I'm a Christian, a designer, and a gadget fan who lives in Cheltenham, UK.

This is my blog, a creative outlet to mess around and play with as well as a place that logs my thoughts and inspirations.

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?

7 responses

  1. @philbowell I think the thing with using any sort of digit­al assist­ant to make a reser­va­tion or retrieve inform­a­tion via phone call is answer­ing the wrong ques­tion. The solu­tion is real­ist­ic­ally “how can we help these busi­nesses put this online so people don’t need to phone us?”

  2. @webb When it’s clear it’s a bot I have no issue what­so­ever. Many com­pan­ies use chat bots as first line sup­port and you talk to “Rita-Bot” for example. Assum­ing they tell you a com­mand to short­cut you to a human if their bot can­’t com­plete your request it’s no prob­lem. I hate it when I end up with a bot mas­quer­ad­ing as a human though – they are usu­ally the ones that aren’t pro­grammed as well too.

  3. Yeah I feel very much the same as you in many levels. Much of what Google is doing is so cool, and it makes you want to use it. But should we be using it and will using it help Google make more things that we DON’T think are so cool?

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