How AI in everyday life is helping people survive Thanksgiving — and every other awkward family holiday

And so begins the “happiest” time of the year…road trips to visit families, celebrating holidays over a delicious meal. But when you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, will you pull up a chair for AI?

AI to the rescue

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AI has, for me at least, always sounded so futuristic, and science-fiction-y. It conjures images of supercomputers on space ships and murderous cyborgs. But if you slow down and look around, you'll see it all around you, even on a busy holiday...

It starts when you (perhaps begrudgingly) plan your road trip to the holiday host. Let's say Thanksgiving dinner is at Aunt Rose's house, on the other side of the state. It's likely that you're going to put the destination into Google Maps which, using anonymized location data from smartphones, as well as crowdsourced information via its acquisition of traffic app Waze, can analyze the speed of movement of traffic at any given time.

Thanks to maaaanny previous experiences, you know the last thing you want to do is be stuck in Thanksgiving traffic when you're already on edge at the idea of having to spend a meal with distant relations and a hot bowl of mashed potatoes on your lap. The AI algorithms powering Waze and Google Maps can help reduce the stress by suggesting the fastest route.

Thanks to AI ,the actual journey might be a bit less stressful as well. AI helps shorten the trip by doing everything from reducing the risk of accidents by controlling self-driving cars, reducing the need for cars on the road by enabling more efficient ride sharing, and reducing wait times with smart traffic lights.

The use cases are almost endless. But they don't stop there.

When you get to Aunt Rose and greet your family, you remind yourself that there are a few topics you're going to want to be careful about. For example:

  • Best to avoid asking Tim how college is going. He got busted for plagiarism when his professor put his final essay into Turnitin, the popular machine learning powered site that analyzes student's writing for plagiarism
  • Definitely don't bring up Patricia's life now that's she's living on her own. Facebook's AI automatically identified her face in some of her friend's partying photos, so you already know the answer
  • Avoid politics at all costs. Not necessarily a new Thanksgiving rule, it's just gotten trickier and trickier every year because Facebook's algorithm means that you and Grandpa are not seeing the same news sources at all; you might as well be living on different planets

AI might make family conversations a bit trickier, but it can also offer you some respite. During the post turkey slump, it will be there to help in a variety of ways:

  • Tomorrow is Black Friday—and after that Cyber Monday! Hit up Amazon's AI-powered algorithm which creates suggestions for the products that you are likely to be the most interested in so you can get your shopping done more efficiently
  • Trust Netflix's recommendation for a new TV show that you'll like to soothe your nerves
  • Cue up Spotify's AI-curated playlist, made especially for you, especially on this day
  • If it all gets to be a bit too much, try one of the therapy chatbots to have a conversation with an AI that won't judge you

Meanwhile, if you are Aunt Rose and if you don't have a family recipe that's been handed down to you to create your first, AI is here to the rescue!

Check out Botnik, an AI-assisted application that goes through varies types of written content in order to build predictive keyboards. Basically, you can submit all the recipes of Thanksgiving dinners ever, and it will help you create the ultimate Thanksgiving feast.

Or....maybe not. Check out this video of its creation being used in real life. It features my new favorite sentence: "The first Thanksgiving feast was okay, so I'm going to make a really hardy Thanksgiving dinner for my friends and family...and the governor of butter."

I took a turn at creating my own recipe for mashed potatoes and I think we have a real winner:


Okay, so AI can't do EVERYTHING for your Thanksgiving holiday quite yet. But how will you be using AI in your holiday traditions this year?

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