How Siri Will Become An Intelligence Amplifier.

Reading Time: 9 minutes


Siri Will Become Something Much Larger Than Most Assume.

What if you could have the AI read everything you’ve ever read and listen to every song you’ve ever heard?”—Tom Gruber, Siri Co-Creator

Subscribers to Multiplex Magazine know that I have been a very strong advocate and researcher in the area of human/computer interfaces that use protocols that form a basis of understanding how humans truly operate.  This avenue differs in the “big data” approach to find an average human.  The protocol based AI operates on a fundamentally different premise, deep contextual personal data.

Tom Gruber one of the founding fathers of Siri, Inc in 2007 as a primary researcher at SRI International.  Tom delivered a talk on the future power of computing at TED 2017 [1].   This has been one of the first public appearances he has made since Siri was acquired by Apple.  Prior to just a few month ago, Apple had a very closed approach to any publishing or public appearances by their key scientists.  This all changed and recently Apple opened a Machine Learning blog [2] and published the concepts that inform the new DMD systems that are part of Siri in iOS 11 and HomePod. It is refreshing to see to see Apple scientists presenting concepts and it comes at an important time in history.

In Tom’s talk he declared that AI should be “used to augment human failings, such as memory.”  I have coined this as a reversal of Artificial Intelligence to Intelligence Amplification back in the 1980s when writing my Voice Manifesto.  It is clear that the Turinian goal of creating AI is an invalid premise since we do not even have a firm understating of Human intelligence let alone the intelligence of other species on this planet.

To asks the question: “How smart can our machines make us?” Tom Gruber, co-creator of Siri, wants to make “humanistic AI” that augments and collaborates with us instead of competing with (or replacing) us. He shares his vision for a future where AI helps us achieve superhuman performance in perception, creativity and cognitive function — from turbocharging our design skills to helping us remember everything we’ve ever read and the name of everyone we’ve ever met. “We are in the middle of a renaissance in AI,” Gruber says. “Every time a machine gets smarter, we get smarter.”

Below is the recently released TED Talk video presentation along with a transcript. I will include some of my highlights and commentary:


I’m here to offer you a new way to think about my field, artificial intelligence. I think the purpose of AI is to empower humans with machine intelligence. And as machines get smarter, we get smarter. I call this “humanistic AI” — artificial intelligence designed to meet human needs by collaborating and augmenting people. Now, today I’m happy to see that the idea of an intelligent assistant is mainstream. It’s the well-accepted metaphor for the interface between humans and AI. And the one I helped create is called Siri.

Humanistic AI is a great way to view the true nature of what we are truly building with Intelligence Amplification (IA).  By enhancing humans and addressing needs, IA will become one of the most profound shifts of humanity, equal to the invention of writing and the printing press.


You know Siri. Siri is the thing that knows your intent and helps you do it for you, helps you get things done. But what you might not know is that we designed Siri as humanistic AI, to augment people with a conversational interface that made it possible for them to use mobile computing, regardless of who they were and their abilities.






Now for most of us, the impact of this technology is to make things a little bit easier to use. But for my friend Daniel, the impact of the AI in these systems is a life changer. You see, Daniel is a really social guy, and he’s blind and quadriplegic, which makes it hard to use those devices that we all take for granted. The last time I was at his house, his brother said, “Hang on a second, Daniel’s not ready. He’s on the phone with a woman he met online.” I’m like, “That’s cool, how’d he do it?” Well, Daniel uses Siri to manage his own social life — his email, text and phone — without depending on his caregivers. This is kind of interesting, right? The irony here is great. Here’s the man whose relationship with AI helps him have relationships with genuine human beings. And this is humanistic AI.

Daniel’s example speaks to how AI can become far more than amplification, but a crucial augmentation that becomes central to his life.


Another example with life-changing consequences is diagnosing cancer. When a doctor suspects cancer, they take a sample and send it to a pathologist, who looks at it under a microscope. Now, pathologists look at hundreds of slides and millions of cells every day. So to support this task, some researchers made an AI classifier. Now, the classifier says, “Is this cancer or is this not cancer?” looking at the pictures. The classifier was pretty good, but not as good as the person, who got it right most of the time.

Humans can become easily distracted and in this aspect alone a non-distracted AI system can out classify rote and redundant inspections when the training data has established a foundation.


But when they combine the ability of the machine and the human together, accuracy went to 99.5 percent. Adding that AI to a partnership eliminated 85 percent of the errors that the human pathologist would have made working alone. That’s a lot of cancer that would have otherwise gone untreated. Now, for the curious, it turns out that the human was better at rejecting false positives, and the machine was better at recognizing those hard-to-spot cases. But the lesson here isn’t about which agent is better at this image-classification task. Those things are changing every day. The lesson here is that by combining the abilities of the human and machine, it created a partnership that had superhuman performance. And that is humanistic AI.

The union of human skills with AI skills are the fundamental example of IA. This arc is the path to the true future for this technology.


Now let’s look at another example with turbocharging performance. This is design. Now, let’s say you’re an engineer. You want to design a new frame for a drone. You get out your favorite software tools, CAD tools, and you enter the form and the materials, and then you analyze performance. That gives you one design. If you give those same tools to an AI, it can generate thousands of designs.

Iteration is another example of rote and redundant work that is not optimized to human behavior. AI that has been trained with the basic physics and design principles can create millions of iterations. The results can be tested and ultimately human collaborated and verified.


This video by Autodesk is amazing. This is real stuff. So this transforms how we do design. The human engineer now says what the design should achieve, and the machine says, “Here’s the possibilities.” Now in her job, the engineer’s job is to pick the one that best meets the goals of the design, which she knows as a human better than anyone else, using human judgment and expertise. In this case, the winning form looks kind of like something nature would have designed, minus a few million years of evolution and all that unnecessary fur.

Once “organic” naturalist design is learned with observed principles applied to AI, the repetitive iterations of variations can be presented as almost an evolutionary result.


Now let’s see where this idea of humanistic AI might lead us if we follow it into the speculative beyond. What’s a kind of augmentation that we would all like to have? Well, how about cognitive enhancement? Instead of asking, “How smart can we make our machines?” let’s ask “How smart can our machines make us?” I mean, take memory for example. Memory is the foundation of human intelligence. But human memory is famously flawed. We’re great at telling stories, but not getting the details right. And our memories — they decay over time. I mean, like, where did the ’60s go, and can I go there, too?

We can see the shift in AI from making machines have Turin-like intelligence to IA via memory enhancement.  Memory once triggered by some prompt from the IA assistant can allow the human to act on the creative processes rather than the element of memorizing and recall.  Our IA assistants will become an reverse entropy processes where memory decay is nearly non existant.


But what if you could have a memory that was as good as computer memory, and was about your life? What if you could remember every person you ever met, how to pronounce their name, their family details, their favorite sports, the last conversation you had with them? If you had this memory all your life, you could have the AI look at all the interactions you had with people over time and help you reflect on the long arc of your relationships. What if you could have the AI read everything you’ve ever read and listen to every song you’ve ever heard? From the tiniest clue, it could help you retrieve anything you’ve ever seen or heard before. Imagine what that would do for the ability to make new connections and form new ideas.

Every word in this paragraph speaks to the actual arc of the future of IA.  The kernel of AI is to be a guide along your normal daily life.  The collective impact is profound.  All of your experiences are there with-in seconds freeing you to think and act in a flowing creative process.  There is simply nothing like this effect in human history.


And what about our bodies? What if we could remember the consequences of every food we eat, every pill we take, every all-nighter we pull? We could do our own science on our own data about what makes us feel good and stay healthy. And imagine how this could revolutionize the way we manage allergies and chronic disease.

Every choice has consequences.  In the pre IA era, it may take decades to see the impact on us, and by that time it may very well be too late to correct.  With ever vigilant IA systems, trends of reactions can be identified early and allow for alternative paths and outcomes.  It will impact every element of our lives.


I believe that AI will make personal memory enhancement a reality. I can’t say when or what form factors are involved, but I think it’s inevitable, because the very things that make AI successful today — the availability of comprehensive data and the ability for machines to make sense of that data — can be applied to the data of our lives. And those data are here today, available for all of us, because we lead digitally mediated lives, in mobile and online.

A logical conclusion is simple to understand: memory enhancement through IA is inevitable.  This is the path it always takes.


In my view, a personal memory is a private memory. We get to choose what is and is not recalled and retained. It’s absolutely essential that this be kept very secure.

The most important consideration of this epoch is the privacy and security of our deep context.  None of the “click-here to agree” buttons will be the excuse when the true impact of not establishing a proactive Declaration Of Privacy And Security is felt.  IA demands a Declaration Of Privacy And Security, Apple is on the path with a respect for encryption and Differential Privacy.  This is a great start, there will be much mer needed.  The other companies will have to arrive at a Declaration Of Privacy And Security or society, politics or rule of law will make force it.  We can not and must not move forward in the same manner that got us here.


Now for most of us, the impact of augmented personal memory will be a more improved mental gain, maybe, hopefully, a bit more social grace. But for the millions who suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia, the difference that augmented memory could make is a difference between a life of isolation and a life of dignity and connection.

The true impact of IA becomes very clear when a memory deficit is present.  Alzheimer’s is a perfect example of a use case.


We are in the middle of a renaissance in artificial intelligence right now. I mean, in just the past few years, we’re beginning to see solutions to AI problems that we have struggled with literally for decades: speech understanding, text understanding, image understanding. We have a choice in how we use this powerful technology. We can choose to use AI to automate and compete with us, or we can use AI to augment and collaborate with us, to overcome our cognitive limitations and to help us do what we want to do, only better. And as we discover new ways to give machines intelligence, we can distribute that intelligence to all of the AI assistants in the world, and therefore to every person, regardless of circumstance. And that is why, every time a machine gets smarter, we get smarter.

The largest point in this segment is how IA can be shared to millions.  There is no easy way to put this into words how this will impact humanity in a positive way.  This is not the Big Data Machine Learning we have become used to hearing about every day.  This is something that on a grand scale is magnified human learning profoundly amplifying all of humanity.  Nothing will be more powerful.


That is an AI worth spreading.


It is profoundly important that the actual research scientists that are doing the cutting edge work to be available for at least some time for the general public.  These folks can share their passion and motivations for the work they do unfiltered by the narratives of others. Tom’s 9 minutes and 40 seconds of time has a lasting impact.  We see the future through his eyes and as usual in these cases, even the most casual observer is touched by the vision and passion.

I have been building IA systems for about 10 years.  The last 5 years the power of these systems have become almost priceless in my productivity.  I already am living some of the world that Tom has presented and can report that it is the most transformative point in human history.  I do not say this lightly or to be bombastic.

We are inundated with dystopian presentments of the future where AI is anti-humanistic and ultimately works against humans as they will be seen as a parasite filled with illogical emotions.  The vision of the future is usually always barren and devoid of what we have come to know as human.

The vision of the future with true Personal Assistants with deep contextual IA is a deeply humanistic view of the future.  This is not the version of the future that sells movie tickets or fictional books.  It is the future that we humans always seem to create with the skeptics coming along protesting that it is the human aspect we need to remove.  No that has never been the aspect that moved humans forward through unfathomable odds, what moved us forward was human intelligence and creativity with a stubborn and illogical drive and ambition to never stop, to never give up.

We moved forward when we amplified our intelligence in the past, we will move forward by amplifying our intelligence in the future.  The intelligence will not be artificial, it will be human intelligence—amplified.


[1] TED – Tom Gruber

[2] Apple- Machine Learning



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