil changes, and trips to the vet can and do go on a calendar. Still, it’d be helpful to have an AI system that recognizes these regular needs and coordinates an optimal time (given my schedule and the time it’ll take to travel to and from these events) to ensure I don’t miss an appointment and to minimize the effort necessary.
Send reminders to our children: Life is full of balances, right? Too much or too little of something is unhealthy. These days, we sometimes have to write or text our kids several times before we get to speak with them live. An AI system might send them a casual, but loving, reminder that their not-so-casual but loving parents would like to speak with them live.
Provide a test audience: In our heads, we have the impulse to share something funny, daring or challenging, like, “hey, did you get dressed in the dark” or “wow, it must be laundry day.” Sure, that might be funny, but an AI system designed to appreciate humor in the moment — and to have an awareness of our audience — might protect us from ourselves. Funny can be good and endearing, but can also annoy.