Authenticity and artificial intelligence might not seem like an obvious pairing. After all, ‘authentic’ and ‘artificial’ are essentially opposites. Merriam-Webster defines ‘authentic’ as “not fake or imitation” or “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.” ‘Artificial,’ on the other hand, means “humanly contrived” or “lacking in natural… quality.” It doesn’t seem like there's a lot of room for overlap.
But if you dig a little deeper, there are some ways for AI to be authentic. For example, an AI could be authentic to itself. Meaning that Siri (or Alexa or Cortana) can be true to her (or its, but for consistency, we’ll stick with her) own character. You might notice if Siri said or did something that was out of character, or inconsistent with how she usually responds. And for Siri, that would be inauthentic. But when she behaves consistently, it is a version of authenticity: Siri is authentic to herself.
Even more important however, is that, despite the clash at first glance, there are actually many ways that AI doesn’t merely co-exist with human authenticity, but can actually improve on it. Skeptical? Read on.
Authenticity: Beyond the Dictionary Definition
While it’s true that authentic means ‘not fake’ and ‘true to one’s self,’ the way we think about authenticity in human relationships goes beyond that. Authenticity requires accepting yourself and others, learning from mistakes and understanding our limitations.
Some people think it means telling everyone everything that you think and feel all the time. But that smacks of narcissism and selfishness, not true authenticity; and it certainly won’t lead to authentic relationships. As noted by the Harvard Business Review, this understanding of authenticity can backfire badly in the workplace.
But think for a moment about when you feel like your most authentic self. Where are you? What are you doing? On the other hand, when do you feel like your least authentic self? When do you feel like you are pretending or being phony?
Just a wild guess that you don't feel like your most authentic self when you are making cold calls or gathering basic client information. And that you feel more like your authentic self when you are doing the creative or challenging part of your job, spending time with friends or family, or engaging in a favorite hobby.
Wouldn’t we all be more authentic people, and able to build more authentic relationships if we can minimize the amount of time we spend on things that make us feel fake, and maximize the amount of time we spend on those things where we feel most like our true selves?
3 Ways AI Can Improve Authenticity
And this is where AI comes in. AI can actually help us reach these goals of becoming more authentic people and having more authentic relationships in three ways:
- Doing Menial Tasks: AI can take care of some menial tasks that if we do personally, do not reflect our authentic selves. Things like automating cold calls, and aspects of onboarding can be farmed out to AI.
- Avoiding Pushy Interactions: AI can take initial steps to make a connection when doing it in person might feel pushy or too salesy. That way by the time there is human-to-human interaction, both parties already know where they stand, and it’s easier to have a more authentic interaction. For example, this chatbot Aisa Holmes, reaches out to a potential client after they have expressed some interest. The chatbot collects some basic information and allows the human interaction to begin with a better understanding on both sides.
- Encouraging Openness: One thing that often prevents people from behaving authentically is that they are worried about what someone else will think. People can be embarrassed to be honest sometimes, and if they know they are chatting with an AI, it can actually allow them to be more honest, and more authentic. For example, EvaBot uses a chatbot to find out what a gift recipient really wants. When a person asks what you would like as a gift, you might have some hang ups about answering honestly. You might not want to seem greedy, or you might feel like you should turn down the gift altogether. But when you’re chatting with a bot, you know there is no judgment and you’re freer to be honest about what you’d actually like.
How to Stay Authentic While Using AI
Even though AI can work to improve authenticity, there are some pitfalls to avoid. Here are some tips on how to maintain authenticity while using AI:
- Don’t hide the fact that it’s an AI. Call out the chatbot or AI’s existence and allow it to become part of the story. First of all, this actually increases trustworthiness. If people believe they are speaking to a human and find out later that it was a bot, they can feel misled and lied to. That is not a good start to an authentic relationship. When Google debuted its AI that could fool someone on the phone into believing it was human, it was impressive. But it was also unsettling to a lot of people. Plus, if you do not call out that it’s a chatbot, you miss out on the benefit that people might be more open when they know they are chatting with a bot.
- Have AI and humans work together. If you allow your AI to handle too much of the client interaction, it can start to have diminishing returns. Make sure that the client or customer is able to engage with a human when they are ready to. Across several industries and areas, such as hospitality and hiring, AI is being effectively used as a first step to a human interaction.
- Include something AI can’t do (yet). Even though people may, in some cases, feel more open interacting with a chatbot, they still also want to know that humans are involved in the process. One way to do this is to include some aspect of the process that isn’t or can’t be automated. For example, with EvaBot, the catalog of gifts is curated by a team of humans who carefully research gifts that best fit a particular taste.
AI and authenticity may not seem to go hand in hand. But AI can actually be a useful tool for allowing people to be more authentic and to build more authentic relationships.