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Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming an increasingly integrated part of our everyday interactions, even if we don’t fully realise that we’re utilising the technology. Most are familiar with the Siri voice assistant, but you may not know that AI is what powers the Google search engine, or if the person on the other side of the customer service live chat is in fact a human. Back in 2018, Pew Research Center asked 979 connected individuals and experts if people would be better off should AI continue to spread. The results showed that most predicted that AI will amplify human effectiveness but that it will also impede or threaten agency and our capabilities.

Regardless of the potential pitfalls, the global AI market continues to surge, with its $62.35 billion valuation in 2020, per Grand View Research, set to grow at a 40.2 per cent compound annual growth rate through to 2028. AI is here to stay and will only increase in prominence, and yet, there’s distinct evidence that customers still want live, human-to-human, even face-to-face interactions despite how integrated and useful AI has become.

Artificial Intelligence Is Already Proving Its Worth

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It would be an understatement to say that AI is already opening up an ocean of new technological capabilities across almost all industries. A huge impact that it’s had is making Big Data viable. Capable of running through huge stacks of data and identifying key traits makes the increasingly digital world all the easier to quantify and navigate. AI has been integrated into several customer-facing areas of business, too, so that those businesses can better understand and serve their customers.

As would be expected in the world of business under capitalism, the most important finding of the use of AI is that it presents huge opportunities for economic development. The Brookings education page details that AI could increase global GDP by 14 per cent by 2030 – a $15.7 trillion boost. China would see the largest boost at $7 trillion, while Africa and Oceania could also see a $1.2 trillion uptick. Further propelling this is the underlying customer habits of increased interactions and acceptance of automated functions. A Verizon whitepaper indicates that 56 per cent of 5,601 people in 16 countries are comfortable with interactions that are fully automated, with just under half becoming more comfortable with such processes.

Even with all of this evidence of people responding favourably to AI, automated processes, and automated interactions, there’s still a strong desire to refer to humans in real-time, even through live interactions. A piece of research from ZDNet into automation found that 18 per cent of customers always prefer human interactions and that consumers of all generations seek human interaction when they choose to engage with a brand. Macquarie also notes that customers now expect personalised service and still prefer to phone up customer service rather than follow the usual steps into the rabbit hole with a chatbot. Many industries and competing businesses are now finding that this desire for human interaction runs deep, leading to the rise of going live.

Taking Digital Human Interactions to the Next Level

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Right now, there’s quite a large debate raging as to the responsibilities of tech firms – particularly social media companies – to safeguard users against the increasingly evident issues that can come with long spells of purely digital engagement, which the companies crave to make money. In this Forbes tech council piece, it is described as a dilemma between helping a business grow through AI and weighing the societal costs of further declining human-to-human interactions. The source also found that nearly 40 per cent of respondents in the US and UK described being able to speak to a live agent as make-or-break in customer interactions. Results from an Axios interactions poll further exemplify that adults value human connection and in-person conversations, with only two per cent preferring to communicate on social media platforms.

This underlying desire to see people, speak to them, and interact in real-time continues to propel the success of the integration of live technology across online businesses. In the battle of the streaming wars between YouTube and Twitch, Twitch often wins due to its live communications options. Users can see chats arranged in real-time, allowing for consistent discussion about the there-and-then events. In other entertainment circles, live, real interactions with humans continue to be very popular. Visit here, it’s the “Live” and “Real” game shows and table games that continue to be the main attraction. They use live streaming to put players at a real table opposite a human croupier. Then, in real-time, they bet on the game as they would at a brick-and-mortar venue. The increased interactions and clear love of such digital experiences have also spread to eCommerce. Taobao live shopping took the Chinese retail market by storm in 2016, offering a live-streamed shopping experience. The method has proven to increase impulse buying and better engagement, as shown by the Giosg live commerce blog entry.

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While customer preferences may, essentially, be strong-armed into changing and simply seeking the best AI-powered options as opposed to human interactions online, right now, the demand is still high for live, in-person, or just human interactions. However, eventually most online interactions will be held by an Artificial Intelligence bot, turning some jobs obsolete and “filtering” what the end user requests so the actual employee taking care of that ticket can solve it much faster.

Of course, this opens a lot of doors for those interested in coding, since all those AI bots need to be programmed first, but then they need to “learn”, or be able to react to what the user is inputing. This means, they need to have some sort of training, quite popular amongst coders nowadays, called “Machine Learning.” Without a doubt, this is one of the most interesting careers a programmer can pursue, since companies are trying more often to “automatize” most processes, and customer relations is one of those fields.