Why Brillio’s CEO Just Let his Secretary Go

Managers wondering what digital disruption will do to their businesses next might want to duck their heads around the corner. It appears that personal assistants—long a quintessential feature of any C-suite—could be on the verge of extinction. Well, PAs of the human variety that is.

Brillio CEO Raj Mamodia has just revealed to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School that he now lets a machine organize all his meetings at the tech company.

“I had a secretary a few months ago. She left. Actually, I encouraged her to leave,” Mamodia said.

Now, he uses an AI scheduler made by a company called X.ai that’s on hand to sort his diary around the clock. “I don’t have to wait for anything. It’s not perfect, but the technology’s getting there. It’s amazing,” he said.

“IT WILL BE A LONG TIME BEFORE AI WILL MIMIC HUMAN BEHAVIOR.”

Founded in 2014, New York-based X.ai makes an artificial intelligence personal assistant called Amy, or Andrew. Users link their calendars to the service, then CC Andrew in emails. The bot then proceeds to take it from there, chatting back and forth with the contact to set up a mutually-convenient time.

Some people actually think Amy is real, according to her creator. “She has received flowers, chocolate and whiskey at the office,” Xa.i CEO Dennis Mortensen recently told Business Insider. “She’s been asked if she’ll also be attending the meeting, pick up people in the lobby—and she just might have been flirted with.”

Other executives, including former Havas CEO David Jones, have praised the technology’s effectiveness. A similar product called Viv was recently developed by Dag Kittlaus, who also co-founded the company that invented Apple’s Siri virtual assistant. Viv was acquired by Samsung in October.

Mamodia said he has nothing personal against human secretaries. It’s just that they’re not as good. “This thing can do a better job. I am traveling all the time. I am on the road. I need help. I need help everywhere. I don’t have to worry about the time zones and which country I’m in. It knows everything,” he said.

His comments were made in the context of a more serious discussion about the challenges facing U.S. businesses in the wake of Donald Trump’s crackdown on both skilled and unskilled immigration. Overall, he’s of the view that it’ll be a long time before AI will mimic human behavior, meaning there still will be roles for real people, even some PAs.

A full transcript of the Wharton interview can be read here.

Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.

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