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Apple AI expert Tom Gruber's TED Talk video about Siri's 'humanistic AI' viewable on YouTube

A talk from a TED conference in April by Apple AI expert and Siri co-founder Tom Gruber is now available to watch on YouTube and the TED website, with Gruber sharing how Apple's digital assistant Siri and 'humanistic AI' can be used to help humans become smarter.

Recorded in Vancouver earlier this year as part of a session called "Our Robotic Overlords," the ten-minute video starts with Gruber's belief that the purpose of AI is to empower humans with the advantages of machine intelligence. Starting with how Siri and AI in general has improved people's lives, the talk progresses into how AI can develop to assist humanity in more ways.

"As machines get smarter, we get smarter. I call this 'humanistic AI' - artificial intelligence designed to meet human needs by collaborating and augmenting people." Siri was designed as a humanistic AI, according to Gruber, to "augment people with a conversational interface that made it possible for them to use mobile computing, regardless of who they were and their abilities."

Gruber's first example is a man called Daniel, who is blind and quadriplegic, relying on Siri to manage his calls, text messages, and emails, without the assistance of his caregivers. "Here's the man whose relationship with AI helps him have relationships with genuine human beings. And this is humanistic AI," declares Gruber.

The talk moves on to how AI is helping pathologists to diagnose cancer, with an AI classifier shown to be good at analyzing pictures of the cells, but not as accurate as a human performing the same task. When the AI-based checking was combined with a human, the accuracy of the task raised to 99.5 percent, with the addition of AI eliminating 85 percent of the human pathologist's errors.

"The lesson here isn't about which agent is better at this image-classification task. Those things are changing every day," said Gruber. "The lesson here is that by combining the abilities of the human and machine, it created a partnership that had superhuman performance."

After another example featuring a video from Autodesk, Gruber muses about how memory could be enhanced with AI, asking "what if you could have a memory that was as good as computer memory, and was about your life?" Aside from remembering names and details from interactions with other people, Gruber suggests to the audience to imagine how the management of allergies and chronic disease could be revolutionized from recording the consequences of all food and medicines consumed or other health-related activities.

"I believe that AI will make personal memory enhancement a reality. I can't say when or what form factors are involved, but I think it's inevitable," Gruber declares, noting that the comprehensive data and machine learning of today could be applied to data acquired through a person's life. "And those data are here today, available for all of us, because we lead digitally mediated lives, in mobile and online."

Claiming the world is in the "middle of a renaissance in artificial intelligence," Gruber states we have a choice in how AI can be used to improve our lives. "We can choose to use AI to automate and compete with us, or we can use AI to augment and collaborate with us, to overcome our cognitive limitations and to help us do what we want to do, only better."

Gruber studied psychology and computer science at Loyola University New Orleans before gaining an M.S. In Computer and Information Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Campus, followed by a Ph.D in Computer and Information Science in 1988, also from the University of Massachusetts. Co-founding the original parent company of Siri, the firm was then acquired by Apple in 2010, with the company's work used to produce Apple's digital assistant.

Gruber is currently a member of the board of trustees for the Partnership on AI, of which Apple is a founding member. The group's aims are to study and formulate best practices on AI technologies, to encourage discussion and engagement about AI and its influences on people and society, and to advance the public's understanding of AI.