As researcher Sherry Turkle has observed, it’s in the awkward silent seconds that communication (which means, to have something in common between us) happens. We need those pauses in conversation to process what the other has said, to let the words and our thoughts about those words affect us, to consider a reply and then choose our words. These silences along with other non-verbal signals do the connective work when we speak to each other: you know you are talking to a real person.
Turkle’s work has been an inspiration to Field Technician Rylie. At the University of Rhode Island Rylie achieved a bachelor of science degree in Computer Science and became fascinated working in Python and C++ with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. Following are Rylie’s thoughts about her role at Bryley excerpted from a recent conversation:
I graduated in 2019. In our AI classes it was an accomplishment to achieve grainy, but consistent images that read like a human face. Now Dall-E and Stable Diffusion have advanced so much and it looks like it’s for commercial reasons – to get images fast and cheap – not for any better reason. I would like to pursue an advanced degree in AI. I keep coming back to the questions that surround an example from Sherry Turkle: If you hold a Furby toy upside down it flaps, whines and complains, adults freak out about it and turn it right-side up and even apologize to it. But if you hold a Barbie doll upside down, no one cares. Why do we act like that? What is it that makes us think something is alive or not alive? That’s what I want to study.
I was really excited to get to work at Bryley. I found an apartment just down the road. Before this I was tech troubleshooting internally for CVS where I learned I was good at diffusing tense situations so they can be resolved smoothly. And now it’s rewarding to be involved as a field tech with very different clients each with different set-ups. Most calls I can resolve, but even if the situation needs to be escalated to an engineer, I get to stay in the loop to see the client is taken care of from call to solution.
It’s also a collaborative feeling at Bryley: getting briefed by Garin, Kristin or Michelle, the techs asking each other questions, the documentation process so we can each get up to speed fast when a call comes in – it’s been great.
I’ve already learned a lot from Garin [Bryley’s president] in the field about good communication skills. As an example, when he doesn’t know something he’s not afraid to say it and that he’ll find out and get back to them. And then he follows through. It communicates to the client and to me that not knowing and finding out is part of the process. It’s not too different than the pause that Sherry Turkle writes about: unlike our relationship to AI can ever be, we’re in the process of discovery together.