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As ever, the best tech will be invisible

There’ll be a chart somewhere showing how major technological developments start off with a wave of hype, soon followed by disillusionment, before settling down to their long-term level of actual usefulness. That long term trajectory could be low or high; TV and the internet both found a level that was way in excess of even the initial hype.

AI may be going through the dip in that curve at the moment. Certainly, I’ve read plenty of people dismissing it recently. Ignore them. It’s going to affect more than we can imagine.

On Monday night, Apple did something it’s often done before, and arrived late to the fancy dress party with what might be the best costume. Its “Apple Intelligence” announcement wasn’t introducing anything bleeding edge, but instead making best-in-class technology available to all and creating the platform for it to become an everyday tool for anyone.

The real breakthrough

Apple is set to be integrating AI (and specifically ChatGPT) through its product range in such a way that users might well not be aware they’re using it. For example, let’s say we get to the point where we can request: “Siri, work out what time I’ll be arriving at the office this afternoon and message whoever’s at the meeting with my likely arrival time”. This will require integration of a maps/location service, a diary, a contacts book and a messaging service. What we probably won’t think about will be the intelligence required to sort out all that information and act on it as requested. But that’s the real breakthrough.

The Washington Post wrote that Apple has “bet the franchise that most people do not want a trillion parameter neural network, because most people do not know what any of those words mean. They want AI that can shuttle between their calendar and email to make their day a little more coordinated. They want Siri to do multistep tasks, like finding photos of their kid in a pink coat at Christmas and organising them into a movie with music that flatters their taste.”

I can’t predict where this is all going to put us this time next year, never mind in the longer term. But I do think it’ll have an impact on almost everything.