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IBM Watson To Replace Salespeople and Cold-Callers 316

An anonymous reader writes "After conquering Jeopardy! and making inroads into the diagnosis of medical maladies, IBM's next application for Watson is improving sales and customer support. Companies will be able to simply fill Watson (or rather, DeepQA) with domain-specific information about products and services, and sit back as it uses its natural language processing skills to answer the queries of potential customers. The potential benefits are huge. Watson could either augment existing sales and support teams, or replace them entirely. Also, in a beautiful and self-fulfilling twist, the first application of this re-purposed Watson will be be internally, at IBM, to help sell more IBM Watsons to other companies."
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IBM Watson To Replace Salespeople and Cold-Callers

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  • Jobs killer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jaymzter ( 452402 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:10PM (#36676232) Homepage

    Mark my words, this will kill the economy, just like ATMs did.

  • Re:Great, (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:14PM (#36676286) Homepage

    Now voice-response menu systems are artificially intelligent. This is not an improvement.

    Think an unholy union of Skynet and QVC.

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  • by SpiralSpirit ( 874918 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:17PM (#36676314)
    The only reason I don't hang up right away on sales/survey calls is because deep down I don't like being rude, even to strangers. The minute I hear a machine or recording I hang up, though. For support, if I can't talk to a human that speaks the same language as I do within a reasonable time frame, I don't use the service. Replace humans at your peril.
  • Re:Jobs killer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Riceballsan ( 816702 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:26PM (#36676436)
    Twice as awesome, to be replaced by machines, that will have to be supported by IT.
  • by Fractal Dice ( 696349 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:28PM (#36676476) Journal
    What are the legal implications of Watson lying? of providing false or misleading information?
  • Re:Jobs killer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by scamper_22 ( 1073470 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:49PM (#36676692)

    Mark my words... this is what computers were meant to do: []

    I work with computers all day.
    I often wonder what people think computers are all about.

    They're all about replacing human labor. I find it odd working in this field and talking to people outside it.

    People outside the field seem to think that every age has a 'new economy' but everything else stays the same... as if nothing has changed in history. So they talk as if the 'green' economy will provide everyone with jobs... just 'green' jobs. Or they think we'll all be doing analytical work.

    The problem is typically these people lack an understanding of scale. It's odd how so many academics lack an understanding of scale as well. All the 'good' jobs of the future are jobs that do not scale with the population. They are for small groups of highly skilled people.

    So Google can do all it does with a mere 30K people or so. That is enough to serve the whole world. Just to put it in context. BlockBuster employed 60K people and it represents just a sliver of what Google can do (content delivery).

    The single biggest problem is that the private sector is increasingly not scaling with population. Small highly efficient operations are there.

    The public sector typically does scale with population. More nurses, doctors, police officers, teachers... are needed as the population grows. Now we can certainly try and automate parts of these jobs (online class delivery...), but in general we're not there technologically or the unions won't allow it.

    So we have a structural imbalance. The only way out of it... is to go to the start... computers are doing what they were meant to do... kill human labor. We should all be working less... job sharing. the result is a much more egalitarian society... with potentially a very rich upper class at the top of some of the automation companies.

    However that would kill people's position of privilege in society. Public sector workers expect a premium over the average person. Ditto for bankers...

    IMHO, we need to embrace deflation and the lack of work and redirect people to the jobs that still need doing. Maybe we need vast numbers of people to work on the farms 2 weeks a year. Other need to go mine for rechargeable batteries.

    One of the biggest problem we still face is the emphasis on 'educated' labor. Just as the industrial revolution automated manufacturing jobs. The information revolution automates so much educated labor. We need a few experts, but computing can do the rest.

    So we need to get rid of the idea that just because you're educated, you should be paid more. Most of the legal and financial jobs are unproductive today. Just there to keep educated people in a premium position over society. We could for example automate and simplify the entire tax field and get rid of most accountants.

    But as I said, people are used to their position of privilege. Egalitarianism is a hard concept... even though people talk about it. When people talk about good jobs, they mean jobs better than someone else.

    It's definitely going to be a rough time... especially since technology is deflationary... but governments and banks are inflationary. We certainly can't embrace deflation as governments have so much debt and banks are dependent on people taking loans... and guess who is in charge of most countries (bankers and governments...)

    Expect a rough time.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:58PM (#36676768)
    ...(because you cost too much to maintain) or you'll adapt to their systems. And for Pete's sake, stop trotting out that overused ATM bit. It's called an EXAMPLE. It's how you illustrate a broad trend. ATMs are one of many, many ways that people are lost jobs to automation. There's lots more examples. My favorite is the sleeping bag factory that cranked out 1 million + bags/yr with just 300 employees. Then there's all the small craft businesses (like closet makers) that used to be highly specialized and now are being replaced by a few expert systems.

    I don't know if you're old enough to remember, but back in the 80s were promised expert systems that would do these things and free us up for leisure time. Trouble is, instead of leisure time we're getting pink slips and a one way ticket to the gutter we're schedule to die in. Thing is, I've yet to hear a compelling solution to the problem of automation that doesn't just boil down to 1) Anyone w/o jobs dies of starvation or 2) Some form of socialism. What I do hear a lot of is attempts to ignore / downplay the problem. Remember Biotech? Where are the jobs? And even if we had them, how the hell would anyone get trained for them when we're cutting back on education budgets left and right?
  • by fferreres ( 525414 ) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @02:47AM (#36680078)

    The only thing that needs to change is that inheritance should be limited. You and your brothers/sisters should only be able to inherit up to 20% dollars (in total, NOT each) of your parents/relatives wealth, and the rest go back to society as an endowment for young generations (like a grant for newborns that they can use part for education, and when they reach adulthood as capital for investing or having a relaxed but austere/more human life, as one example). It doesn't make the economy socialist, as all the rules of capitalism can still apply. But it solves the problem of endemic disadvantage of the citizens without capital. If the economy can be sustained with each person working once a week, the endowment will make it so for the vast majority, with some (the ones getting 25% of a larger sums via inheritance) can chose not to work at all.

    So to fix capitalism, we need to fix inheritance which as it is today it's totally unfair. Society and all past generations gave you everything. Why should you not give back 75% to the new generations (and 25% to your kids?).

    We also need to get rid of the NGO, which are structures that enable the rich to hide huge fortunes in ways that are hard to understand and detect. Look at Bill Gates foundation. Or the one from the owner of IKEA (non profit foundation with more than 10 billions?). The danger is all too evident.

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury