The room of Google IO conference echoed with claps when it introduced its awfully advanced new AI feature – Google Duplex. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai demonstrated an impressive new version of Google Assistant which can make phone calls for you. But here is the surprise element, the new AI talks like a human does.
At the conference, the AI was shown to make two phone calls – making successful reservations at a salon and a restaurant. And the most fascinating thing was that the person on the other end of the call could not figure out it was not a real human. Now that’s pretty impressive!
With this new Google’s feature, you just have to tell your Google Assistant things like, book a doctor’s appointment or get me a table at XYZ restaurant, and Duplex would make the call on its own once being assigned the task and later notify you with the date and time chosen. Now, this is a real time saver from doing all those monotonous errands.
There are other technologies too which use bots to involve in a conversation but it is fairly easy to guess it’s a bot on the other end and Google’s Duplex is changing that. It can chitchat like a human and in some ways even better than it. This is supposedly the biggest feat for Google, as there is no AI developed like that so far.
There is a reason why Google’s AI stands out from its peer and predecessors.
For starters, it is specifically designed to understand the nuances of human conversation. The AI at the demo paused at the right places and asked the right questions. It even threw the occasional “mmhmm” to give the conversation a real edge. And in the cases where conversation veers off its course or doesn’t go as expected, Duplex has enough tricks up its sleeves to intelligently bring the conversation back on the track with the clever use of rephrasing and repeating. The Duplex can use syncs like, “Can you hear me?”, “And the number is 212- sorry, can you start over?”. This smart new feature from Google can actually get the task done without needing our help at all.
But due to the human nature, we have always been afraid of losing control. And when it is the shift of power in the hands of AI, we have displayed our fears not only openly but also artistically. It has been shown in a number of Hollywood sci-fis, like Terminator, I, Robot and so many more, the man facing his fears of destruction of the human race by the hands of an advanced AI form. But the reality of these sci-fis might not be the immediate future or not even the distant one but there are some potential foreseeable problems at the hands of the new Google AI.
Experts claim that the new AI is highly crucible to chaos – could potentially erode the security and privacy of an individual. It is no secret that Google has access to a lot of our information. It knows what we do in Chrome- it has access to all our browsing history. It knows the places we visit, courtesy of Google Maps. And most of us have Android phones, so it also knows who we call. And if one uses Gmail, it knows all about our mailing behaviours- who we frequently answer to and the chain mails of vendors we skip in bulk. It has veritably dug its claws so deep in our data that having an AI that could impersonate a human should worry us.
Imagine, someone with just a bit trickier conversation can easily cheat out the information from the Duplex. They could know your entire life! And one day it might even handle all the businesses we do through our phones. And how will it use the data and more importantly, how will the companies and people part of the Duplex system will use it, is a cause of concern. Plus, if robots can pose as humans, the permissive behaviour can give rise to plenty of mischief ranging from automated hoaxes to even downright malicious scam calls.
Currently Duplex can handle only 3 situations: scheduling haircuts, making reservations at a restaurant and asking businesses about their holiday hours. However, we know that it won’t stay forever like that. It is going to expand and penetrate deeper into our lives for consequences that reside, for now, only in our imagination. For now only.