Pondering on Google I/O

I’ve been thinking a lot about the things that Google announced at I/O this week. I feel like I’m stuck in a weird camp of being both fascinated and terrified all at once.

The rate at which Google Assistant is developing is astounding and the idea that they are working towards the computer from Star Trek is really quite cool. They are clearly getting there quite quickly. The video demos of Duplex making a call on your behalf to make a hair appointment or book a restaurant is frankly amazing. If those video’s are true (why didn’t they do a live demo?) then they’ve created a computer that can pass the Turing Test and fool a human into thinking they are talking to another human. This is one of the things that terrifies me.

I’ve long been uncomfortable with the amount of information Google can gather on people. Now they are showing how a lot of that data has been used to understand how humans communicate in the way they are building Duplex and demonstrating it’s ability to mimic that. Likewise with the new autocomplete in Gmail that they demonstrated, these things are impressive, as is the potential utility of them.

My struggle is that I hate the idea of all this data being collected on people, mostly without them realising, but at the same time I find that I want to use the new products that Google are creating with it all. I hate having to make phone calls to people I don’t know and the idea that I could just ask a computer to do it for me is great, but, it scares me. Just because we can do that begs the question should we be doing it? When humans are speaking in this manner, there’s an inherent level of trust that is built. It’s a verbal contract between two people, with a commitment from both to fulfil it. If a computer takes over this element on behalf of one of the parties, do we erode that trust? How far do we let these communications go? If we are not responsible for making appointments and bookings, do they start to become disposable? Will we become less inclined to keep them, and how will this impact small businesses?

Self Portraits ›

This is a really interesting post from Colin Walker about what we have effectively been doing on social media for the last 10 years. Painting a self portrait of ourselves over time.

I’ve never thought about it like that before, and when you add in you’re own blog or personal site, it makes for a rich and textured ongoing piece. His conclusions at the end of the post are challenging…

We can tell the stories we think other people want to hear. We can tell skewed stories as we are often not truly honest with ourselves. We tell other people’s stories rather than our own, without comment, without opinion.

What use are the wrong stories and are we doing ourselves a disservice by telling them?

I think, that without realising it, over the last few months of trying to revitalise my blog and using Micro.blog I and many others are trying to reclaim our stories and take hold of the paintbrush.

Posting to Twitter through your own site first changes the focus of the service entirely. We go from being a passive consumer, liking, retweeting, replying, with the occasional original post, to an original post being the focus. We are creating and adding to our own story rather than expanding and adding to someone else’s. Of course it’s not wrong to be involved in other people’s lives, we are created to be in community, but by creating first the involvement turns into a conversation rather than just turning the volume up for someone else. There’s a balance to be found.

Everyone in Buenos Aires Is Communicating by Voice Memo Now ›

Really interesting to hear how different cultures use messaging technologies. The UK is much like how the author of this piece speaks about their friends in the US and nothing like Argentina but voice messages have always intrigued me. I’ve had the ability to use them on my iPhone for a while but never do, maybe it’s time to start. Several of my best friends live away from me, we chat on the phone from time to time, but message more often. Maybe this would bridge the gap.