I believe we are at the beginning of a major revolution in how we communicate, from the perspectives of people to people, people to machine, machine to people, and machine to machine communications.
Even though the major shift is at a relatively early stage, I see this now whenever I’m “chatting” with an “agent” to get help on a website, or troubleshooting with a “person” in the early stages of a service call when something breaks. You see it when you interact with a ChatBot on Facebook or Twitter, or when your home automation system “speaks” to another machine or human to order a new filter. I¹ve been thinking a lot about how this has real implications for the way that personal and business interactions will function in the near future.
While many people are talking about the growth of IoT (Internet of Things), I am also looking at what comes next, which I believe is the IoP (Internet of People). Increasingly, the IoP has to interface directly with a parallel Internet of Intelligent Machines. The medium of interaction among all these parties will increasingly be conversation. What happens when our devices are talking to each other – potentially leaving us out of the conversation? I now collectively refer to this Internet of People and the Internet of Intelligent Machines as the Convosphere (thanks to my friend Chris Fine for suggesting that word). This is a multi-billion dollar industry that has been growing rapidly since the dawn of social media, has been accelerated by rapid development of the IoT, and is now transitioning to a new set of conversational technologies like ChatBots and speech interfaces, all enhanced with ever-more-powerful AI and communications platforms like smartphones.
Looking at my inbox, I received over 150 emails (and reminders) from companies trying to get me to purchase something online during Cyber Monday. If I include all of the Black Friday promotions received, this would raise the total to more than over 300. Throw in the Giving Tuesdayemails and this number exceeds 400. Is this an effective way to reach me? To make me want to buy? In most cases, no! To me, this use of email is little different from the paper junk mail that plagues many of us. I could make a similar point about traditional websites and in-line search ads. Don¹t they all seem a bit old fashioned these days?
I do not think it is that much of stretch to imagine a day when our personal Bots (perhaps future incarnations of Siri, Alexa and their peers?) will “read” these promotions (probably receiving them through standardized interfaces), and, based on our preferences and history, make shopping recommendations for us. When that day comes, how should we be thinking about the bias a system like Alexa might have, to its corporate owner? And then, what about the day when a future Alexa-type system “knows” our preferences, our passions, our hobbies, and decides to purchase a gift on our behalf that we would never get for ourselves, knowing also that no one else would know to get it for us? Is this science fiction or is this just a few clicks away from becoming our reality? What are the implications?
I know I am not alone in believing that the acceptance of ChatBots will replace our dependence on Apps and will change the way people interact with the Internet. Websites will become less meaningful. The data we want to share with others will be stored in the cloud, both for public and private consumption. Our ChatBots, and their affiliated software agents, will know how to gather and sort the information that we are looking for and will help us to be much more efficient in day to day activities. We are spending billions of hours interacting with inefficient websites, and obsolete communications systems like email, trying to gather and sort our information for ourselves. The addition of powerful data analytics and AI to the mix, will allow these new services to process vast amounts of information in order to make conclusions about us.
This and other thinking led me to start an initiative a couple of years ago called How We Communicate (HWC). HWC is an overall theme for a number of threads which can explore modes and implications of communications, now and in the future. The first major thread I started, derived from HWC thinking, is MoNage, devoted to the world of electronic messaging and ChatBots. The first MoNage conference was held in Boston this fall, and generated a large number of highly interesting conversations and contacts.
As I work on Spring 2017 MoNage, which is taking place in the heart of Silicon Valley – San Jose – on March 21-23, I realize that the content we need to cover goes way beyond where the VON conferences went a few years ago, and also beyond where many messaging-industry conferences currently go. At the heart of VON, we explored the intersection of the Computing and Communications Industries. At MoNage, messaging has become the “New Voice,” and another element is rapidly being added: AI. What happens when Artificial Intelligence intersects with the Computing and Communications Industries? Chaos and huge opportunities. There will be some companies and industries disrupted, while others will be leaders in the new world of the Convosphere. Still other companies and ideas will be early-stage, but MoNage is the place investors and entrepreneurs will be creating the next set of Unicorn startups.
Sound interesting? Please join us in San Jose. Attend as a delegate. Showcase your startup. Consider being a speaker. In fact, I am actively curating the event and would welcome your voice. Interested? Just email firstname.lastname@example.org and start the conversation.
Finally, here’s an example of the tangible outcomes from MoNage and HWC to date. I’ve been working with a number of ChatBot industry experts, entrepreneurs, and policy specialists, building an industry organization called the Friends of ChatBot Coalition. Our Website is http://fcc.ai. We are already getting significant traction around standardization and protection from undue regulation for the ChatBot industry, as well as coalescing upon common ChatBot rules of engagement and interaction. Please join us if you are involved with ChatBots or any other aspect of conversational interfaces!
I welcome your comments, as always, and look forward to some great discussions at our ongoing events! See this link [http://jeffpulver.com/2016/
These are exciting times. And we can all be part of it.