Is Google Duplex Really Dangerous?

I might be a little late to the party but let’s talk about Google Duplex today. Google I/O 2018 had some mind boggling announcements but the one which stood out from everything else was – Google Duplex. When Sundar Pichai (Google CEO) went on and demonstrated that Google Assistant can make calls on your behalf and do reservations at a salon or restaurant, many of us went bonkers. I mean, it was so natural, human-like and correct that it was too hard to believe.

We have had robots talking over phone for a few years now but they sounded like robots. Google Assistant, on the other hand, sounded like just other human. Adding to this was the natural occurring – pauses, mmm-hmms, ‘er’, so there was no way the person on the other end would find out if it was a robot. But, and this one, believe me is a really big ‘BUT’. How wrong this can possibly go if it goes public in say about 2 years from now? Every technology which has been introduced ever always has downsides and Google Duplex can go massively wrong, but do we need to worry? Well, I will try to break down all the reasons for and against this argument and of course your inputs are welcomed.


Why Google Duplex can be a problem?

Alright, let’s first hit the arguments which have been more visible in the news these days. Google Duplex, with all the benefits it can bring, is still looked at as something really dangerous. It is terrifying, as quoted by some critiques. Technology is always changing and that is actually a good thing but does it take away some of the crucial aspects of human skills? Let’s take smartphones for example – There was a time when people use to memorize all the phone numbers of their friends and family. Not only this, people would rather prefer to talk face-to-face rather than just picking up a phone and calling them. It is true that mobile phones brought a lot more flexibility and convenience but there is a dark side to it as well

To put it in simple terms, technology is somewhat responsible for the lack of human communication these days. Witnessed evidently amongst the teenagers, a lot of people prefer to talk on the internet and not in person. Taking this and asking a robot to talk to other humans, be it just for booking an appointment, just adds to what could be another major hit to our social skills. Just think of it like this way, if Google Duplex went on and became immensely popular amongst the users, people would eventually end up struggling to hit one-to-one healthy conversations. A recent study already pointed to this direction where younger generation today find it difficult to make healthy and long relationships through face-to-face conversations.

This was only one aspect to the negative implications that Google Duplex can pave a way for. If AI robots started talking like humans, it will be a cherry on cake for scammers. People could actually use Google Duplex to manipulate information from users which is much scarier than it sounds.

Further, what about the people who work at BPOs? With AI robots, there a ton of jobs which will be simply scrapped off even though the person on the other side of the call would never prefer a robot talking to him/her. Wait! What about the time when a Google Duplex starts interacting with another Google Duplex? Will there be a time of no or negligent human interaction? I am already scared. What do you think?


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How Google Duplex cannot be the problem?

Artificial Intelligence, as we know, is machine learning at its best. Surely there are some serious issues if this technology went live. But, how can Google Duplex change our lives for the good? Well, the ball has to be in Google’s court right now. I am sure, Google won’t let this technology go out in the wild without any restrictions. As a matter of fact, Sundar Pichai did say that Google Duplex will be used to perform actions and not just talk generally. There should be a purpose of the conversation.

Further, the search engine giant has confirmed that there will be complete transparency. Here is what a spokesperson from Google told Tech Insider – “We understand and value the discussion around Google Duplex – as we’ve said from the beginning, transparency in the technology is important. 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.” (Source: Tech Insider)

In other words, Google Assistant will tell that it’s her talking on the phone. Or him, depending on the voice it has. Haha!

Now will this be a default feature or the disclosure mechanism would only trigger when asked? That’s a question which is yet to be answered. I mean, imagine picking up a phone and hearing ‘Hey – I am John’s Google Assistant’. I am sure, most of you will hangup right there.

Nevertheless, here is another statement from Google – “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. 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.”

So if we go about this statements, Google is quite confident that this will not go wrong as it is thoroughly clear of how Google Duplex will function.


What do you think? Are you ready for a technology like this or we are better off talking to each other no matter how inconvenient it gets?

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