Zoom’s CEO Says Having An AI Clone Is Actually Good For You

Zoom, renowned for its video conferencing platform that became essential during the pandemic, is now envisioning a future dominated by AI-driven automation. CEO Eric Yuan shared with The Verge his aspiration for AI avatars to eventually handle many of the tasks that currently occupy our workdays. These avatars could participate in meetings, respond to emails, and make phone calls, potentially liberating individuals from these routine responsibilities.

Today for this session, ideally, I do not need to join. I can send a digital version of myself to join so I can go to the beach. Or I do not need to check my emails; the digital version of myself can read most of the emails. Maybe one or two emails will tell me, “Eric, it’s hard for the digital version to reply. Can you do that?” Again, today we all spend a lot of time either making phone calls, joining meetings, sending emails, deleting some spam emails and replying to some text messages, still very busy. How [do we] leverage AI, how do we leverage Zoom Workplace, to fully automate that kind of work? That’s something that is very important for us.

Yuan illustrated a scenario where a digital version of himself could attend a meeting or read emails, allowing him to enjoy leisure activities. He acknowledged the current limitations of AI, especially its struggle with more complex emails, but stressed the significance of utilizing AI to automate repetitive tasks such as phone calls, meetings, and email management.

Although these aspirations are ambitious, Zoom’s present AI capabilities are limited to generating meeting summaries, a feature that, while beneficial, is relatively simple compared to Yuan’s grand vision.

“I truly hate reading email every morning, and ideally, my AI version for myself reads most of the emails,” said Yuan. “We are not there yet.”

This ambitious vision reflects a wider trend among tech companies to increasingly incorporate AI into workplace tools. Despite this push, significant skepticism exists about AI’s capabilities, especially due to the issue of “hallucinations,” where AI systems generate incorrect or nonsensical outputs. Yuan remains hopeful that these problems will be addressed by others in the tech industry, although he does not offer specific solutions.

“I think solving the AI hallucination problem — I think that’ll be fixed,” Yuan said, offering a lot of belief and little insight into how. When Patel asked who would fix it, Yuan said: “It’s someone down the stack.”

If I stop by your office, let’s say I give you a hug, you shake my hand, right? I think AI cannot replace that. We still need to have in-person interaction. That is very important. Say you and I are sitting together in a local Starbucks, and we are having a very intimate conversation — AI cannot do that, either.

Despite the potential for AI to take over many job functions, Yuan emphasizes the irreplaceable nature of human interaction. Personal engagements, like handshakes and intimate face-to-face conversations, are beyond AI’s capabilities. Yuan’s remarks indicate a significant direction for workplace software companies, suggesting a future where automation could handle substantial portions of work tasks.

However, the practicality and consequences of such advancements remain uncertain. As companies push for innovation, maintaining a balance between automation and essential human interactions will be crucial.

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