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Salesforce Chief Scientist Richard Socher Sees AI Shaking Up the Service Industry



“In the next five years or so, if you pick up a phone to call a service center, it’s likely you’ll have an algorithm answer your simple kinds of questions, and only if you have a really complex service case might a human still have to deal with you,” said Salesforce Chief Scientist Richard Socher, in a CNBC appearance. The segment is available to watch here.

Socher drives artificial intelligence research at Salesforce, focusing on natural language processing, computer vision, machine learning and more. He said that AI will have a profound impact on the service industry, with natural language processing leading the trend.

“In the end we are all customers of a lot of different companies and the way we interact with companies is through natural language,” he said. “But at the same time, natural language is connected to thought, so it’s both a very interesting academic research discipline as well as extremely useful for businesses, especially in service use cases.”

Socher said he disagrees with those who suggest that AI could do more harm than good. “What some folks, like Elon Musk, are worried about, is this existential threat that AI might pose, and that is really unfounded because we don’t have a credible research path right now toward artificial general intelligence that will set its own goals,” he said. “But what we do need to worry about are the biases we may have in our training datasets that might amplify sexist or racist kinds of biases that people had when they generate the training data.”

Socher suggested that regulations will be needed as AI directly touches human lives. “We need to have some kind regulation for specific domains. If AI touches medicine you have a reference from the FDA to prove whether you should use algorithms to classify a certain kind of disease or analyze x-rays. If they are applied to transportation, you have the transportation authority to see if certain self driving cars are save enough to drive on the road,” he said.

Last month, speaking with Forbes, Socher noted that natural language processing will become ever more important across a variety of scenarios. “Natural language processing is going to be incredibly important for business – it is going to fundamentally change how we provide services, how we understand sales processes and how we do marketing. Particularly on social media, you need natural language processing to understand the sentiment around your marketing messages and how people perceive your brand.”

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