Ready for digital people?

What could go wrong?

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

The fact is, that civilization requires slaves. Human slavery is wrong, insecure, and demoralizing. On mechanical slavery, on the slavery of the machine, the future of the world depends. – Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Ever find yourself on the phone with an incompetent, surly, barely comprehensible customer service rep who seems be from another time zone – or even planet – as you attempt to scrape your way out of some technological dilemma?

Help may be on the way.

The emphasis should be on the “may”.

If all goes as projected, Soul Machines (, the San Francisco-based technology company engaged in highly advanced artificial intelligence (AI) work, the metaverse and the digital world, will soon be teeming with so-called “digital people,” autonomously animated denizens deployed as a digital workforce in a highly immersive virtual cosmos.

Maybe it’s just me, but if there could be any term that conjures up a dystopian, de-humanizing, soul-less potential reality, it would be “Soul machine”.

Yes, these would be the ultimate digital natives – cyber “people” who will be adopted by every sector to represent both brands and consumers to conduct business, work, and play in the metaverse.

As you might guess, there’s a pile of money behind such a venture.

Soul Machines announced it had obtained $70 million in Series B1 financing, bringing total investment in the company to $135 million.

Partnering with IBM Watson, Soul Machines is working to create “artificial humans,” which are lifelike computer-generated characters with natural voices and realistic facial expressions, that can interact with users like real people.

The company says it is using deep AI technology to change and create the future of customer experience/service by delivering highly personalized brand experiences at scale.

Is that creepy beyond description or is it what we, as customers, workers or citizens really want?

If you want an introduction to these digital beings, take a look here:

Remember the 80/20 rule?

The 80/20 rule, among other things, operated on the assumption that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the workers.

Consider what some call the 70/20/10 rule: 70% of the momentum of changing an organization—its processes, ways of working, key performance indicators, and incentives—involves people. 20% entails getting the data right. The remaining 10% is about the technology use and platforms.

In other words, 70% of any organization is its people.

If the expensive – and often surly – human beings could be replaced by AI, robots, droids or drones by whatever name, who never complain about pay, hours or conditions, who wouldn’t want to?

Whither customer service?

Customer service, where products, marketing and sales converge, is where success – and failure – all happen.

The brands that have had the most durable success pursue five pivotal practices that define the craft of building intelligent experience, as in non-human, interfaces.

Imagine what machines by any name could do that mere humans struggle with.

At record speed, they could connect data signals and insights from a constantly expanding range of sources.

They could re-imagine the end-to-end experience as a seamless flow, powered by automated decisions.

They could activate the experience across channels, connecting touch points to engage customers wherever they may be.

They could fulfill any of this according to the customer’s context, always recognizing who and where someone is.

And they test relentlessly, injecting new innovations, rigorously measuring their impact, and understanding how things affect people differently.

And they never complain, or get sick or sleep.

These robots, droids or drones are every manager’s dream.

They are perfect. And thorough. And, potentially at least, always available.

This robot makes perfect fondue

A Swiss team has been working away on Bouebot, a robotic creation putting a futuristic twist on an Alpine tradition – fondue.

For a little over $300,000, you too could be the proud owner of droid-servant who, pivoting on six different axes, carefully calibrates temperature, wine, bread and cheese to produce a reliable – and precise – fondue.

Following its programming, it cuts the crust, puts the fondue pot under the scraper before grating the cheese, stirs vigorously as the mixture gradually melts and mixes and delivers the final product to the human.

This fondue chef flounders a bit when it comes to various shapes and textures of cheeses. Details here:

The singularity

As creepy or as wonderful as it might be, the merging of human and machine is well on its way.

Consider this “progress” on the brain/machine interface:

The term for the first generation of household devices were called ‘labor-saving” or perhaps “time” saving.

From blenders to food preparation devices of all sorts, they all promised safety and efficiency and relief from tedious toil.

The promised droids or drones follow up on that same promise.

But as, almost every student asks, if a machine can do it better, faster and with more accuracy, why should any of us learn anything?

It would be easy to make that argument that not only is technology making us lazy and amoral, it is making us stupid.

What are people for?

No algorithm will help us discern between right and wrong, but what have we become when we depend on them to find us the best “match” or the next thing to buy online, or even, thanks to our dependence on GPS, which way to go.

If we can’t cook or drive or even find a companion without a machine, how necessary are we?

Who needs humans?

Machines, for better or worse, focus on the task at hand – which fewer and fewer of us seem capable of.

Japan has been actively developing and deploying robots in nursing homes to deal with labor shortages since 2015.

Robots have been in use in manufacturing for decades around the world.

To put it mildly, the impact of robots differs by labor market conditions and industry.

And yes, thanks to the magic of the marketplace, you too could be the owner of a robot “pet”, receptionist or even, ahem, a “companion” here –

Maybe it’s just me, but my fellow surly, barely competent fellow humans are looking better to me every day.