Almost twenty years ago it was published The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, a book by futurist Ray Kurzweil on topics such as biology, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and transhumanism. The term “singularity” was coined in the 1980s and the now commonly accepted definition comes from the writer Vernor Vinge, according to whom within thirty years “we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence”. This historical moment is known, in fact, as a singularity (or technological singularity) and its manifestations can be observed both in common objects (such as a smartphone or a household appliance), and in more metaphysical topics.

The future is irreversible and considering it as utopian or dystopian is totally up to us, but our feelings towards technological developments are ambivalent and change considerably according to their fields of application. In the medical field, for example, AI is almost unanimously accepted as a real deus ex machina. As early as 2020, a study by Nature had shown that AI was more efficient than humans at identifying lesions indicating the presence of breast cancer and, more recently, a robot-surgeon designed by John Hopkins University performed four times a laparoscopy in total autonomy and in an exponentially more accurate way than his colleagues in flesh and blood.

Technology has finally given us the potential to improve our delicate (“fragile”, would say a bioethicist of the caliber of Claudio Sartea) condition. And the discourse is not limited to medicine. Let us think of another field in which the fallibility of human beings plays a decisive role, such as justice. In order to clear the huge backlog, Estonia has decided to experiment with artificial judges to resolve all those minor civil disputes (up to 7,000 euros). It was a success, because not only are machines better than us in probabilistic reasoning, precision or in finding patterns too subtle to be detected by humans, but they have no prejudices.

And if this is the magnitude of the change that we have been given the privilege of witnessing, do we really have the arrogance to believe that technology cannot impact travel? As paradoxical as it is, it seems so. In our sector, in fact, even the slightest allusion to AI is perceived as a heresy. It is my opinion that this antipathy is caused by an almost ancestral prejudice that humans have towards AI. In the essay Man is antiquated, the philosopher Günther Anders speaks of a feeling typical of our (post) modern society, which he calls “Promethean shame”. For Anders, this shame exists because man is systematically overcome by his inventions, in an asynchronous relationship with that technology of which he himself is the creator. But this is not necessarily a bad thing, quite the contrary.

I think we can all agree that being a hotelier means taking care of your guests, not your software. But this is precisely where the central misunderstanding arises, because the reality is that the more technology is added to a hotel, the more human the guest experience becomes, as it frees the (human) staff from all those repetitive, humiliating and boring, repositioning it where its added value really resides.

Up until twenty years ago, a receptionist was someone who simply took care of guests. Today, however, what a receptionist does is mainly take care of technical tasks that could (and should) be performed by a machine. Who hasn’t happened to arrive at the hotel and run into someone who barely speaks to us, not out of rudeness, but because they are overburdened with useless tasks? Scanning a copy of your passport, pre-authorizing your credit card and generating a magnetic key are operations that a hotelier is often forced to perform manually out of necessity, not because they improve our experience in any way. Registering personal data on an ERP is not a craft. There is no added value in having a human being doing it, rather than a machine. And the fact that, when looking for a receptionist to hire, you place more value on whether or not he knows how to use Opera than his soft skills, says a lot about the drift our industry is taking.

“Kitanai, kiken, kitsui” it is a Japanese saying, roughly translatable into “dirty, dangerous and humiliating” and which refers to those unskilled and underpaid jobs that few are willing to do. Until recently, the use of non-organic workers was reserved almost exclusively to them; however, in recent years, a new trend has consolidated that sees the phenomenon of robots, artificial intelligence and service automation, increasingly competing with human workers for more specialized and better-paid jobs, in sectors such as finance, medicine, jurisprudence, surgery and, indeed, hospitality.

Automating processes is now a business need which, with increasingly accessible technologies and infrastructures both in terms of required investments and implementation, is no longer the sole prerogative of OTAs or large chain brands. Artificial intelligence provides hoteliers with the ability to replace virtually all the processes that run behind the scenes (that is: all those in which the presence of a human being is not strictly necessary).

Artificial intelligence provides hoteliers with the ability to replace virtually all the processes that run behind the scenes (that is: all those in which the presence of a human being is not strictly necessary).

When running a hotel, the main problem is always the same: lack of time. And AI can give us back just that: time, helping us (and not replacing us) in all those highly time-consuming tasks that, unfortunately, still cannibalize a good part of our days.

However, even today, in hotels there is a sort of technological inertia towards which we are all correct: suppliers, consultants and hoteliers. The time has come to correct the shot.

The question to ask is: are we ready?

#Artificial #intelligence #hospitality #Technology #Innovation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.