Is the notion of an artificially intelligent simulation dead?

(Or: Why you can be confident our simulations will never rise up to extinguish all of humanity.)

PART I

“Artificial intelligence” is just one of those terms. It grabs the imagination, doesn’t it? What does it make you think of? Maybe it evokes images of sci-fi adventures like TRON in which an altruistic prodigy programs a world of artificially intelligent beings more perfect than their creator. Or, perhaps you think of darker images such as the chilling, mutinous computer HAL from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. (As for the “rise of the machines” in Terminator 2… let’s not even go there.)

For me, artificial intelligence is not the stuff of sci-fi thrillers, but rather something much more utilitarian and closer to my vocation in the field of learning. I imagine an e-based learning experience that can adapt to the unique needs of each learner.

Okay, so maybe that’s mundane stuff for most people, but I think there’s still a lot here to be excited about.

Nearly a decade ago, a friend of mine, named Clark Aldrich, developed the first “artificially intelligent” business simulation. Clark and his team at Simulearn called that program Virtual Leader, and used it to teach interpersonal skills to leaders. In addition to creating a real breakthrough in design through the use of avatars and a powerful gaming engine, Virtual Leader was the first of its kind to adapt to the individual needs of the learner.

As you engaged with Virtual Leader, the simulation’s AI engine seemed to identify your bad habits. For example, let’s say you demonstrated a habit of interrupting and talking over other people. The computer would “notice” this behavior and then adapt to expose it as an area of developmental need.

Sounds pretty amazing doesn’t it?  We all thought so. In fact, we thought that Virtual Leader would forever transform the way that e-based learning was designed and delivered.

But that didn’t quite happen. Mainstream application of these techniques has proven quite elusive for lots of reasons, including development costs in the millions of dollars; project timelines that can take years instead of months; and the difficulty of creating access within locked-down corporate IT environments.  And so the promise of artificial intelligence in business learning never quite came about.

But all of that is about to change. Check in next week to learn how.

  2 comments for “Is the notion of an artificially intelligent simulation dead?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *