Analytics, Big Data, Big Data and Analytics, Digital Strategy, Innovation

Improvements from Artificial Intelligence and (More) Robots in Our Lives

10 Dec , 2017  

Improvements from Artificial Intelligence and (More) Robots in Our Lives

It is anticipated that some 22 million units of Amazon echo will be purchased this year. Building on the 11 million sold in 2016, north of 30 million units will soon be deployed. It is perhaps as rapid a technological deployment, as a percentage of US households, as the microwave, VHS player, Sony Walkman, and Atari 2600 (which is back btw!). Digital assistants from Google, Apple, and Microsoft add to this growing and important new tool in our lives.

With so many people concerned about the risks and downsides of automation, artificial intelligence, chat-bots, robo-advisors, robots, and other bots, it seems we are losing focus on how these will make our lives better, even in the short-term. Here are my most immediate requests for my bots.

  1. Less Monotony and Repetition (Liberation from Internet Forms): It seems a great entrenchment at Amazon is its one-click, easy to buy option. All shipping data and purchasing data is saved and accessed when needed to complete a transaction. How many of us loathe buying from a new on-line merchant because of the task of reentering our account details? Automation can take this monotonous and repetitive task away (forever) hopefully in all future purchases.
  2. Resolving Conflicts: Scheduling tools and calendars have been around for a couple of decades, but we still have many conflicts in our daily lives. The calendars are not updated for dynamic changes, such as running late, weather delays, and other parts of real life disruption. I look forward to having my auto-bot re-optimize my calendar when there is disturbance.
  3. Focusing on the Urgent, Planning for the Important: As a busy professor and father of two, I, like most working parents see the many duties and tasks in life and work as urgent. However, upon closer inspection, few things are urgent, but most are important (and some are very important). Urgent items require attention immediately, but important things can (and often should be done later when more time and information is available). Our failing as humans is that we forget to do things. The important items delayed are forgotten and reappear as urgent items or crises. Few people are masters of the management between urgent and important. This was all evident to me a few weeks ago, when we were planting daffodils in the yard. My son asked me why we had to plan the daffodils at that time. Well, it was surprisingly urgent, as it was the end of the fall planting cycle and freezes were soon forecasted. If we wanted spring flowers, it was urgent that we do the planting then, as the window of opportunity was quickly closing. However, we probably missed something else that was important. Help with tracking the important and less urgent, such as cleaning the windows, scheduling the car for maintenance, cleaning the gutters, re-balancing the stock portfolio, inspecting the roof, and well – all of the stuff we delay would really help.
  4. Improved Data Management in Our Personal Lives – One of my hobbies is taking pictures. It is fun, and shooting the Nikon D800 makes it all the more fun. However, a weekend with the kids at the park or a few days on a vacation might yield scores to hundreds of photos. Digital photography is so much cheaper than film-based. Well, the abundance of photos is not all a blessing. When and how do I get to see or enjoy these many photos? I’d much welcome an AI tool to review my pictures and recommend winners throughout the day. Pictures invoke emotions. Sometimes, I want to celebrate and other times reminisce. I’d like an AI tool that can bring me the right pictures at the right time. Similarly, something more automated than iTunes is needed to get to all of my songs better organized. Surely, people from Gen X that built up a grand CD collection in their youth and early adulthood can relate. Even remembering what is in the music collection is hard. Please, Alexa, figure out my music. Remind me of the songs I enjoyed a few years ago on a trip and load those photos of the trip on my iPhone for dual enjoyment.
  5. Improved Decisions on the Margin – Because the Google chatbot and Amazon chatbot are each tied into markets and tools for purchasing on their respective platforms, I do not have high hope for this, but at least I think it is possible. Suppose, I have decided to buy a certain car – say a Honda Accord. How about having the option to deploy a robot to call, email, follow-up, and identify the best out-of-the-door price? It is a lot of work to contact dealers, email them, and listen to their stories and figure out their lies. Then they play tricks, charge extra for options, delay you, etc. Just let the robot do the time-consuming work. This is a great example of a decision (like buying a car) that can be improved on the margin with a price searching robot. Better yet, let the robot do the negotiation. And anyone who likes a deal, would like this robot to be working 24-7 on all types of requests. It would work great on eBay and Craigslist, too, I think.
  6. Finding Value in Travel – Similar to the above, but somewhat nuanced, is a tool that can find, recommend, and book travel based on a general request. It is more than finding the lowest priced airfare to a specific destination. That is done more or less with search tools. Say, I have two weeks off in the spring. What is the “best” use of this time subject to some budget? How can I maximize the experiences available? Do I go see cherry blossoms in Japan, or DC or enjoy Easter/Carnival festivals in Spain or Brazil? With so much of travel now documented and reviewed on Yelp and TripAdvisor and costs more or less transparent on booking sites like Kayak and, it would be great to have a robot find, identify, and book the “best” set of vacation options. Really, looking for unique and memorable experiences is hard and explains why Risk Steve’s and other travel guides are still so relevant. The AI can also learn more about one’s specific tastes and preferences. It would be a game changer in how we book travel. It would be like a travel agent, which has been missing for some 20 years. Alexa, please pick a great cultural vacation for the spring and get me the best price for a family of four.

These above aspirations for my bots reduce costs, improve experiences, and reduce risks. Economists would all agree that these are positive outcomes. I am sure we will find other risks and downsides to automation and AI, but I am optimistic that these above outcomes and others will improve our lives, bringing us increased productivity and prosperity.

Professor Walker provides keynote talks, seminars presentations, executive training programs, and executive briefings.

Recent talk topics enjoyed by clients have included:

From Big Data to Big Profits: Getting the Most from Your Data and Analytics”

“Leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Automation at Work”

“Digital Strategy: From Data to Dominance”

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“The World in 2050: Risks and Opportunities Ahead”

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About Russell Walker, Ph.D.

Professor Russell Walker helps companies develop strategies to manage risk and harness value through analytics and Big Data. He is Clinical Professor of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences at the Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University. His most recent book, From Big Data to Big Profits: Success with Data and Analytics is published by Oxford University Press (2015), which explores how firms can best monetize Big Data. He is the author of the text Winning with Risk Management (World Scientific Publishing, 2013), which examines the principles and practice of risk management through business case studies.

Professor Walker has developed and taught executive programs on Enterprise Risk, Operational Risk, Corporate Governance, Analytics and Big Data, and Global Leadership. He founded and teaches the Analytical Consulting Lab, Risk Lab, Global Lab, and Digital Lab, all very popular experiential learning classes at the Kellogg School of Management, which bring Kellogg MBA students together with corporate opportunities focused on data and strategy. He also teaches courses in risk management, analytics, and on strategies in globalization. He was awarded the Kellogg Impact award by Kellogg MBA students for excellence and impact in teaching.

He serves on the Scientific and Technical Council for the Menus of Change, an initiative led by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America, to develop healthier and more environmentally friendly food choices. He is a former member of the board of the Education and Technology Committee to the Morton Arboretum. He was a board member of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, where he developed support programs for Hispanic entrepreneurs and worked with US senators on US Latino matters.

You can find him at @RussWalker1492 and and

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Russell Walker helps companies develop strategies to manage risk and harness value through analytics and big data. He has done novel research in data monetization and digital disruption and advises leading firms on these topics. As Director of Experiential Learning in Analytics and Associate Teaching Professor of Marketing and International Business at the Foster School of Business, at the University of Washington, Dr. Walker is an academic thought-leader on analytics. Russell Walker has developed and taught leading executive programs on Big Data and Analytics, Strategic Data-Driven Marketing, Enterprise Risk, Operational Risk, and Global Leadership. Previous to moving to Seattle and the Foster School, Dr. Walker was Clinical Professor at the Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University, where he founded and taught many popular courses in analytics and risk management. His is the author of the book From Big Data to Big Profits: Success with Data and Analytics (Oxford University Press, 2015) which examines data monetization strategies and the development of data-centric business models in the new digital economy. He is also the author of the award-winning text Winning with Risk Management (World Scientific Publishing, 2013), which examines the principles and practice of risk management as a competitive advantage. Dr. Walker consults with firms on the topics of Big Data and Analytics, Data Monetization, Risk Management, and Business Strategy. Russell Walker can be reached at: @RussWalker1776

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