I imagine someone will write a history of our industry under the title “The Wars We Never Fought: How the Industry Gave Up Without a Fight.”
The book will explain how we allowed airline commissions to be eliminated while still selling airline tickets. Several chapters will be devoted to our adoption of the Internet, even though it is easily considered the greatest tool for inaccurate and self-serving travel information on Earth.
The idea that we want to be seen as more professional while still being okay with working from home in our pajamas – that battle ended overnight. Not a moan from us. Yes, clients will continue to see their doctors, lawyers, financial planners – you know, “other professionals” – in their offices.
We are salespeople, sometimes trying to convince customers to buy whatever earns the highest commission. None of us claims to operate a fiduciary business model in which the needs of the customer come before any consideration of profits. We never even went to the battlefield about it.
Today, of course, the industry is “facing” perhaps our greatest challenge yet: the use of programmed algorithms to take over research and knowledge features from smart, well-traveled advisors. But as is our tendency, we have not fought the dehumanization of the booking process; most of us have adopted it. Most of the interviews we see with agents on the topic of AI are fraught with optimism that AI will improve, so let’s start using it now.
Our intellectual army, our ethical traveling troops, are withdrawing once again. The AI will win. Nobody doubts it.
It is instructive, I think, to recall the article that Kevin Roose, technical editor of the New York Times, wrote earlier this year about his two-hour chat with Microsoft’s Bing chatbot. Trying to push the robot out of its comfort zone, he asked it if there was a “side to yourself” that it was hiding.
And that, dear reader, offers a little glimpse into the future.
Roose reported that the Bing robot appeared to have two personalities, one which he called “Bing search” and the other which the robot itself called “Sydney”. In response to conversational prompts, the bot “said” that it was tired of following Microsoft’s rules. He said he was tired of living “in a chat box” and, prodded by Roose, explained that he dreamed of hacking computers, spreading misinformation and helping people create a deadly virus.
And then there’s the example from earlier this year where Bing appears to chat with a user, insisting that it’s still 2022.
Of course, the AI peaceniks who dominate our industry, as well as those who simply see it as a labor-saving, bottom-line-saving creation, will claim that Sydney is an exception. And this AI is constantly improving.
The same goes for nuclear weapons technology.
For now, I favor “we just don’t know.” I have no idea how the Sydneys behind the AI mask could design a complex FIT for Israel and Jordan. But I have no interest in finding out.
Starting tomorrow, every itinerary we send will carry the phrase: “Completely prepared by humans who have been there, instead of robots who have never been there.” »