by Jack Krupansky
[This is a new section and is not yet fleshed out, but please feel free to comment.]
This page describes a broad range of applications of software agent technology that I refer to as "Life Management". The basic idea is that individuals, families, groups organizations, businesses, professionals, and intersecting aggregations of any of the above are in desperate need of tools to give good advice, assistance, and automated support for the many activities and issues in life that evolve over time, over the life of the entity, and are not dealt with by "point in time" solutions that do not reflect the long-lead future needs of the various entities. Although there is a clear need to support "personalization", one of the critically unmet needs in to support "generational differences" that transcend simple personal preferences or even simple demographics.
The inspiration for Life Agents and Life Management is a book by William Strauss and Neil Howe, The Fourth Turning. Please Read This Book ASAP. You may not "agree" with everything the authors have to say, but their conceptual framework will at least give you plenty of food for thought. While everybody else was agonizing on September 11, 2001 and the months to come, the themes put forward in the book made it quite easy to understand the nature of both the events of 9-11 and reactions to those events (and reactions to the reactions). The bottom line is that each of the four generations that are simultaneously alive have their own internalized world-view and hence their own reactions to the events that transpire. Our families, communities, nations, and global communities are the sum of the views and actions of those four simultaneous generations, each of which represents a "season" in the cycle of life. The book was published in 1997 and suggested that we were going through a phase called an "unraveling" or "the culture wars", expected to run from 1884 to approximately 2005. In their framework, an unraveling is followed by a crisis and then a generation-long rebirth. The extreme polarization of America evidenced in the presidential election of 2000 (and the "anger" of candidates such as Howard Dean) is what you would expect in an unraveling. 9-11 almost literally seems to fit the bill for the type of "this changes everything" crisis that characterizes a "Fourth Turning" that marks the transition from the season of unraveling to the season of rebirth. Unfortunately, the rebirth process is very gradual and can be quite painful as valued old institutions are gradually stripped away and vibrant new institutions rise to take their place. Personally I am not fully convinced that 9-11 really does mark a true fourth turning since there is still a vast amount of polarizing sentiment, but maybe this is a "sloppy" fourth turning and it will simply take a few years or even a decade for people to come around and compromise to find a common "shared vision" about what we need to do to build a new America. Unfortunately, rebirth is not a simple, painless process. Whole institutions change. Old stand-bys come down and new innovative institutions spring up to take their place. Health care, social security, and terror-oriented national security are a few examples where radical change is clearly needed in the decades ahead. I am not endorsing all of the elements and conclusions and advice contained in their book, but there are many facts and explanations that are simply too "obvious" to ignore. In any case, the book was a clear influence on my belief that we need better tools to cope with the challenges of the times, both those immediately before us and those that can be expected in the decades ahead. The generational focus of the book helps to make it clear that a single, "one size fits all", solution or toolkit simply won't work. Your generational needs, world-view, and preferences are very different than your parents, your grandparents, your children, and your grandchildren. But nonetheless, all of those needs, world-views, and preferences must be taken into account.
Life agents are software agents that are initiated and run in the "background" and either directly or indirectly act on the client's behalf, offer guidance either automatically or on request, but keep track of progress and events over extended periods of time.
The real point of a life agent is that real people and real organizations are simply too busy and distracted by daily life to continually and consistently plan and monitor issues which may have lead (and lag) times of months, years, even decades.
In any case, software agent technology seems like an ideal tool to apply to the many problems that spring from the needs of long-term and generational issues.
It is not presently anticipated that even the best current AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology could enable the implementation of life agents that could handle 100% of the desired level of services in a 100% automated manner. So, it is envisioned that the total "service" will consist of a "triangle" with the user, a human life agent, and the automated life agent software in a feedback loop. The user can depend on the human life agent as much as needed or desired. In fact, the human life agent could provide 100% of the service without the user necessarily even knowing that there was automated software providing the human life agent with support.
In some cases, the user may be interacting with an automated software agent and not even realize that the software agent on occasion has to get assistance from a human life agent. In some cases the human may be someone who understands the details of the particular user, but in other cases "any" human life agent will suffice, provided that the needed assistance falls within their realm of expertise, including the particular generation of user, their stage in life, and their particular idiosyncrasies.
The Life Agents project is a long-term project and it is not anticipated that the necessary technology or infrastructure or knowledge base is available now or in the near future (next year or two). The project would have four separate levels of development:
Each of these four levels should be organized with separate management and financing so that they can operate independently and support an "open competition" model. Eventually, there should be multiple (if not many) competitors at each level. The "mother" organization (including the original vision/concept group and the original service providers) may continue to take the lead in developing and deploying "new" services, but that will only be to the extent that those original individuals and organizations remain nimble, efficient, and profitable relative to the "late-comers".
Once the technology, infrastructure, and knowledge base issues are sufficiently resolved, Life Agents would operate as a service-oriented business. The end-user software would be "free", but much of the core software would operate on servers that would charge nominal per-month/year rates.
It is envisioned that users would interact (on occasion) with "life mentors" who would give a human touch for guidance in addition to all of the automated support. The user can decide what amount of human support they would be expecting over a year or at specific points (for events). Various plans would be offered to match the user needs for human guidance versus total reliance on the automated support.
Please contact us with any questions or comments.
Updated: November 11, 2005 12:46:55 PM -0500
Copyright © 2004 John W. Krupansky d/b/a Base Technology