The generative AI arms race has breached yet another frontier.
Today Salesforce, the Silicon Valley software-maker, announced its new Einstein GPT, which it says is the world’s very first generative AI program for “customer relationship management,” or CRM. (According to Salesforce.com, CRM is “technology for managing all your company’s relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers,” and Salesforce’s empire includes some of the most ubiquitous corporate architecture, like office-chat platform Slack and various cloud-based systems.)
Einstein GPT, which arrived with a Pixar-looking Albert mascot, is the child of Salesforce’s partnership with OpenAI—which supplies the artificial intelligence laboratory with the software-maker’s proprietary data, and in return brings OpenAI’s dazzling generative AI superpowers to Salesforce’s day-to-day functions. It will touch nearly every department in the company—theoretically making everyone’s life and work more effortless, and stripping their grinds of the kind of rote tasks that seem to consume 80% of most people’s 9-to-5s: composing emails, scheduling meetings, assembling “knowledge” from available information.
“For example,” a Salesforce release notes, “Einstein GPT can generate personalized emails for salespeople to send to customers, generate specific responses for customer service professionals to more quickly answer customer questions, generate targeted content for marketers to increase campaign response rates, and auto-generate code for developers.” (Never mind that people apparently hate to learn when customer service agents are actually bots behind the wheel.)
“The world is experiencing one of the most profound technological shifts with the rise of real-time technologies and generative AI. This comes at a pivotal moment as every company is focused on connecting with their customers in more intelligent, automated, and personalized ways,” Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce and a former Oracle executive, said in a statement.
The partnership will also bring OpenAI’s prodigious ChatGPT to Slack, as a bot integration that users can call upon to carry out research, summarize conversation threads, or draft replies to coworkers.
In the same breath, Salesforce announced a new $250 million generative AI fund through Salesforce Ventures, its startup investment arm.
BUILDING A SMARTER EINSTEIN
Of course, AI isn’t new territory for Salesforce—artificial intelligence was already becoming technological de rigueur for companies looking to stay cutting-edge, years before ChatGPT catapulted it into the mainstream in November. Einstein GPT is an OpenAI-supercharged version of Salesforce’s existing Einstein AI, which was already delivering more than 200 billion AI predictions per day, according to the company.
But as ChatGPT itself has publicly revealed, even today’s sharpest AI technology is far from perfect, as its astounding verses are still riddled with factual errors or, in developer-speak, problematic “hallucinations.”
Despite this, companies have in recent months rushed to gear up with consumer-facing AI products, with both Microsoft and BuzzFeed striking high-profile deals with OpenAI, and companies from Google and Baidu to Spotify throwing their own projects into hyperdrive.
To this point, Salesforce said it would keep a “human in the loop” on Einstein GPT, which is being launched in beta. Its bid comes as the company has been under pressure from its activist investors to become more profitable. And Benioff seems to think AI is the answer: In the company’s earnings call last week, he reportedly referenced artificial intelligence 14 times.
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