Good morning, you’re talking to the future

Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., speaking during the Google I/O Developers Conference.
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., speaking during the Google I/O Developers Conference.

“God creates man, man destroys God. Man creates artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence destroys man ... woman inherits the earth”.

This play on one of my favorite lines from Jurassic Park has been running around my head since Google’s most recent announcement of their automated voice assistant Duplex.

If you haven’t had the chance to hear Google’s extremely convincing robot, booking a table at a restaurant or a hair appointment, then stop reading now check it out and come back.

Wow!? Sounds pretty good right? 

Well not for some, after the announcement people immediately jumped on the ethics of using a machine to copy a person's voice, carry out commands and potentially deceive the unsuspecting listener on the other end of the line.

It’s a tricky area and one that humans have been facing since the dawn of science fiction, what laws and rights should Samantha from "Her", the murderous HAL 9000 from "2001: A Space Odyssey," Data from “Star Trek” and Replicants from “Blade Runner” receive. 

All the speculation quickly had Google on the back foot and in a statement they were keen say in the future it would identify itself as an artificial intelligence. 

"We understand and value the discussion around Google Duplex -- as we've said from the beginning, transparency in the technology is important," the spokeswoman said.

"We are designing this feature with disclosure built-in, and we'll make sure the system is appropriately identified. What we showed at I/O was an early technology demo, and we look forward to incorporating feedback as we develop this into a product."

“We'll make sure the system is appropriately identified”, that was the stand our phrase for me, why should we have to identify an artificial intelligence from a real human, what good would that do?

Ultimately at the moment we have designed these robots to fill a hole in our lives and I understand the concerns that many of the ethical experts bring up, but only if Duplex remains as a virtual personal assistant.

It’s still early days for Duplex, and artificial intelligence, it has the potential to be so much more. But at the moment if I was a restaurateur or hair dresser, talking to a robot won’t stop me from treating it as another way for me to interact and engage with my customer.