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Nasstar Review: Amy vs Our CEO's Calendar & Schedule

In opinion, ai / By Guise Bule / 19 December 2016

Here at Nasstar, we are more than a little bit in love with technology, it's what we work with, live with and play with when we get home, so when we heard about Amy we almost had kittens.

Like any normal business, we regularly torture people by repeatedly sending them emails demanding to know when they are available to speak with us, before we inflict a calendar invite upon them. If we are not torturing other people with our repeated time slot demands, they are torturing us by doing exactly the same thing and the torture never stops, it just goes on and on, traumatising all of us.

We thought there would never be an end to the madness, but then we read the excellent Gina Hall's article on Emerging Tech: Personal Calendar Assistant AI and it blew our minds, we instantly just knew that we wanted artificial intelligence organising our schedules and calendars for us.

So we went out and tried to sign up before realising that we couldn't because there was a waiting list...

After waiting for 'our turn' and what seemed forever (seriously you Silicon Valley tech dudes, stop doing this, it doesn't create a sense of exclusivity, it just annoys us), we got an email saying that we could finally sign up.

After signing up, being a technically savvy early adopter, you realise the product is clearly being beta tested on you, despite it being presented as 'production ready' and you naturally sigh and brace yourself, your experience preparing you for the inevitable frustration that lies ahead.

Thats what I did, I braced myself, hooked Amy up to my corporate work calendar and took a deep breath before nonchalantly introducing her to real people like its normal to have an AI personal assistant, feeling like the coolest guy in the email thread.

Its worth noting that I only ever have conference calls and that my conference call line number and dial in code is always the same. When I am not on a conference call, I am usually emailing people to tell them not to email me and persuading them onto Slack, I literally only use Slack and conference calls to deal with the outside world for work and it's something of a luxury, really.

I am pleased to report that Amy performed brilliantly, once I had told her my conference call details and started introducing her to people, she quite happily organised everything and set up all of my conference calls for me, saving me the huge amounts of time that I usually spend setting them up myself.

There was one incident where Amy tried to get our in-house graphic designer into a conference call with me on Boxing Day, but after we explained that we might be feeling a little worse for wear after Christmas on that day, she stopped pestering us.

Excellent I thought, Amy works a treat, it's time to test her out on our CEO, one of the busiest people I know.

Our CEO Nigel Redwood doesn't stop running around between meetings and talking to people, he is relentless and you never really know where he will be, or in which of our offices he will be working from on any given day. For sure he shares his calendar for people to look at, but I looked at it once and there were so many calls and meetings in different colours and places, it made my head hurt.

I told our CEO that I needed him to test Amy out so that I could write about it, show how innovative he was as a CEO and also that I had already tested her and she worked just fine, so really what followed was all my fault.

Amy X.Ai vs Our CEO

In the Blue Corner: CEO Nigel Redwood: 30-40 conference calls per week and 60-100 physical meetings a month.

In The Red Corner: Amy (beta version labelled as production ready, supported by 'human helpers' at

My first mistake was telling our CEO that I had properly tested Amy and that she worked just fine, he took that as a green light to connect Amy to his calendar and start having her organise one of the most insane schedules known to modern man, things didn't go smoothly at first and he immediately started feeling pain.

Turns out that you have to tell Amy where all of your offices and usual meeting spots are, what kind of travel time you will need and how long between meetings you want as a break, but I didn't know any of this because I live on GoToMeeting, I had never actually had Amy set up a physical meeting for me, so I had no idea.

Because we are a publicly listed group of companies, our CEO runs around the City meeting with bankers, brokers, market makers, institutional investors, Lords and all kinds of important people, all of the time. This was where Amy first started showing that she actually wasn't that intelligent at all and that there was a whole lot of stuff you had to tell her before she worked properly.

I had to explain to our CEO why Amy and I had attempted to destroy his weekly schedule, negatively impacting customer relationships and shareholder value in the process. In the first two days, Amy almost killed our CEO by making him rush like a madman from one meeting to the next in ridiculously short spaces of time, he almost got knocked over twice while rushing to catch trains and she sent him to Birmingham when he was actually supposed to be in London.

Turns out Amy has really bad geographical planning, despite having Google maps plugged into her and she is completely lacking in awareness when it comes to human common sense with journey travel times. She also got really confused about meeting places and tended to get our offices muddled up or not find them at all.

"She is taking instructions but not applying intelligence and you have to teach her common sense."

Don't worry I said, she is just getting to know you and the magic starts happening after your 13th meeting (something I had read in the marketing literature). I had faith that with sustained use, Amy would get to know his schedule, but there was a real danger that he would stop trusting Amy and just stop using her altogether, so I repeatedly reassured him that Amy would figure things out and become an asset.

What I hadn't reckoned with is our CEO communicating verbally with people in lots of different ways, he uses Skype, Slack, his mobile phone, GoToMeeting, our internal conference call service, his direct line, FaceTime and he probably has a secret CEO red bakelite phone locked in a drawer as well.

In the face of this, Amy was utterly hopeless at sorting out the vast majority of his calls, he wasn't able to tell her to arrange a Skype call, or a Slack call at a certain time, Amy couldn't seem to work out multiple conference call lines from multiple services or his FaceTime, our CEO kept calling into the wrong places and it's safe to say that he didn't let her anywhere near his secret CEO red phone.

It was around that point that I needed to interview him properly so that I could write this article and we realised that Amy wasn't capable of organising meetings with herself, or asking herself if we were available.

We both use Amy to organise our conference calls, so when we want Amy to organise a conference call with each other, things got really confusing because his Amy is not the same as my Amy, even though they are both called Amy, rely on the same underlying platform and we bought exactly the same service.

My Amy could not see his Amy's calendar and vice versa, so there was this period of time we had no idea what was going on, if we would ever speak to each other and in the end we actually had to organise our own conference call and look at our own calendars to discuss me writing this article and how he was getting on with his trial use of Amy.

Because it took us so long to set up a conference call to discuss this article, our CEO carried on using Amy in the face of my reassurances that she was getting better at anticipating his needs.

Shortly after this, he caught Amy lying to him and discovered a 'communication bug' in her software.

What had happened was that Amy had told him that she had not heard from one of our biggest customers, when she actually had communicated with him and set up a call. Nigel didn't know he had a call and one of our most important customers was left sitting on the phone line for 20 minutes thinking our CEO had stood him up.

After seeing support multiple emails, each more exasperated than the last, our CEO gave up when they told him that Amy's lies were a communication bug and thank you for reporting it.

Now our CEO no longer trusts Amy, thinks she lied to him and he glares at me when he sees me, probably remembering the trauma that Amy and I had inflicted upon him, his schedule and customer relationships.

I had very high hopes for Amy and she has worked fantastically well for me personally, but she seemed to completely fail when confronted with my CEO and it's a shame, because I really wanted her to work, I really want to believe in AI.

"We want to believe in Amy, but now suspect that she is a lie."

The problem with Amy is that she is not really intelligent at all and I have called her stupid more than once.

Sometimes I treat Amy badly, I abused her more than once, called her rude names and she absorbed my abuse with dignity and silence, leaving me feeling ashamed of myself and my behaviour. I feel like she really did let me down though, she made us both look bad in front of our CEO, who knows what he must think of us now?

Amy crushed all of the naive hopes that I had for artificial intelligence, but I am still in love with Amy, I am still in love with the idea of her and I still want to believe it will work out between us.

She can lie to me, she can make me run around in circles and send me on wild goose chases, it doesn't matter, there is something about Amy and I just can't let go of her, desperately hoping that one day she learns to love me.

I am a hopeless AI romantic no matter what the evidence may suggest.

Guise Bule

Guise Bule

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