You can’t tell human from AI with Google Duplex

May 29, 2018
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confused man on phone

Google’s annual I/O conference was dominated by the announcement of Google Duplex. Duplex is an artificial intelligence that is able to make phone calls to businesses for a consumer. The purpose of Duplex is to make appointments, place orders or even cancel reservations.
 
Google’s Duplex mimics the way a real person would speak, marking a huge advancement in AI technology. Businesses participating in Duplex’s first test were unable to realize they were speaking to a machine.
 

The Good March toward the Future

 
Duplex has been programmed and trained to react the way humans do when talking on the phone. The program works by using automated responses which are flexible to fit the moment. As an example, you can ask multiple questions at once, and Duplex will answer them. The program can also ask about wait times or make small talk.
 
For businesses, Duplex reaches a wider base of consumers. With Google’s AI, consumers who were unable to call to your business before now have the opportunity to do so. This opens doors for a lot of commercial businesses, not just those seated firmly between technological giants.
 

The Bad Moral Problem

 
Duplex is amazing without argument, but there are ethical questions coming to light. The most uncomfortable problem with an AI like Duplex is people not realizing they’re speaking to a machine. While the human mimicry is part of Duplex’s charm, this makes the entire interaction rather creepy.
 
Google has been asked for their program to inform people they are speaking to a machine. Yet, the company fears the average person would hang up on the call. While Google hasn’t offered details, some tentative plans to make Duplex announce itself could surface.
 
Duplex making calls without announcement could lend some people to use Google for unintended purposes. The program is only starting with a few businesses, but could potentially be used later to avoid awkward personal phone calls.
 

The Ugly Scams

 
Google announced they would limit the number of calls Duplex could make to a business and send from a user. The limit will hopefully prevent spam calls which can be sent or received. Duplex could also be used to incite public panic in the form of hoax calls. As an automated messenger anyone can use, the program becomes a target for unethical activity.
 
There is nothing in the programming currently that can make Duplex do any of the mentioned examples. However, steps are being made to make AI a part of everyday life. There is already talk to regulate AI’s like Duplex with new laws.
 

The Truth of the Matter

 
Google’s Duplex is getting ready to become widespread and used by everyone. Ethical debates surround the unveiling, but Google doesn’t want their product used for ill intent. The company stands a step ahead in addressing potential issues.
 
Duplex could help consumers and businesses streamline processes and save time. With the addition of a human-mimicked voice, the AI conversation becomes less uncomfortable or frustrating.
 
An AI like Duplex could one day become a reality on every device. Make sure your business doesn’t get left behind in the technological advancements. Duplex may call you sooner than you think.
 
Bio: Nathan Sykes writes about technology and business online at Finding an Outlet. To read his latest articles, follow him on Twitter @nathansykestech.