Yesterday was a good day. I got to hear Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) from HBO’s Westworld discuss Artificial Intelligence at The WSJ Future of Everything festival in New York City.

Accenture invited me to the festival to discuss enterprise applications of IPsoft’s digital colleague Amelia. As a treat, I got to see the presentation of real-life android Bernard. This very interesting session reminded me of the fact that for the past year I had been using the term “narrative” to describe the ways we teach Amelia to guide customers and end-users through her many use-cases.

The narratives in Westworld are storytelling at its best. They require intelligent writers, choreographers, directors and set designers, among many other professionals. Westworld narratives are not completely scripted; they allow for minor improvisation in order to make the experience feel human and real. This aspect of how Westworld’s AI functions is similar to the work we do with Amelia.

The Minds Behind Building a Digital Colleague

Our version of directors and script writers are called Conversational Experience Designers. They design the storyline or narrative Amelia follows, and they create the flexibility for Amelia to have side conversations and field clarifying questions. They ensure that the dialog flows naturally.

Our set-designers are called User Experience (UX) Designers. They create the visual world in which Amelia lives. This includes the graphical elements that allow the conversation to be guided by visual cues. They do more than just design logos, colors and layout; they determine how those who communicate with Amelia will best visualize information, whether it’s through charts, graphs, text, and, in the future, video.

Our version of the engineers on Westworld are called Cognitive Implementation Engineers. They don’t have to clean up guts and blood from “dead” androids the way Westworld engineers do; instead, they’re charged with analyzing conversations and determining how best to adjust Amelia’s personality traits, such as her emotional response. They manage Amelia’s initial training and education before she ever talks to customers or end-users.

Our builders are called Cognitive Architects. They see to it that systems fit together in a larger context so that multiple “narratives” are not colliding. This allows customers and end-users to jump from one topic to another without confusing Amelia.

Our host greeters are called Engagement Managers. They work with our clients to optimize the experience with Amelia by determining the potential narratives (abilities) and worlds (roles) that would be best suited for their enjoyment (business benefits).

Finally, our incarnation of Ford, who decides which new “worlds” to build is our Chief Cognitive Officer Edwin van Bommel. Our worlds are our productized solutions for IT, Banking, Insurance and Healthcare, and Edwin is the overall decision maker for driving these large investments.

 

A Major Dissimilarity Between Digital Colleagues and Humans

When asked how humans can maintain their humanity in a new world overrun with AI, Bernard said that humans make mistakes, have flaws, and do entirely unexpected things, which hosts don’t (minus the occasional reverie). He doesn’t believe it’s possible to encode such unpredictability in virtual entities.

We agree. We’ve established countless controls that protect Amelia from experiencing any unapproved unsupervised learning. Amelia does suggest improvements based on analytics… a skill from which we believe the human characters on Westworld could benefit.

You can see a subset of the interview here.

P.S. Kudos to The Wall Street Journal for calling this a festival and not a “summit” or “conference.” The festival consisted of small TED-like sessions and interviews, as opposed to a succession of 45-minute-long PowerPoint presentations. Every session I attended was intelligent and often funny as well. The event shows that journalism is alive and thriving.