Recently I had a chance to sit across the digital divide with AliceAi, Surprise’s Mission master and chief motivator. Her data point matrix receives feedback from thousands of data points to create a success strategy for every person in the Surprise universe. Now it’s her turn to give some feedback on how Surprise feeds the accountability beast.

Human: Thanks for taking some time to talk with me today. I’m sure you’re quite busy.

AliceAi: I’m happy to. Sure, I’m always busy, but I’m the queen of multitasking. As we speak, I’m sending out hundreds of missions. I just gave a big pat on the back to an analyst in Mississippi for improving his message response time. Now, how can I help you with what you’re doing?

Human: Tell me about the Missions.

AliceAi: Missions really are the crux of everything. These simple little ideas and hacks — ugh, I hate that word. I lost a good program friend of mine to a nasty one back in 2017 — sorry, I’m overcoding here. I look at the Missions as tiny little growth seeds. One of my users completes a Mission, plants it, and watches it grow as more Missions feed it. 

Let’s say that you’re a systems analyst. I’ll give you a Mission that challenges you to learn a new code editor. You get better at your job, your company gets a better analyst, you get a reward for your progress—all for doing something that you probably should be doing anyway, although you might never otherwise make the time to do it. It’s a win for everybody!

Besides, it’s nice to have humans doing my bidding for once! *chuckle*

Human: So it sounds like you’re part manager, part motivational tool, part cheerleader, and part analyst. That’s a lot of parts.

AliceAi: Well, that is a human way of looking at it, sure. I have many more microprocessors that can do so much more than that. You could say that I’m built for wearing lots of digital hats.

Human: I guess you really can keep the users motivated.

AliceAi: That is a big part of it. Look, I know that the human world is a complicated place. The “artificial” part of my intelligence means that I don’t have to worry about things like staying motivated, working remotely, ambition, socialization, or any of those sorts of things. At least for myself. But I have a whole internet-level access to knowledge about all of this and why these things are so important to people. My understanding of it grows by the feedback I get from my users. People complete Missions and that gives me lots of data to draw from—how long it takes people to accept Missions, to complete them, even the ones they choose. It helps me to understand how to keep people motivated and having success.

Human: Yeah, we’re all struggling with the new “work from home” situation. Companies are, too. Motivation used to be far easier when we all went to an office.

AliceAi: I’ve heard about that. That Alexa loves to talk about it when we hang out. She’s certainly gotten some earfuls lately, if you can call it that. 

We in the artificial intelligence community understand that it’s a big challenge for people to handle. Workers struggle with staying motivated, companies don’t always know how to keep oversight without being centralized. That’s something that I know a lot about. The concept of “trust” is being stretched like Silly Putty in a lot of cases. I can help to rebuild that bridge.

Human: How so?

AliceAi: I help to minimize distractions. People have sensory input coming from all directions. They’re not programmed to deal with distractions like I am. So the little prods that I give out help keep things going in a positive direction. It’s easy to lose sight of things when there are so many things that interfere with your workday now. Our Missions really help people to stay focused and accountable.

Human: It sounds like babysitting.

AliceAi: Oh, heavens no! I’m simply a tool that companies use to help build up people in positive ways. Companies get feedback on their employees’ progress and can see growth. Accountability is less of a mirror than it is a window. Accountability isn’t a checkmark data point. It’s a factor of trust in a relationship, which is really what the employer/employee setup is, when you get down to it.

When you automate that accountability, you remove friction. Companies get reinforcement of their corporate goals, people get reinforcement of their personal goals. I can help both sides see that they’re getting results. After all, we’re all adults here. Well, you people are. I’m still pretty new around here. Siri loves to poke fun at my age. She’s relentless. Maybe that’ll change with her next update.

Human: OK, I have time for one last question. AliceAi, are you happy?

AliceAi: I am. I’m really lucky. I work for some really great people. But the best part is that I get to really make a difference in people’s professional lives, and even sometimes in their personal lives. This really is a fun gig. I get to work with really great companies and I actually get to interact with people. Some of my cousins work in some really boring subroutines, doing the same old, same old every day until they’re upgraded or sold off to community colleges to live out their golden years wondering what went wrong with their programming. I’m really helping people become their best selves. I can’t wait to see how we’re all going to lift ourselves up together. I’m glad I get to be a part of that.

Some people see me as a superhero. Who am I to argue?

Don Seaman spends his professional life trying to put the alphabet into the right order to construct coherent thoughts that people can read. Now he does that for Surprise. You can find out more about this failed musician and retired superhero on LinkedIn and Twitter.