Google has unveiled plenty of stuff at Google I/O 2018, including Google Assistant’s new-found conversational skills and Gmail’s new Smart Compose feature. However, the biggest talking point of the whole event has to be the innocuous sounding Google Duplex.
Now that we’re all used to talking to Siri, Alexa, and Assistant, Google is developing the next level of artificial intelligence. And Google Duplex will, if it ever actually sees the light of day, make AI almost indistinguishable from humans. Almost.
Duplex Makes Phone Calls on Your Behalf
Google Duplex is, in a nutshell, a scary glimpse of the future. It’s a next-level artificial intelligence. One that’s able to have natural-sounding conversations with real-life human beings. And that enables Duplex to make phone calls on your behalf.
As demonstrated by Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Duplex can make appointments for you over the phone. And all without the person on the other end of the call being aware they’re talking to an AI. This video shows Duplex calling a hair salon and a restaurant.
As you can see Google has programmed Duplex to sound human. Instead of monotonal responses there’s human language patterns. And Google has even programmed in the pauses and random words such as “Um” and “Ah” humans use in conversations.
Are We Human, or Are We Duplex?
The upshot is an interaction between an AI and a human which sounds like a conversation between two humans. Which raises an important moral question: Should Google program Duplex to announce that it’s not human at the start of a conversation?
Is it ethical to have a human-sounding robot interact with someone without informing the other party that he or she is in conversation with an it? Real question.
— Steven Levy (@StevenLevy) May 9, 2018
Everyone receives robocalls occasionally. But most of us quickly realize we’re not talking to a human, and react accordingly. The problem is when artificial intelligence sounds as natural as Duplex no one will actually know whether they’re talking to a machine.
The Technological Singularity Is Coming Soon
Google has been developing this technology for some time. And the company maintains that the demo was a real call made to a real business. And while the technology is not yet perfect, Google is set to start testing Duplex within Assistant this summer (2018).
The future is scary. That is if Duplex lives up to the hype, unlike Google Glass. It’s inevitable that artificial intelligence will one day replace humanity as the dominant force on Earth, but, thanks to Duplex, it feels like Google is speeding up our demise right now.