It came as a total surprise: the most impressive demonstration at
Google’s I/O conference yesterday was a phone call to book a
haircut. Of course, this was a phone call with a difference. It
wasn’t made by a human, but by the Google Assistant, which did an
uncannily good job of asking the right questions, pausing in the
right places, and even throwing in the odd “mmhmm” for realism.
The crowd was shocked, but the most impressive thing was that the
person on the receiving end of the call didn’t seem to suspect
they were talking to an AI. It’s a huge technological achievement
for Google, but it also opens up a Pandora’s box of ethical and
For example, does Google have an obligation to tell people they’re
talking to a machine? Does technology that mimics humans erode our
trust in what we see and hear?
It’s uncanny how realistic this sounds, but I genuinely wonder if it’s disingenuous to program an AI that hems and haws like a human. There’s a genuine humanity to this voice, but is that dishonest?