Will AI help us have more fun with amateur radio?
by Dan Romanchik, KB6NU
In this morning’s email was a message from Inc. magazine with links to some articles in the magazine. At the top of the list was, “4 Unimaginable Ways A.I. Will Change Your Life Within the Next 5 Years, According to Bill Gates” (https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/4-unimaginable-ways-ai-will-change-your-life-within-next-5-years-according-to-bill-gates.html) Gates says that in the next five years, you will have your own artificial intelligence assistant, or agent, that will be a frequent voice in your ear and will help you with everything from deciding where to go on vacation to managing your friendships and more. Let’s think for a minute about Gates’ 4 Ways and how they might help us enjoy amateur radio more.
1. You won’t bother with software or operating systems anymore.
Hey, HAL. Let’s operate 20-meter FT8 this afternoon!
How cool would this be. You could simply tell your AI amateur radio assistant, “Hey, HAL. Let’s operate 20-meter FT8 this afternoon,” and the agent would set up the radio and begin looking for contacts. If the band wasn’t open, it would come back and tell you, “I’m sorry, Dave, but propagation on 20 meters is terrible this afternoon. May I suggest 30 meters instead?”
2. Your agent will be a frequent voice in your ear.
Gates believes that most of us will wear at least one earbud most of the time so that our agents can talk to us whenever they need to. So, for example, it might be monitoring the activity on 6 meters and notify you when the band is open. Or, you might want it to notify you when a particular contest or operating event is coming up so that you don’t miss it. “Dave,” it might say, “remember that the 2-meter club net is at 8 pm tonight.”
3. Your agent will get involved in your personal relationships.
We often don’t think of amateur radio as having a personal aspect, but it really does. For example, don’t we enjoy talking to some people more than others? Your personal agent could monitor your club’s 2-meter repeater or 40-meter CW and notify you when your friends are on the air.
Gates also notes that you could have your AI assistant talk to your friends’ assistants and set up lunch for you. If those friends are also radio amateurs, you could also use that capability to set up an on-air sked.
4. It might even help you solve personal problems.
The article notes, “One of the most intriguing predictions Gates made is that your agent could also become your therapist” While many hams probably do need therapy, I’m not so sure how applicable this will be to amateur radio.
What I could see happening is using an AI assistant to help you choose your next rig or maybe help you troubleshoot a problem. Here are some scenarios:
• You ask your AI assistant what rig you should buy next. Since it already knows what bands you like to operate—and the state of your finances—it can analyze all the options and find a radio that meets your operating needs and fits into your budget.
• You might describe your backyard and the bands that you want to operate, and your AI Assistant could come back with antenna suggestions.
• You ask your AI assistant about a problem that you’re having with your rig. It comes back with, “Dave, if you would just RTFM, you will find the answer on page 67 of the operating manual.” Or, after scanning the appropriate online forums, it would tell you, “Dave, several other owners seem to be having a similar problem. Here’s what they’ve done….”
All of this sounds kind of fun to me, but I can understand some of you having reservations. What do you think? Can you think of other ways an AI assistant would make amateur radio more fun for you?
Dan Romanchik, KB6NU, is the author of the KB6NU amateur radio blog (KB6NU.Com), the “No Nonsense” amateur radio license study guides (https://KB6NU.Com/study-guides/), and often appears on the ICQPodcast (https://icqpodcast.com). When he’s not trying to decide if artificial intelligence will help us have more fun with ham radio—or destroy humanity—he tinkers with electronics projects and works CW on the HF bands. You can email your AI comments to Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org.