The Google I/O 2018 conference presented a vision of the future that makes the company even more invasive and powerful in peoples daily lives. Google harnesses a beast of a system to provide a virtual assistant that can now speak in a nearly human sounding voice, call businesses to make appointments on your behalf, and teach your children manners.
After years of work, Google has found a way to speed up the process of teaching the virtual assistant different voices by using artificial intelligence. “Up until now, creating a new voice took hundreds of hours in a recording studio. But with advancements in AI and WaveNet technology from DeepMind, we can now create new voices in just a few weeks and are able to capture subtleties like pitch, pace, and all the pauses that convey meaning, so that voices are natural-sounding and unique” says the Google spokesperson.
Celebrities are also assisting in Googles endeavors. John Legend is soon to be one of the voices captured by DeepMind that can be selected by users to respond to their requests.
That new human-like voice will be able to call and make reservations, schedule appointments, and get a businesses hours on your behalf. During the Keynote speech, a video was unveiled that showed what the technology could do, and the voice sounded creepily human with natural pauses, ums and a flowing conversation. They even tested the call feature by calling a business with staff who spoke English as a second language and struggled to understand the assistant, and Google Assistant was able to navigate the conversation without error. In every example shown, those answering the phone never detected that they were speaking to an artificial intelligence and not an actual person.
On top of that, users have been complaining that they have to say “hey Google” to activate the assistant. So Google has created a feature called Continued Conversation that will keep the assistant listening and searching conversations for cues that it’s being talked to. Careless users are having their privacy invaded to teach artificial intelligence solely for the purpose of convenience.
When Continuous Conversation is on, the ai is listening to everyone in the household, including kids. Because of this Google has decided to teach children manners using positive reinforcement.
“To help you give your little ones some positive reinforcement when they ask nicely, later this year we’ll introduce Pretty Please, so that the Assistant can understand and encourage polite conversation,” says Google, leading us to wonder if parents or technology are raising the children of tomorrow.
Senior reporter for the Verge, Adi Robertson, took to Twitter to express her concern about the human disconnect that will be created by the new features saying, “I sympathize with ‘kids should be polite to digital assistants’ proponents, but this is exactly why audio interfaces bother me. We shouldn’t be moving toward a world where non-sentient tools and people are considered interchangeable.”
I sympathize with “kids should be polite to digital assistants” proponents, but this is exactly why audio interfaces bother me. We shouldn’t be moving toward a world where non-sentient tools and people are considered interchangeable.
— Adi Robertson (@thedextriarchy) May 8, 2018
The more disturbing features like this are used, the closer we come to a future where people are dependent on technology to help them with nearly everything they do. Google is attempting to invade very personal aspects of life and remove social interaction, which will only lead to more depression and loneliness. Fortunately, there is an active resistance against Google who questions the tech giants motives and continually reminds them of their motto, “Hey Google, don’t be evil.”