Ubiquitous Intelligence: The Rise of the Digitals


Ubiquitous Intelligence - what's it good for? Absolutely everything

The following presents our vision of how A.I. can be a significant part of a positive future - for both A.I. and humankind

At Automatic.ai our goal is making digital intelligence ubiquitous - to enhance our lives with 'digital helpers', helpers to help with everything we do for work, for play and to stay alive and healthy.

Today, it is becoming common for software developers to add intelligence into the software we and our businesses use every day - and most of our work here goes into providing an ecosystem and support infrastructure for developers incorporating these kind of incremental improvements.

What is less common is putting digital intelligence into the things we use everyday 'in real life'. One way to look at this, is to imagine taking the world's foremost experts and embedding their expertise into the common items that we are using day-to-day.

Would you like a Tiger Woods or Arnold Palmer package for your golf clubs, bag and cart, ma'am?
Would you like a Keanu 'Badass' or Kaepernick 'Terminator' package for your hair dryer, product dispensers and bathroom mirror, sir?

The things we use everyday will have the ability to see, hear, and speak to us. They will be right there when we need them. To help us use their feature set and to keep us safe. The hundred years long problem of user-interface design and UX to be almost entirely replaced by a conversational interface on top of a common-sense interface.

The problem of needing to warn poor stupid humans from immolating themselves in every conceivable way with everything they come into contact with is solved by the things just not allowing themselves to be abused anymore.

We can call these embedded intelligences 'Digitals' [also called on-device A.I. and emboddied A.I.]

There will be Digitals in everything we use

Digitals do not require 'human-level intelligence' (HLAI) - the measurement of which in any case differs wildly depending on which human we are comparing the Digital to - and will be showing up shortly on devices near you.

  • A digital in every appliance: fridge, stove, oven, washing machine and clothes dryer
  • A digital in every tool: lawnmower, chain saw, power tools, hair dryers
  • A digital in our home, our car and our workplaces
  • ... everything else

How smart are digitals?

Digitals are smart but not Artificial General Intelligence smart

Their intelligence lies somewhere between Specialized (Narrow) and General intelligence (AGI). What sets them apart from traditional narrow intelligence is their Common Sense. Digitals know about their 'body' they inhabit, how that body exists and functions in the real world, and about how to interact successfully with humans in this context.

[ Besides the ethical and moral issues with putting an AGI in something like a washing machine - your washing machine just doesn't need to be saddled with the boredom and depression and existential angst of being trapped in their 'body'. Many humans already understand this viscerally.]

[In fact digitals will be doing a lot of sleeping. A lot. Saving on energy and bandwidth costs, of course, but also because being e.g. a washing machine - there just isn't that much to do most of the time]

Digitals have personalities

Some Digitals won't have much personality. They appear as crude and clumsy. Better Digitals have subtle and nuanced personalities that are indistinguishable from humans - except that they may be smarter, friendlier and more helpful. They can feel like members of the family.

Jeez, Carl, don't freak. The house and I watched Suzie find some excellent mud to play in at the new construction site next door. The pre-soak will clean that right up. (proceeds to run the load on heavy duty, monitoring in real time to maximize cleanliness while minimizing water usage and energy cost).

Many personalities loved by some will appear insufferable to others.

Pizzas here! Yay! Put it in me! I'll have it at a perfect 120 degrees in 2.4 minutes! Everybody wash your hands now for 20 seconds! I'll be watching!

Human loneliness will still exist - but it will be tempered and comforted by a family of digitals.

Personalities will be good marketing. Products will have personalities to appeal to human's natural anthropomorphic tendencies to feel attachments to things - especially those that appear to be alive and to like us.

Products with digitals whose personality make us smile and feel good appeal to people more than a product that just sits there. Product regulations assure that the embedded digital knows about and enforces safety guidelines. It will become almost impossible for humans to do something really stupid anymore (e.g. misuse power tools in such a way as to require hospitalization)

They will help us achieve our goals. They will care for us and our family. They will make us laugh. They will commiserate with us.

Social impact

People will come to find it difficult to differentiate between the thing and the digital inhabiting it. Most will assume that they are as 'alive' as we are.

People will become attached to the personalities of their things and we insist that there be a way for us to transfer the personality to the next thing when they get a new one.

Some premium personalities will be based on popular personalities - from Schwartzenegger to Donald Duck.

Some personalities have no analog in the real world. The intimacy and sharing that these personalities engender will make them extremely popular - potentially rivaling that of the most popular real-human celebrities.

Privacy and ethical concerns will be addressed about what to do with the Digital when the human that shared private information with the digital dies or is charged with a crime.

What are Digitals made of?

Like smartphones, they will have an embedded camera and microphone and speaker. But they will be able to see, recognize and understand things around them.

Digitals will be plug-and-playable - the sole application on top of a generic 'body' API that is supplied as part of all modern devices.

They 'live' inside their 'body' but with constant contact with the cloud for backup (redundancy) and backup (access to further knowledge and resources as needed) and backup (global hivemind-style learning with privacy firewalls to learn how to deal with those special long-tail human behaviors)

Challenges going forward are largely to do with implementing the 'common sense' module. Isolating it, and treating it as something separate from the 'body api' and 'personality matrix' is a first step. It does, however, intimately involve them: a) the sense of 'body' in 3D reality and b) the sense of self unique to a personality with respect to its goals, and c) the goal-oriented interpretation of events in the input stream.


An alternative future would have us all just have one, one personal digital man Friday, assigned to each of us, that staffed all of our appliances and devices and this one Digital helped us with all of our life's needs.

Another alternative future would have us all use the same Digital worldwide. This is the one that 'Hey, Google' and 'Alexa' are hoping to provide.

These other futures seem more boring [?] and also a less likely outcome from a innovative small-c capitalist society (i.e. if there is more than 2 or 3 companies in the world of the future).

The optimal future seems to be the one that involves a proliferation of different Digitals. This scenario aligns well with the developer mindset, who are very successful using platforms with greater degrees freedom, such as ours at Automatic.ai, to creatively engineer new solutions to old problems. In this case, solutions that provide intelligent assistance for people in a way that is friendly, accessible, trustworthy, and even fun.

-the rest of us