Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Most of us are not aware that Virtual Humans are on the rise. They're showing up in web pages as intelligent hosts, have been set up in computer stores to answer questions about specific systems, and are everywhere providing information on scheduling, products etc. If you call Amtrak you get Sylvia, a voice-only virtual human who is intelligent enought to get you the information you need on train schedules etc. Far more intelligent Virtual Humans exist. They have engaging personalities, ability to hold general conversations and even the ability to carry out requests and commands. Studies have shown that they can already handle about 68% of the average company's customer support situations. They are already begining to replace human jobs.

I don't think this is a sad situation. As we move into a knowledge based society, the nature of human jobs is evolving rapidly. Communications technology is making ever more knowledge freely available to everyone and news travels fast. Those of us who wish to make use of all this will be on the plus side of the knowledge divide that is slowly widening. The people who do not take advantage will rapidly fall by the wayside of contemporary life. Today, many of them simply can not use the technology because of their backgrounds or personalities or level of intelligence.

Unfortunately these are the people who will see their jobs being rapidly sucked up by V-people. Where is the bright spot? It turns out virtual human itnerfacing can open up the knowledge frontier to the technologically disadvantaged. It is like a hand reaching across the divide; a bridge across ignorance and fear. Because the v-people understand technology on one hand and humans on the other they can become a transparent conduit allowing knowledge to flow smoothly to the far side of the divide. The result should be a narrowing of the divide and eventual elimination of it as ever more people avail them selves of information.

If you're interested in this topic, please come visit us at and you can find my book "Virtual Humans" at your local book store or on-line at, Barnes & Nolbel etc.

Peter Plantec

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