Google gives stunning demo of AI making an actual phone call
Artificial Intelligence is one of the big dilemmas facing humanity today. On one hand you have the potential benefits inherent in a computerised workforce able to think for itself, and on the other, you have Terminator 2, any album ever written by Fear Factory and the most famous warning of all, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Amidst all this talk, Google are pushing ahead with their even more modern Prometheus, and the results are making people a little uncomfortable…
First of all, some context. Google’s I/O developer’s conference on Tuesday was the setting for a presentation of new technology that had attendees cheering. It’s where Google unveiled the ability of their AI, Duplex, to serve its human masters (for now) by making phone calls, booking appointments – and presumably ordering takeaway.
In fairness, it’s pretty f**ken impressive technology. Imagine you’re having some beers with your mates and none of you wants to make the phone call to the local pizza joint. Perfect opportunity to have Duplex do it. You just say, “Google, order five f**ken meat-lovers pizzas and have ‘em delivered.” And like magic, your will be done!
Google Assistant making calls pretending to be human not only without disclosing that it's a bot, but adding "ummm" and "aaah" to deceive the human on the other end with the room cheering it… horrifying. Silicon Valley is ethically lost, rudderless and has not learned a thing.
— zeynep tufekci (@zeynep) May 9, 2018
But there’s one thing about the technology that’s seen at least one academic decry it as ‘horrifying.’ Yeah, Zeynep Tufecki, who’s spoken for TED and writes for The Atlantic and New York Times, said “Silicon Valley is ethically lost…” in a scathing Twitter post. Her reason: the bot didn’t disclose that it wasn’t human.
Why the f**k should it do that, you ask? Well, have a listen. This thing is pretty human sounding to the untrained ear. All right, there are things that seem a little ‘off’ about its speech, but given no context, I reckon it’d be pretty bloody difficult to pick it out over the telephone.
If you think that’s bullsh**, remind yourself that people fall for catfishing chatbots on dating sites ALL THE F**KEN TIME.
Plus, in the interests of sensationalising the sh** out of this – considering Google is probably listening to you right now, what if the wires get crossed and Duplex goes beyond just suggesting products on your Facebook feed.
What if it starts calling people after overhearing throw-away comments? You’re having a convo with the missus after work and you’re having a bit of a vent about that bitch Sally from Accounting. You say to your missus, “I’d really like to send her a carton full of sh** in the mail. That’d learn her.”
And then you hear Duplex start making the call. “Hello, I’d like to order a carton of cow-shit. Delivery? Send it to that bitch Sally from Accounting’s address please. Mmm-hmmm. Thanks.”
Look, AI is probably going to happen. There’s no doubt about that, so we just need to sit back and enjoy the ‘Dolly the Sheep’ moments and shut down Skynet now.
In the meantime, despite the ethical outcry, what’s the real harm in a robot booking appointments for you? It’s pretty bloody standard to talk to robots when you call any faceless corporation these days. It’s about time the common man got some of their own back. Whether the AI sounds too human is a subjective call and you need to make your own mind up about that.
Final thought: Google says Duplex will identify itself as a computer when it makes a call, but what’s the fun in that? Who wouldn’t want a job as a blade-runner tracking down rogue telemarketers in the near future. Bring it on, I say!
H/T: The Verge.