Staunch backlash over the latest AI capability of Google

By:Vandita Jadeja 2018-05-10

The reaction to the latest capability of Google has prompted a backlash from those concerned about the ethics of intelligent robots taking over. At a technological demonstration, the internet giant showed its digital assistant could mimic a human over the phone very convincingly and the person on the other end had no idea they were talking to a machine.

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At the demonstration, the AI bot called a hairdresser and booked a haircut for the client. In another demonstration, the bot made a restaurant reservation after making an inquiry about the wait time and the worker was oblivious she was speaking to a robot. The technology was unveiled this week by the company at the annual developer's conference, the artificial additions could also drive cars and write emails and basically cut humans out of the picture.

A technologist and associate professor at University of North Carolina, Zeynep Tefukci lashed out at Google for this experiment. She stated that this is basically horrifying and companies have a responsibility to delineate between algorithms and humans. She further mentioned that digital technologies need to protect humans and how to delineate humans and machines and to create reliable signals of each, whereas this is deliberate deception which is not okay. An Australian robotics and artificial intelligence professor Toby Walsh also raised concerned and called this Turing’s Red Flag. On a blog post, he stated that computer should not pretend to be humans. These two leaders are not alone, another Australian tech leader Matt Barrie posted his theory about where the data hungry tech company wants to take things, and he called Google Duplex a Trojan horse that will be used to learn more about everything we are doing.

Nevertheless, there were some pointing out the efficiency benefits and the ability to dissolve language barriers. Google knew there would be uncomfortable feelings with this demonstration and the company executives were aware that the phone call examples could raise concerns. Google stated in the blog that this technology is built to sound natural and to make a comfortable conversation experience. Transparency is the key here and it is important that the users have a good experience. A Google manager mentioned that the final product could require Google Assistant to inform a person that they were not talking to a human before the conversation starts.