Alexa and Her 10,000 Skills

First, the news. Alexa toolbox of skills is growing at an accelerating rate.  From Wired

While 10,000 may seem like an arbitrary milestone, it’s an instructive one, especially when you consider how fast it’s come. Last June, a full year after the ASK launched, Amazon announced that Alexa had reached 1,000 skills. By September, that number had tripled. In January, Alexa’s skills catalog swelled to 7,000. It took just over a month to tack on another three thousand.

Unfortunately, as Alexa becomes more skillful, it becomes more difficult to figure out what Alexa can and cannot do. In other words, Alexa is not getting much smarter.

Sadly, I think that we will be stuck in this paradigm for a while. The reason is that the skills that Alexa is getting generally link us to suppliers of pre-fab solutions. So, for example, Alexa can adjust the oven temperature for a GE device as needed. Alexa can order a pizza, as long as it is form Domino.

Using Dan Kahneman’s line of thinking, this enables us to do things faster. It does not enable us to think of better ways to do things. Can we get better ideas from AI powered bots? Of course we can. But to get that, we will need a paradigm shift. Instead of the AI  imprisoned by a given supplier, like GE or Domino, the AI needs to be free to serve our needs. So when we ask Alexa a question, Alexa should give us the BEST possible answers, not just the one that a given company wants us to hear.

And when will this happen? The first step is not technological. It is devising a new business model where we can make money by giving and getting best possible solutions to questions — solutions that open the door to further discussion, not just a one off transaction, like ordering a pizza.

Will this happen? I think so and when it does, it will shake up the world as we know it.


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