Have You Had Your Turing Moment?

2016 is the year I had my Turing moment.

As Wikipedia tells us, Alan Turing proposed in 1950 a test of “a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.” The proposal was that a human and machine would interact via a text-only channel. If a human evaluator observing the interaction could not distinguish the machine participant in the conversation from the human participant, then the machine would pass the “Turing Test.”

This summer I was introduced to a potential business collaborator. We had a brief exchange by email and then decided to schedule a meeting. He said that his assistant would contact me to find a mutually convenient time. She did and we did. Several times over the course of our project, my collaborator’s ever-helpful assistant took care of the scheduling hassles. In fact, I came to value her help so much that I spontaneously wished her a wonderful weekend one Friday. And she kindly returned the good wishes.

Because the readers of this blog are smarter than the average bear, you know where I am going with this. That fabulous assistant was not human. Rather, she was a scheduling bot created by Clara Labs. And in the course of our admittedly brief exchanges, I did not realize I was conversing with a machine. She passed the Turing Test with flying colors.

Why am I telling you this story? Because scheduling bots are only the beginning. Frog Design has just published its annual Tech Trends provocation that provides a glimpse of what is in store for us in 2017.  According to Frog Design, the report identifies “15 technology trends that will unlock opportunities for growth and enable organizations to provide more meaningful experiences to their customers, employees, and society.”

One of the trends on this list is the proliferation of business bots that can do far more than mere scheduling. Here is the scenario sketched by Frog Design’s Toshi Mogi:

Imagine an entrepreneur whose mentor has recommended they start a new venture, selling vintage electric skateboards to the aging hipster market. The entrepreneur will commission an assortment of business bots to bring their vision to reality. The R&D bot will crowdsource the selection of designs from on-demand freelance designers, the Operations bot will manage contract manufacturers and production schedules, and the Sales and Marketing bot will optimize e-commerce channels and product promotions. As business bots become more intelligent, their ability to perform complex operational tasks and harness digitally enabled platform services will help new entrepreneurs scale their ventures, faster and with precision.

Have you had your Turing moment yet? Don’t worry if you haven’t. If Frog Design is right, business bots are coming to you soon and will massively improve your productivity.

Alan Turing would be pleased.

[Photo Credit: Wikimedia]