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AI Agents Are Coming

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It’s more apparent each day that AI agents are becoming a reality—fast.

AI agents are autonomous AI systems that can take actions for you on your behalf. 

OpenAI is “developing a form of agent software to automate complex tasks by effectively taking over a customer’s device,” says The Information.

This agent would be able to click, move the mouse, type, and take other actions required to operate apps and use your devices.

Other ambitious companies are also building AI agents to do things for you automatically. HyperWrite has an AI agent called Personal Assistant, which you can now train simply by recording what you do on your screen. MultiOn is a buzzworthy startup building advanced agents. And Adept is an AI agent company with hundreds of millions in funding.

What do AI agents mean for the world of business?

On Episode 83 of The Artificial Intelligence Show, I spoke to Marketing AI Institute founder/CEO Paul Roetzer to discover the answer.

AI Agents Will Change Everything

It’s a good time to revisit Paul’s post on AI agents, which was published almost 1 year ago exactly.

In it, he predicted the following:

We are so caught up right now in figuring out AI writing tools and large language models (LLMs) that most marketing and business leaders, as well as SaaS executives and investors, are missing the bigger picture. This is all just the foundation for what comes next.

Let’s look at email marketing as a practical example of what I mean.

Imagine you want to send an email promoting an upcoming event, product launch or promotion. But rather than a series of clicks and manual entries, you simply spoke or typed prompts for what you wanted the machine (aka the AI) to do. 

I’m not talking about simple information retrieval and natural language generation (NLG), such as a chat feature that responds to queries and prompts, I’m saying that the AI will have the ability to perform actions (i.e. clicks, form fills, etc) the same way as humans. 

Based on a collection of public AI research papers related to a concept called World of Bits (WoB), and in light of recent events and milestones in the AI industry, including legendary AI researcher Andrej Karpathy announcing his return to OpenAI, it appears that the capabilities for AI systems to use a keyboard and mouse are being developed in major AI research labs right now. This has been attempted in the past, but recent advancements in language AI appear to be bringing this closer to reality. 

If AI develops these abilities at scale, the UX of every SaaS company will have to be re-imagined, and it will have profound impacts on productivity, the economy and human labor. 

Now, it looks like we might be close to that moment.

And OpenAI May Be Hinting They’ll Be Here Soon

OpenAI seems to be hinting at something big. In late January 2024, Ben Newhouse at OpenAI posted on X that his team was building what he believed to be “industry-defining zero to one product.” Peter Welinder, VP Product at OpenAI, replied to the post saying: “This product will change everything.”

“OpenAI’s VPs don’t usually post things like ‘This product will change everything’ unless they actually believe it will,” says Roetzer. “I believe they’re referring to progress on AI agents.”

AI Agents Come with Tradeoffs

“In 2024, I think we’re going to start to see more and more applications coming to consumers and businesses in this space,” says Roetzer.

But experimenting with this technology will depend on your comfort level with the companies involved, he says. To test AI agents, you’ll need to be willing to give them access to basically everything on your computer. 

If you’re not comfortable giving that kind of access to a company, you’ll have to sit on the sidelines until a company you do trust, like Google or Apple, gets in the game.

Sometimes, we have to give up things to access certain benefits that AI provides. In some cases, that might be privacy.

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