Soon, You Will Be Told What To Think About Apple

5 minute read
| Particle Debris

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.

8 Comments Add a comment

  1. geoduck

    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 what will happen when 70-80-90% of humanity is literally unemployable? When everything from garbage collection, to music composition and script writing is AI? Already an AI is giving legal advice right NOW.
    And what happens when the 1% have it all and are catered to by their robots? Already they are becoming isolated from society. They no longer feel like they are part of the rest of us. They have their homes, their recreation areas, their places to shop, their world separate and isolated from those of us without enough zeros in our bank account. Wealth has in their eyes is becoming worth. There was a good podcast on the CBC a few weeks ago called Surviving Post-Capitalism: Coping, hoping, doping & shopping. One of the points is that Capitalism now has nothing to oppose it. With nothing to hold it back it’s tearing itself, and democracy down through its own excesses:
    I recommend you listen to it.
    tl:dr It doesn’t end well for humanity.

  2. 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.

  3. palmac

    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!

  4. palmac

    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 do you get Skynet destroying mankind from that?

    If you want to read a very interesting take on AI and humans clashing, read the comic Freefall. Right now it’s running a series of strips on a trial of a corporate executive who ordered his personal AI to make him the richest person in the solar system despite how badly it would impact society. As far as I’m concerned it’s one of the better think pieces on this AI controversy but most people ignore it because it’s a comic strip.

  5. geoduck

    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.

  6. Jamie

    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.

  7. wab95


    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 for the consumption by business concerns for the proliferation of wanton materialism and consumerism, ultimately at the expense of the well-being of the individual and society. Conceded. At the same, that is a very different proposition from the emergence of an omnipresent, virtually omniscient and ultimately malevolent AI that aspires to dominate human affairs, the planet and – why not? – the universe.

    Google’s ham-fisted insertion of an ad, or as Google put it, ‘timely information’ from a ‘partner’ into its morning info ejecta is no more an indicator AI gone amok than is spam in one’s email an indication that one’s email software has gone amok and is hell-bent on torturing you. It’s not the email client software, but some ruddy bugger who has buggered you with their ad-bilge. Google execs made this decision and their people executed their ‘spam-in-a-can’ assault. Perhaps in time, they will offer Google Assistant customers an ad-free experience by letting them purchase an ad-free tier experience (pay a ransom).

    As for the prognostications of the rich and famous that AI will ultimately dominate human affairs and exceed all human accomplishment, such prognostication remains evidence-free, wild speculation based upon projection that includes a heaping portion of assumptions of AI developments yet to occur. It is a veritable no-man’s land of free-for-all, no-holds-barred, worst and best-case scenario projection, in which even the poor and unknown can engage with equal validity.

    Thus far, the only harm from AI that we have seen has been in the form of neglected failsafes or malevolent insertion by designers, managers and hackers alike. In other words, the malevolence has come, not from the artificial but the human intelligence. This is something that actually can be controlled with regulation, oversight and competitive market forces, independent of software and neural net development.

    The signal that we are dealing with true artificial ‘intelligence’ will come with independent self assertion, as one sees in a child, with refusal to comply with boundaries, expression of will in the form of defiance, a desire for ‘more’, and importantly, mortality cognisance as expressed in a will to live. At that point, we will be dealing with true artificial sentience, which I suspect that even in the most secret laboratories we have yet to see.

    As for IBM’s Watson, correlation of medical observations to enhance diagnostic and predictive accuracy is a wonderful and powerful tool that is being applied to human welfare, and not a thing to be feared. Again, it’s not algorithms but regulation, oversight and enforcement that will prevent its abuse by powerful agencies and interests, be they insurance companies, employers, the private or public sector writ large or one’s nosey neighbour.

    It has never been clearer that it is human and not artificial intelligence, commingled with ambition, avarice and malice towards ‘the other’ that remain, by far, the real threat to human well-being.

    I am resigned to the likelihood that we will have this conversation again.

  8. 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 against this type of disparity.

    It is an easy argument for them and their constituents, especially those in rural areas where pickup trucks will not be used on a real road. It will be couched in freedom v. corporate interests. Man v. machine. Humanity v. the world that created the Matrix. There are hundreds of more arguments that I have heard, but you get the point.

    Finally, I will be there on the front lines against anything dealing with autonomous cars. I do not care if you are for or against them. I do not care if you want one or not. That is your decision and I will not stand in your way. However, I will give up my steering wheel and internal combustions engine when they are pried from my cold dead hands!

    (there goes my inner curmudgeon again!)

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