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Google responds to Duplex backlash, says AI voice system will identify itself when making...

By midian182 · 14 replies
May 11, 2018
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  1. It’s not often that a new piece of technology causes so much controversy, but Google’s AI-powered Duplex system, which can book appointments over the phone by mimicking a human voice, has led to a backlash over the potential ethical questions it poses.

    Duplex, which works alongside Google Assistant, was shown off at Google’s I/O conference by CEO Sundar Pichai to gasps of amazement from the audience. It can even use speech disfluencies such as “umm” and “ah” to make itself sound more human.

    But the fact a piece of software was able to trick someone into thinking they were speaking to another person has led to arguments, mostly over whether the assistant should identify itself as a machine. Tech critic Zeynep Tufekci called it “horrifying.”

    Responding to the controversy, Google emphasized that transparency will be an important part of the feature.

    "We understand and value the discussion around Google Duplex -- as we've said from the beginning, transparency in the technology is important," a Google spokeswoman said in a statement. "We are designing this feature with disclosure built-in, and we'll make sure the system is appropriately identified. What we showed at I/O was an early technology demo, and we look forward to incorporating feedback as we develop this into a product."

    Precisely how Google intends to add the disclosure into a conversation hasn’t been decided. The company said it still needs to test how people respond to it. Speaking to Bloomberg, Scott Huffman, an executive on Google’s Assistant team, suggested the system could start a call with "I’m the Google assistant and I’m calling for a client."

    As is so often the case with new technologies, there are fears over the impact Duplex might have on human jobs. It could ultimately affect telemarketers, customer service assistants, and other phone-based workers, and there’s potential for it to be used in scams.

    Pichai said there were important questions being raised about Duplex. "It’s clear that technology can be a positive force and improve the quality of life for billions of people around the world. But it’s equally clear that we can’t just be wide-eyed about what we create," wrote the CEO.

    "There are very real and important questions being raised about the impact of technology and the role it will play in our lives. We know the path ahead needs to be navigated carefully and deliberately—and we feel a deep sense of responsibility to get this right."

    Permalink to story.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 13, 2018
  2. Teko03

    Teko03 TS Evangelist Posts: 532   +282

    Don't worry...I'm sure the stage demo was an extreme of how "human" this thing is.
  3. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,172   +1,181

    Can someone explain why it matters if the duct cleaner, who just happens to be in my area, is human or a robot? Honestly, the way most telemarketing campaigns work, I doubt anyone would be able to tell the difference.
  4. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,641   +1,107

    Because it's not about a duct cleaner, it's about the implications that such a thing might have in the extremely near future.
  5. baskiria

    baskiria TS Enthusiast Posts: 57   +29

    Imagine on your own voice "Your Honor, I admit the murder of umm, John Doe"... You're using voice recognition feature to search for stuff and to type while driving, aren't you?
  6. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,172   +1,181

    Mimicking a human has always been something computer programmers have been attempting since even before the Turing test... So we're getting better at it... did anyone NOT see this as inevitable?
    Capaill likes this.
  7. Capaill

    Capaill TS Evangelist Posts: 712   +355

    The goal has always been to replace employees with computers and robots and AI, ever since that notion became a real possibility. Computers are cheap, they do not sleep, they do not eat, they do not go on holidays, they go not go on strike, they do not leave the company. They are the perfect workforce. And they are industry's goal because that lines the pockets of the 8 at the top and who cares about the 8 billion (estimated future workforce) at the bottom. The problem with this (among so many other problems) is that our entire world requires people to have money and the main way to get money is to work. So, if computers replace the workforce, what do the 8 billion ex-workers do?

    We need to put the brakes on this movement as early as possible and set worldwide restrictions. Playing with AI is fun but no industry plays with AI unless they can realise massive profits. And that is always at the expense of people, regardless of how they choose to wrap it in a pretty pink bow for us. It's the way of the capitalist.

    Sorry if that was too Bladerunner for a Friday afternoon.
  8. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,641   +1,107

    Ergo: The answer to your first question.
  9. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,172   +1,181

    Machines have been replacing humans for centuries....

    Centuries ago, the majority of people used to farm - it used to be back-breaking labour, people were tied to their land, and at the mercy of mother nature... for most, life was barely above subsistence level...

    Then mechanical harvesters, combines, etc were invented - farmers lost their "jobs"... they were forced to move into cities to find work... and while it sucked for awhile, guess what? Most people found alternate ways to make a living... standards of living were raised as more food was available with a fraction of the work force that used to be required... humanity was free to use their manpower for more "useful" pursuits - now we have tons of professions that never existed before in any great numbers... we have engineers, scientists, etc... and our standard of living has become astronomically higher than ever before.

    Yes, there is turmoil when "people are replaced with machines".... but people adapt - it's what we're good at - and there will be new jobs that perhaps we haven't even thought of that require people.... and humanity will be the better for it :)
    mbrowne5061 likes this.
  10. Tom Thumb

    Tom Thumb TS Rookie

    Could government not just tax the AI machines proportionate to the number of workers they replace using the tax to pay the workers a monthly amount so people still had money to purchase the goods made by the machines.
    regiq likes this.
  11. TameU

    TameU TS Rookie

    To me, it seems natural that digital entities will mimic human and not necessarily disclose that. I think that that's how the future is going to look like. Human-like robots/cyborg are going to make people guess about their nature. It's even going to be impolite to ask a cyborg about "its" true nature.
  12. MaikuTech

    MaikuTech TS Guru Posts: 908   +162

    When cyber criminals get a hold of it and start reverse engineering the thing it'll be a whole new ball game when real horrible stuff happens.
    SirChocula likes this.
  13. Puiu

    Puiu TS Evangelist Posts: 3,169   +1,612

    Considering the snail pace Google has in developing such things and the fact that Amazon has technology years ahead of this... yeah it's just a parlor trick on stage :D
  14. MaikuTech

    MaikuTech TS Guru Posts: 908   +162

    Never put it pass google to do the unthinkable, a great example of that is google maps.
    Although I really really like google maps, at times it just down right invades into public privacy and god knows what.
  15. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,058   +562

    "I’m the Google assistant and I’m calling for a client."


    I'll hang up the second I hear that phrase. Call me yourself, or not at all.

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