By Kahini Iyer May. 21, 2018
When I heard of Google Duplex, I went into overdrive thinking of all the things I’d never have to do again if Duplex could stay on the down-low. Customer care executives, annoying relatives, and break ups were all things from which I’d be forever freed.
By now, even the most diehard Apple fanboy has heard about Google’s lifelike new AI assistant, Duplex. Since its big reveal at the developers’ conference, Google I/O 2018, Duplex has been the debutante darling of the dorks.
At Google I/O, Duplex carried out instructions to book a haircut appointment, and to make a reservation at a restaurant. Attendees were blown away by her perfect Valley Girl cadence, complete with pauses and “mm-hmms” that would be the envy of any Hollywood dialect coach. Android Central breaks down the many revolutionary features of the Duplex demo, most notably her ability to comprehend and respond to human conversation.
When I heard of Duplex’s prowess, I went into overdrive thinking of all the things I’d never have to do again if Duplex could stay on the down-low. Sure, the annoyance of booking appointments and reservations would be gone. But so would countless other hassles, big and small.
Do you have to talk to your grandparents? What about so-called customer service? Why spend hours on the phone, repeating yourself louder and louder to first one person and then another, just to figure out that the package they sent you has accidentally been mailed to Sakinaka, Japan? Duplex could easily figure out how to deal with call centre reps and octogenarians alike, and none of them would ever know the difference.
My dreams of endless Duplex jhol crashed when a few killjoys chose to focus on the ethical implications of AI that sounds human, wringing their hands over a robot essentially pretending to be a person.
What about something more personal, like a break up? Modern romance is hard enough, and break ups are even harder. With Duplex, you won’t have to go it alone, even when you have in reality decided to go it alone. Her cool, dulcet tones are sure to be a soothing balm for shattered hearts. You don’t have to brutally pull the trigger by talking to your significant other yourself – and conversely, you don’t have to listen to the love of your life telling you that it’s over, thanks for the memories. When Duplex asks if you can still be friends, you can tell her to go fuck herself without worrying about hurt feelings and burned bridges.
You can even level up to the break-up stage faster by recording all your conversations with Duplex. As Black Mirror’s “The Entire History of You” has taught us, no relationship can survive a perfect memory of who said what and how they said it. Within months, you’ll be having a screaming match over whether or not you were actually being disrespectful about her new dress, and before you know it, you’ll be ready to move on for good.
My dreams of endless Duplex jhol crashed when a few killjoys chose to focus on the ethical implications of AI that sounds human, wringing their hands over a robot essentially pretending to be a person. Any good sci-fi buff could have told these naysayers that a rogue version of Duplex is already dealing heroin on the dark web, trying to procure enough Bitcoins to destroy the global economy. The downside of all that clamour is that Duplex no longer has the potential to be your own personal Jarvis. According to Bloomberg, the software will now have to self-identify as a Google AI assistant, and inform the other party if a recording is being taken.
And therein lies the rub.
The possibilities for avoiding even the slightest interactions with other humans are endless – as long as they don’t know they’re actually talking to a realistic robot. With this bullshit over ethics, Duplex’s life-changing potential has now vanished. Thanks a lot, social justice warriors and Luddites! Now we’ll have to actually talk to people, as if it’s still 2017. Right now, you might think that’s a small price to pay for privacy and security. But when the time comes to take that call from your bank’s customer care executive, you’ll be wishing that you, like all of us, had Duplex to do your dirty work.
Kahini spends an embarrassing amount of time eating Chinese food and watching Netflix. For proof that she is living her #bestlife, follow her on Instagram @kahinii.