With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Alexander Andrews

Sometimes technology is scary.

At Google’s IO conference last week they made a number of announcements, but one, in particular, sent chills up and down my spine.  Listen to these clips first:

Duplex scheduling a hair salon appointment:
Duplex calling a restaurant:

The woman making the hair appointment and the man making a reservation are both machines.  AI masquerading as people.

You knew it was going to come, it was just a matter of time.  But hearing the conversations, hearing how the AI adapted, changed and get the desired result, was kind of scary.

Why scary?

You know all those phone calls you get now from people trying to sell you things?  No longer any need for those people.  Just a machine dialling numbers over and over again and never getting tired.  With cheap processing power you will get more calls, more AI-powered phone calls asking about cleaning your vents and your windows, asking you survey questions about television and politics, calling you prior to an election to get you to vote for a particular candidate.

Do you have an appointment with a doctor / dentist / surgeon?  Imagine being called by an AI attendant, days in advance to remind you. Car appointment?  Hair appointment?  Same thing.

Almost anything can now be driven by AI instead of a human.  Call centres?  Good-bye.  Help Desks?  Good-bye.

Now let’s go a little bit further.  iOS v13, Android v10.  You have an AI-driven attendant on your phone that answers calls for you and only lets through those calls that are interesting to you.  The rest of the world that doesn’t have the latest update?  They get inundated in phone calls while you go blissfully through life with your attendant answering calls, making appointments, confirming appointments, essentially running your life for you.

The idea of the AI-generated phone calls is scary enough, but within years you’ll need an AI attendant to handle those calls.  Soon the AI will be making decisions for us.

I’m not sure I like that.

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