Artificial Intelligence agents started out as friendly voices that could answer some simple questions. We’re in a new phase now in which AI agents can order goods and control our home. Recently, Google tried to jump to another level when it introduced an ad into a morning briefing. We can see where this is going, and it’s not good.

AI concept

Our best hopes for these AI agents is that they will be our faithful companions. But Google, in an experiment gone madly wrong, is leaning more towards a Twilight Zone episode called “To Serve Man.” You remember that one, right?

A good summary is at Engadget: OK Google: Don’t Put Ads In The Google Assistant.

…Google Google outdid itself yesterday when it dropped an advertisement for the new Beauty and the Beast film into Google Home and the Google Assisant. The device has a feature where you can ask it to tell you about your day, and it responds with weather, traffic, your agenda and news. In the middle of that, Google Home informed users that Beauty and the Beast arrived in theaters and made a cutesy joke about the film. The whole thing lasted about 15 seconds, but it was nonetheless an unexpected intrusion that made users remember how often they are the product that Google is selling.

There’s been a lot of discussion about AIi agents lately on many levels. There’s the competition between Google and Amazon with desktop devices pitted against Apple and Microsoft with disembodied voices. There is much worry about AI agents putting many people out of work. There is even worry about how a super-intelligent AI agent could put the human race at risk.

The last thing Google needs to do is raise the uncomfortable specter of the worst kind of behavior we could expect from an AI agent. What was the company thinking? Google has spent millions on AI research for this? Seriously?

The Future Of AI, Apple and Humankind

You don’t have to do much reading to find out more about the possibilities of AI research. At SXSW, Mark Cuban opined that: “The World’s First Trillionaire Will Be An Artificial Intelligence Entrepreneur.” The author, Catherine Clifford, quotes Mr. Cuban:

We will “see more technological advances over the next ten years than we have over the last thirty. It’s just going to blow everything away.”

As computers and robots increasingly replace technical skills, critical thinking will become yet more valuable. “Knowing how to critically think and assess them from a global perspective I think is going to be more valuable than what we see as exciting careers today which might be programming or CPA or those types of things,” Cuban says.

That critical thinking part is important because, more and more, our smartphones make it their business to locate, point out, select, advise and recommend things we do. As soon as AIs get into that business, we’re going to find that AIs, more and more, develop the talent to become extremely persuasive for some company’s financial gain.

If you doubt that, here’s a transitional article that suggest how our youth may already be failing to learn how to change gears from talking to an AI and talking to a friend. “Siri, Alexa, And Robots Could Change How We Talk.

Just as kids now expect almost every display they come across to be a touchscreen, they might grow up thinking they can command people to respond the way Alexa or Siri might.

This may sound fanciful, but we live in an age when, if it can happen, it will happen in technology. The next technical shoe always drops.

It’s only a short leap from Google Home presenting a pitch for a movie to a future AI agent suggesting what we buy, how we think, or who to believe.

This could end up making some companies very wealthy, as Mr. Cuban notes, and threaten some other companies that don’t have the tools to fight back.

That’s why critical thinking skills will become so important in the age of the AI. Otherwise, you’ll be told how to think. And pay for the privilege.

Next Page: The News Debris for the Week Of March 13th. Unintended consequences of autonomous cars.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Scott B in DC

It’s easy to see where this is going. At some point, people will have to be exceptionally well off financially to afford the insurance for a car they drive themselves. Ummm… not it is not! Why do I say this? In a shadow life I lead as a writer for a political action committee (PAC), I have spoken with people in state legislatures and on Capitol Hill. Nobody is going to be for allowing the insurance companies to do this. All the olde pharts in government, some of whom have classic cars, will not let this happen. They will legislate… Read more »


John: I am familiar with that Twilight Zone episode, ‘To Serve Man’, and with the short story behind it. However, I do not believe that Google’s ad insert qualifies as serving us up, although I get where you’re going with this. To be sure, willingly enlisting oneself into a personal data harvesting option, often free at the point of entry, such as Google and Facebook honeypots, but increasingly at the point of purchase, such as the Google Assistant and the Amazon Echo, do resemble ‘services for man’, but qualify as ‘man’ handing over his or her identity and virtual self… Read more »


That may all very well be, but the fact remains that we are the dumba**es that keep subverting our ability to think for ourselves, and the ones that are too lazy and entitled to do our own research or pay for things. I don’t disagree with the sentiment being expressed, but we are all serving ourselves up on a silver platter.


Science does not have a moral dimension.
It is like a knife.
If you give it to a surgeon or a murderer,
each will use it differently.
Werner Von Braun

I’m not worried about AI technology itself.
I am worried about what the Oligarchy will use it for.


I still don’t understand all of this fear and loathing around AI. Just because AI is wires and chips instead of flesh and blood doesn’t mean it’s first realization will be “I think, therefore mankind must die!” Every day thousands of new minds capable of horrific evil are born into this world, yet with a few exceptions they don’t immediately launch genocidal campaigns the moment they mature, so why is it so many people assume AI will do so? Isn’t one of the primary basics of AI the ability to learn, understand and interact with us fleshy meat bags? How… Read more »


Just as kids now expect almost every display they come across to be a touchscreen, they might grow up thinking they can command people to respond the way Alexa or Siri might.

My god! This will be the end of civilization, just as it was when television came out and kids lost their imaginations, or when they were corrupted by comic books to become deviant sex fiends, or when the devil’s music (rock & roll, jazz) turned all kids into refer smoking maniacs. We’re doomed, DOOOOOOOOOMED!

Lee Dronick

“But what will happen when 70-80-90% of humanity is literally unemployable?”

Revolutions, reigns of terror, and such; idle hands being the Devil’s workshop.


Two quick thoughts.: What Google did is obnoxious, and annoying. But how is it different from turning on the TV, getting news, weather, and traffic, interspersed with ads? Obnoxious yes, but why the surprise? AIs will increasingly replace people, indeed they already are. Over the next few decades more and more people will literally be unable to find a job. Driving a cab or truck? Sorry AIs are taking over that. Call Centres? Sorry that’s all run on the servers. Janitors? Sorry Roomba has an AI system that does the floors and windows. This will make the rich richer. But… Read more »