When futurist Peter Schwartz decided to see The Martian with his wife, it was grey Saturday afternoon in Berkeley, California.
He booked a pair of tickets on his laptop and, in his own words, “didn’t think about it”.
“About 45 minutes before the movie my Apple watch says, ‘Peter, you need to leave for the movie in 10 minutes and there’s no traffic between you and the theatre’.
“What happened? I didn’t configure anything, I didn’t do anything, I didn’t ask for anything.
“But my laptop on which I ordered [the tickets] read my email, communicated with my phone, checked my calendar, checked Google Maps, found out where the theatre was, checked the traffic and then formed a perfect English sentence and sent it to my watch – the best place for me to get the message.”
Schwartz – who is senior vice president of strategic planning at Salesforce and a renowned author and consultant to movies like Minority Report and Deep Impact – recounts the story as a “wonderful experience” of ‘intimate computing’.
“Personal computing is when you know your computer,” Schwartz told the Salesforce world tour event in Melbourne.
“Intimate computing is when it knows you and everything about you and the environment in which you operate.
“Where that leads to is all of us having personal assistants of an electronic form.”
Schwartz indicated he was experiencing more of these types of “intimate” experiences in recent times.
“I recently arrived in a hotel in Houston, they emailed me that morning to say, ‘we’ve got a new check-in system, if you check in now online you don’t have to bother when you come in’,” he said.
“I arrived, the doorman hands me my keys and says you’re in 905. That’s all it took.”
Similarly, he put Amazon’s algorithms and ‘1-click’ ordering in the same basket. By getting good at recommending Schwartz books – Schwartz himself is a renowned author – Amazon made it so easy to buy that it required almost no thinking.
Schwartz believed this would be a hallmark of future customer experiences.
Each would be powered by “a little bit of intelligence that takes friction out of the process”.
Those bits are what Schwartz is calling “little AI” and he believes they will be a part of many of the products and services we use sooner rather than later.
“It is a ubiquitous phenomenon that is now beginning to develop,” he said.
Schwartz said Salesforce is already working to integrate little AI into its own products, though he noted the company would be just one of many that went down that path.
“Artificial intelligence is the future of Salesforce,” he said.
“It’s what we’re beginning to think about.
“Big AI is science fiction. I know [because] I write it. Big AI is a human brain substitute and to do that we have to understand how the brain really works and the honest answer is we’re a long way from that.
“However little AI is something that’s here already. Little bits of intelligence applied to any business process to take the friction out of it so that the customer doesn’t have to think about it.”
Ry Crozier travelled to Salesforce world tour in Melbourne as a guest of Salesforce.