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The Value of Quiet AI


Groundbreaking technology is about useability: the best mousetrap and the shiniest gadget will quickly be left to gather dust if it’s not an order of magnitude simpler or easier to use, and complex systems — no matter how powerful — can easily become barriers rather than tools. These are fundamental axioms of long term and sustainable innovation, and adhering to these principles differentiates those who are making true quality of life improvements from those chasing the short term gold rush using “artificial intelligence” marketing-speak.

AI is the current flavor, but the approach is not new: this scenario almost precisely mirrors the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, where the mere mention of “internet” or “e-commerce” could cause a company’s stock price to reach the stratosphere, and where business plans were green-lit off the back of napkins. When the bubble burst however, these companies left behind a trail of disillusionment and financial ruin.  Smart innovators and investors should instead be planting roots in companies that are embracing a long-term approach.

The Early Movers

Today, the phrase AI is used to capture media attention and generate excitement, even when the technologies in question are hardly intelligent and certainly aren’t integrated with much foresight.  To say nothing of the truly nefarious actors, companies today are eager to ride the hype and tout their use of AI while delivering cumbersome or awkward experiences worse than the technologies they were supposed to replace.

Even the incumbent corporate giants aren’t immune. Recently Microsoft’s AI-powered news aggregator faced backlash for attaching an inappropriate poll to sensitive news articles, both adding a layer of friction to normal media browsing and damaging the platform’s reputation by asking readers to vote on how they thought the young woman in the news story had died. 

This is AI done poorly. 

Or rather, from an innovator’s perspective, it’s AI done “loudly”: a system layered on top of an existing product, rather than being built from the ground up with the customer at the heart of the experience.

So what’s the alternative?

Embracing Simplicity

Apple brought the concept of powerful eastern-inspired simplicity into the cultural zeitgeist, but so far very few AIs have practically embraced anything similar. Take professional automation for instance: speeding up the once-time-consuming simple tasks that required significant manual input is perhaps the simplest use case for AI’s application. However, even with OpenAI and other companies making AI nearly ubiquitous, most processes — especially in the professions — have yet to be impacted in any meaningful way.

A “quiet” AI approach is ideal for this. 

Being experts in their respective fields already, professionals don’t have the time or interest to learn how to navigate complex systems or new toolsets — they just need technology that works, and fits into their lives as simply and cleanly as possible. Whether this is doctors, lawyers, accountants, or government officials they all want the same thing: they want their time back.

These customers don’t need AI popup-surveys or other gimmicks: they need an AI that hums along quietly in the background efficiently streamlining tasks and processes without requiring constant interaction or oversight. Unobtrusive integration is what makes it so valuable: it’s an AI that gets them home for dinner, not a new toolkit their boss is forcing them to learn to appease corporate stakeholders.

Life by AI

Whether it’s improving customer interactions, reducing government bureaucracy, or enhancing professional outcomes, these new technologies must be designed to make meaningful differences without us noticing. While the internet and software industry eventually matured, the real winners were those who had their customers at the heart of their experience. Similarly, it is crucial for the AI industry to move beyond marketing gimmicks and focus on genuine, user-centric advancements. 

In the next few years, AI will play a bigger and bigger part in all our lives as companies try to sell their own models or latest tools. However, the biggest winners in this space will be those who have integrated AI into everyday life, enhancing both professional and personal interactions. To get there, innovators and investors need to make the commitment to developing simple, user-friendly solutions rooted in the belief that technology should serve humanity, not complicate it. 

After all, the best AI is one that you never have to think about.


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