Personal Assistants for Digital Diplomacy / Ali Kamil

Ali Kamil, Co-founder and CTO Wise Systems Inc.

Synopsis of the future

Its 2020, you are in Davos to negotiate a trade agreement with Senator Organa of the Alderaan Confederacy. Your goal is to find a settlement on the ongoing trade dispute between the two nations. To prepare, you have utilized your personal diplomatic assistant – DIDA (Digital Diplomatic Assistant).

DIDA is not a human but an artificial intelligence (AI) powered tool on your laptop. She has given you a detailed briefing of the trade deal and various combination of deals that you can present to the Senator. Each deal has an associated likelihood of success, its implications on the two countries, and expected response from the senator based on previous interactions with him and his team. You are aware of Senator Organa’s profile – personality type, likes, dislikes, negotiation style and what to expect at the table. You also have handy the history of negotiated deals by Senator Organa and how it may impact his approach today. And you are aware of the current political climate at Alderaan which may influence his flexibility on certain terms – thanks to DIDA.

As you walk into the meeting, DIDA’s work isn’t done. You keep DIDA handy on your smartwatch to monitor the conversation. She will give cues to you of the flow of the meeting – current “power” position and she helps you identify the flexibility on deal terms based Senator’s speech and vocal tones. You take breaks when she advises you to since you might be losing the upper hand on the table.

Thanks to DIDA, you are able to find the zone of possible agreement and reach a deal with Senator Organa.

The above scenario is of course fiction, but we are not far from it becoming a reality. In fact, I believe, we are close to a future where tools such as DIDA will be essential for corporate or diplomatic teams to effectively conduct negotiation and find the fair agreement between the parties.


Current State of Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning, and Personal Assistants

Personal assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Home are already mainstream. These tools can search an answer to a question using google, order items from amazon, or give you weather information – mostly rudimentary tasks. However, with the use of APIs, it is possible to design these tools for more complex operations. For example, with the technology today, it is possible to connect your Siri to a data store (of say diplomatic missions), organize them by date, and have Siri give you results of key outcomes from these missions – all through a voice command. Such a tool will save hours for diplomatic missions to organize and search results with likely lower accuracy than your digital assistant.

Two weeks ago, MIT scientists launched a mobile application on a wearable device that can listen to a conversation between two parties and detect emotion – regardless of the language. Another significant milestone, also observed in the last month, was that of an AI-powered computer that was able to defeat several professional poker players. Not only was this able to predict the hands of its opponents, it was also able to detect emotion and the likelihood of a bluff. It is easy to imagine how such tools, when mainstream, can empower businesses and diplomatic missions.

Already many corporate organizations are taking steps to include AI as a critical aspect of their decision making operations. A VC firm put an AI algorithm on its board to help with identifying successful investments, a Japanese insurance firm switched to AI as the primary tool to calculate insurance payouts for its consumers, and Goldman Sachs has doubled down on its AI initiative to help improve its algorithmic trading models.

Innovations in the space of AI are only getting faster. Forrester predicts a 300% increase in corporate investment in the fields of machine learning, deep learning, and natural language processing – all subfields of AI. These investments in AI and subsequent innovations will eventually trickle into government and diplomatic domains and our fictional assistant, DIDA, will be all too real.


Implications and the future

Diplomacy is and will continue to remain a uniquely human endeavor. Building and maintaining diplomatic relations, negotiating deals, and advising authorities on possible course of action – all human centric tasks that will be influenced but not replaced by AI. Diplomats will be better equipped and prepared for their tasks through data centric results of AI but ultimately they will have to rely on their classic humanistic traits to conduct diplomacy – compassion, clarity of communication, and most of all charm – none of which will be deciphered by AI, not at least in the near future.

AI-powered tools such as DIDA will not be too dissimilar to having a powerful team of advisors or influencers. I see tools like DIDA being a resource for diplomatic missions for preparation and decision making. It will supplement the need for a larger diplomatic support staff and allow diplomatic attachés the information they need for their missions.

It is conceivable that the use of AI could enable more equitable and fairer deal making in the diplomatic domain. Imagine if both parties are equipped with AI tools that help the ambassadors identify the best potential outcome for their nations, the zone of possible agreement (or lack thereof), and playout the likely implications of their deal with their respective nations. Deals will be done more efficiently and quickly finding the best position possible for both parties.

Like any advanced technology there are adverse impacts and uses. A dystopian future is easily conceivable where AI is used to find subversive ways of relationship building and deal making – identifying pressure points of the diplomatic counterparts and coercing lesser nations into deaks not feasible for their future. Of course, it is hard to predict how society will adopt and adapt with AI becoming a norm in our everyday lives. Ultimately, as a scientist i remain positive that democratization of AI will lead to a more equitable and fairer society. We will just have to wait and see — or as our digital assistant for a prediction.