Futurescoping #3: Bots vs Bots

We are now on the verge of AI – through its various forms, being built around us to enhance our lives. Take for example, Siri, the first popular voice assistant, now which works seamlessly in your home (once of course you have bought the entire apple gear). We now have Amazon Alexa (in the echo hub form since 2014), and Google Home – now all competing for your attention.

This article isn’t a review of these, or a comparison of their features, but rather, what happens when we have our AI bots, which aid us, starting to interact directly with one another. As a qualifier note, I am going to liberally use AI where the system uses more complex systems than Rule based ones, at least using neural nets (systems which learn rather than following only what they were programmed). And let’s just call them Bots, for ease of conversation.

Take for example, this video, based on an original viral in Nov 2016, of 3 AI assistants, forming an infinite loop based on the output of one device (prerecorded “Hey Siri, Ok Google, or Hey Alexa”), being the calling inputs for the respective other device. This loop, which uninterrupted, would possibly continue until the devices physically wear out (minuscule imperfections in the silicon manufacturing) or you know, the universe ends.

OK Nice, but how does this affect me?

You may not have realized it, but if you are a user of a smart phone (iPhone or Android, no need to argue over which is better) – you are already an AI User. The searches you make on Google Search are designed to be the most optimal results for you – based on all your previous searches and what you ended up clicking through. Google Now, now known as Google Assistant,  is now integrated into Google Home, and is designed to know when you are leaving home, inform you of the time it takes to get to work or to an airport if you had booked a flight, and possibly more intrusively, what to type next when you are responding back to someone. These are fairly basic features mind you, but we are starting to see Smart tools in the form of scheduling bots (hello,  and the rise of Self Driving Cars, and more.

The Dark Side?

So what happens when, for the lack of better terms, we let the bots loose? We have few instances to base our vision on this, but one came to mind: In 2010, the US stock market fell steeply by 10%, which was a rapid decent, for really, no apparently reason.

Image result for new york times may 6th flash in the market


What happened (in as simple terms as I can put it), is that various high frequency trading algorithms did what they were built to do, and completed trades which would have taken hours/days by humans within seconds/minutes and brought down the stock market. The interesting part of this was the net result of multiple algorithms reacting off one another, a bit like Siri, Alexa, and Google bouncing off one another.

Here is where my analogy goes – as we build systems, smart AI based Bot systems – we need to be aware of the consequences of when we have those systems interact with one another. Each Bot was designed to do what it does best – complete against humans. But what happened was a now classic Bot vs Bot scenario. And this is only set to launch now. We will now have competing Apple, Amazon and Google bots, each customized to their user base. Below are some examples of Bots vs Bots that I can see right now, and where they are likely to be heading:


Image: NY Times /Jason Raish


  • Social Media Posting Bots vs. Social Media Reading Bots:
    • On one side, we have Posting Bots, like PostBot 3, which optimizes the hashtags and the timing of your posts to optimize reach, popularity, and other typical social media metrics. As the system learns from the past, it can start customizing the posts content and timing to optimize on these.
    • On the other side, we have now maturing systems that read social media sentiments, and accordingly buy/sell stocks.  They’ve already been doing quite well in the market, as the system learns from the past, it will surely get better.
    • As the race between the two bots evolves, we may be likely to see Posters which can influence their own stock price, as they know the impact they will have on Readers.
Image: Volvo
  • Self Driving Car Bots vs Traffic Systems Bots
    • Here’s likely where we can expect to see cooperation between the Bots.
    • Self Driving Bots are designed to take physical vehicles around from point A to point B, typically in the path that will take the shortest time possible. This is presently done using route mapping systems such as Waze, or Google Maps, and the now emerging field of using multiple sensors to navigate the car in real world. At the moment these systems rely on what they see around them, with overall mapping insights.
    • Traffic Systems Bots, have a very compatible objective of ensuring that all the vehicles travel from their Point As to Point B’s as soon as possible. Using a range of sensors to track the present traffic loads, and by having Bots run all the traffic lights, we can see some remarkable achievements, such as the recent pilots in Pittsburg. In the works since 2012, the lights now adapt to the traffic at various intersections and pass on the knowledge to all other traffic lights
    • The true win will be when the Cars start directly taking to the Traffic Systems, informing them of their individual Point A’s and Point B’s, so that the traffic lights are optimized to reduce everyone’s time. This would radically reduce traffic, reduce pollution (though hopefully we will see net nonpolluting electric cars by then).
      • We may eventually see tiered pricing models for this – pay more to reach faster, though the definition of slow is already on par with our fast now.


Image: Chatbot Magazine
  • Customer Service Chatbots vs Customer Representative Chatbots
    • One of the biggest costs for end customer is Customer Service. As a company, I might wish for customer to please read the FAQs, and call only if you have a real issue. However, there is nothing like chatting with someone who can respond to your specific questions. Here is where Chatbots come in. By providing a chat window, where you can type in a question and the Chatbot responds exactly to your circumstance, its a win-win for both the company and the customer. Various research groups have already estimated billions of dollars in savings:


Chatbots Salary Savings

    • On the flip side, from the customer’s perspective, we have Bots which can act as our representatives to cut through the chatter. For example, Trim is an Chrome Extension that is specifically designed to navigate through Comcast’s customer service chat bot, and NextCaller is designed to navigate through the initial information gathering session so that you don’t need to waste time before getting to the matter.
    • Pretty soon we are going to see smart customer service apps, and smart customer bots, optimized for each others requests (e.g. you just state your intent to your Bot, and your Bot ‘negotiate’s with the customer service Bot).


What does this mean as a Next Gen Company?

Your organisation may be building a next generation digital company, which usually means some form of connectivity to your suppliers, customers, and 3rd party organizations which enhance the experience for your suppliers, customers, and even regulatory authorities.

These connections (in the form of perhaps MicroServices, or APIs), which were (and are) being built for other applications/systems which function more or less as the streams of inputs and outputs of your company’s data and business functions. Most of these services are designed for inputs/outputs on manual requests, or at best, periodic requests from apps. But when we mix Bots into play, suddenly you need to think about the impact of having super intelligent systems with the ability to make micro decisions that have radical impacts your business outcomes.

  • Start thinking and engaging with other ancillary services around your company and how you can automate those processes
  • Once you have a systematic approach for exchanging information, consider building Bots that start learning and optimizing.
  • Build the services to scale (Bots can consume data and streams faster than you can conceive it)
  • Build services to be able to control an avalanche (Bots can get hungry, and do more than you ever thought of)


Note: Views expressed are my own. Looking forward to your comments on this.


Futurescoping #2: Autonomous Driving

Autonomous Driving represents the next major leap in the way we transport ourselves, and will radically change the business models around transportation. While the technologies are still maturing and regulations are still being debated and written, we look at some of the practical implications, especially on businesses related to the space.

Productivity Uncategorized

Productive Me: A Better Use of Time and Grey Matter


It’s been more than a year since graduating from IIM Bangalore, and having been in employment for about the same period of time, I realize there are wow, a crazy amount of distractions out there.

For example, most of my free time used to go into watching TV series (Suits, Newsroom, Under the Dome),, a lot of tech websites, indian news websites, youtubing, facebooking, whatsapping, etc. And these are all buckets which I am consciously aware of, sucking out time.

I may sometimes mention in person, that there was a time when I was literally glued to facebook and gmail on my phone in college, to a point that I realized I needed to get that under control, and eventually restricted myself to checking once a day, between 6 and 6:30pm.

Now, I am right now, at a state where there is a healthy enough balance between getting work done (for which I am paid for), and fun things to do that somehow fill up the remaining time. However, it isn’t satisfying enough. I believe, like perhaps many others, have gotten sunk into time holes – activities, (like the CAT questions you know will take up too much time solve) which you do, but don’t really add any value to life.

I realized this a week ago, and have since uninstalled the 9gag app and removed 9gag link from my default home screens (yeah, don’t ask what it was doing there in the first place). Not bad, made it a week without needing to check.

Next up, I realize that we get into this ‘data consumption’ need too easily. We love being fed things. Updates, pictures, videos – we love new things, and we love that all you need to do is scroll down to get more of it.

And while we are busy consuming data, our other talents are slowly dying away. Our lives are now ‘work’ and ‘consume’ (data, and food, of course). What we need to start doing, is to replace that with ‘Get things done’, and ‘Produce for enjoyment’. If you are working in a place that you enjoy working in, then that’s already a huge improvement in your life. Now, let’s get you to a place where you do things you love, that also have a positive impact, with the skills you have.

I shall look into ways of doing this, and shall document these as much as possible. As for now, my first step is to reduce the cycle of consumption of data. Therefore, I shall begin by restricting myself to only certain hours per day for consumption. On weekdays, it is quite easy – switch to work, and you’re mostly good. But it could be better.

As a human experiment, I intend to limit myself to 2 hours of consumption (Facebook, Youtube, TV series, Movies), all included. The only exception I make is to reading books, as I believe I this should suffice as a good enough incentive for when I want to consume, but in a way that would be actually useful (Btw, reading ‘Lateral Thinking’ by De Bono, as there’s a two day workshop as part of my employment in a few weeks).

Now, with all the available free time, one must move to ‘Producing’. This blog is one such avenue. Coding, designing, playing the guitar (practicing for a performance, or recording to send to friends), talking to an old friend (interactions produce positive results by sharing information, ideas, etc), writing down ideas (more on this later). A full plethora of things to do. Recognize that ‘you’ as a person, with your history, upbringing, interactions with people, and perspective on life, in this time, exactly where you are now – Will Never Happen Again. Make sure you bring out the maximum usage of yourself, as only you can do what you can do.

‘Time’ Summary: Limit the hours of consuming (I intend to start with 3 hours per day). Start creating.

Grey Matter:

Now, to add on to a point about our uniqueness, and our skills: we are all geniuses. Now, I’m not comparing myself to dear old (and dead) Albert Einstein, but we all (yes, everyone), possesses the amazing ability to Think. Just reading this post required you do handle multiple complex interactions involving an electronic device, awareness of Internet technology, understanding hyperlinks, typing, language, and usage of virtual triggers like ‘scroll bars’ and other controls. Try asking a chimp to do that.

Even if you aren’t technologically strong (all the above I mentioned are already leaps and bounds ahead of vast majority of the world’s population, and you can do all of it), you can innovate in ways that will amaze even you. For example, to solve the problem of womenfolk carrying pots on their backs to bring water from far distances, someone innovated with a drum, with a sealed lid, that’s also shaped like a wide tire,  to which handles can be attached to so that they can be rolled easily for long distances.

Point is, we can think. Unfortunately, the consumption culture is slowly destroying it. If you are constantly given solutions, why would you solve them. And if you are asked to think something different, why, you can’t because you are so used to it being given to you.

Hence, I believe, we must all put our heads to use, in the idle time  (waiting for tea to boil, showering (I’m sure we do a lot of thinking here anyway), etc). Now, if your work anyway is too stressful, and you just want to relax and consume, then that’s understandable – you’e been thinking all day. However, I suggest you relax your mood by thinking of other ways of looking at what you’ve already been through today.

What I am suggesting, to put our brain power to use, is to solve problems. So here’s what I’m doing to do. Every day, I shall take page in a notebook, and write down 3 questions, with enough space to answer each one. This I shall do in the morning. And then by the evening, I shall jot down my final thoughts on them, and if required, do some light research on them. I am hoping to let my friends know about my plan here, so that they can offer questions (I can think of a few friends who have nothing but questions for me – thank you, I love you guys, keep them coming), to make sure that I keep thinking.

We are all Problem Solvers (apparently ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, and lazy people are the best for thinking of innovating solutions for reducing their effort further). So lets put our heads together to think of solutions, ideas, etc. I shall give it a shot to see how it goes, and would appreciate your encouragement on this. I’m not looking to find solutions to world hunger or war, but by jotting ideas and possible solutions, it should allow my brain to start to form analogies and new ways of looking at things that might help in the long run. I would of course, encourage you to do the same, but you can wait for feedback from me to see if its worth the effort.

‘Grey Matter’ Summary: Answer questions or solve problems everyday.

Most highly successful people are quite disciplined. Even if it seems they party like crazy or just don’t make sense, they are certainly clocking a crazy amount of hours doing what they want to do that brings them success. One of the ways you can do that is to reduce or eliminate wasted time.

Alright, I hope that I can get started on these things to do (this post was a long time coming, and is hopefully a start). Other things I have in mind is to set up a strict schedule of things to do (if you get my Good Mornings on time, you know I’m already on a decent start), and possibly hack my sleep.


Return of the Blog

Finally, after months of putting off reinstalling this blog (which for some very odd reasons, decided to fade off from the face of earth by presenting, instead of lovely lively content, a very modernistic and abstract concept called ‘White’).

After trying hard to debug the corrupted install (suddenly while poking around the files I saw that half the files were renamed ‘INFECTED’ – talk about cobwebs in your closet), I cleaned it out, with a fresh install of the WordPress platform, and managed to import my old posts and comments.

The main reason to get those old posts was to continue making sure this one post PHP  Mail using Gmail SMTP, written one cold and vengeful day when I decided to write the tutorial so that none after me would fight to get it working. Realizing that after 60 comments, even upto April 2012, the people were still googling the internet to find an answer and landing on my page, that I had the solemn responsibility that the link remains accessible.

Alright, so anyway, after racking my head for a few hours on this, I think I should get back to work that I’m paid for. I should be tweaking this blog over time now, incremental updates. And I feel like writing too.. perhaps an effect of completing a Post Graduation from IIM Bangalore (ahem, shameless, ahem).

I also realized earlier today that while in engineering, I had accurately predicted what I thought would happen to technologies today (such as the future of applications would be  HTML/Javascript based, and hence my presentation on jQuery – oh, and this Game I wrote.) I figured I might start jotting these thoughts down, so that when I look back, I can laugh at how hilariously off my predictions were (Just putting in context, Bill Gates once said 64K was enough for anyone)..

That’s all for now then.