September 30, 2023

I’ve been talking about AI a lot lately, I mean a lot, explaining that it’s a teenager that needs guidance. I’ve gotten to the point where our AI technology, MAGgie, has become an almost human virtual assistant, helping me be more efficient and productive every day. I’ve started to wonder where the line between human and machine really is.

As it turns out, I found that line a couple of weeks ago, while I was teaching English to fourth graders in a monastery in rural Cambodia. It was one of the many outstanding tours provided by Ama Waterways as we hosted our annual top agent retreat. As I did my best to teach this group of local 10-year-olds, I could tell I was falling flat. So, I hammed it up a bit, exaggerating everything I did and said. That’s when I saw the glimmer of a giggle appear in one boy’s eyes and watched as that twinkle spread contagiously to other students. That same afternoon, I saw a twinkle in an old man’s eyes as he told us about his deceased wife. As he recanted his experiences in and after the Vietnam War, including the death of his wife, I saw his twinkle fade to a smoldering ember. It was different than that of the students, they came from the same place. While the first glimmers were those of excitement and the glint in the gentleman’s eyes was joy overshadowed by pain, both were fundamentally human. Both twinkles spoke volumes to me and did so in a way no machine can ever duplicate. Travel agents have the best job in the world, some days.


Folks, as the line between machine and human continues to blur, we need to understand that sparkle, glimmer, or twinkle – call it soul or heart or whatever you like - that makes each of us uniquely and vividly human. What’s in a twinkle in a person’s eyes? Everything, that’s all. That spark is evidence of emotional energy and spirit which, combined, make each of us fundamentally human. That day in Cambodia, I found the line I was looking for, and the answer I was looking for. The line between human and machine intelligence is found in a twinkle.

Look, AI can imitate emotions and emulate caring. It can sound and act like your best friend, a world-class expert on everything, a master artisan, a world-renowned mental therapist, and just about anything else you can imagine. It will, though, never have that spark in an eye that speaks a thousand pictures. AI is, and always will be, second-class in all things human. As travel agents, it’s our job to capture that spark for our clients and take it to heart. We know what a place feels like, what the vibe is, and if it will put that special twinkle in their eye. Most importantly, we can relate to those feelings and point out where the sparks your clients seek can be found and savored. When we connect with our clients in these terms, we can only be augmented by AI, and never replaced.

If you’d like to learn more about what MAGgie and AI can do for you, please visit: