Jason Snell puts a fine point on something that bothered me about the Google Duplex announcement yesterday.
One of the things about the demo that was distasteful is that it felt like a high-tech prank call, a Google-powered “Crank Yankers”: We were, at some level, meant to laugh at the people on the other end of the line for being fooled into thinking they were talking to a real human being, thanks to the inserted “ums” and sentences ending in uptalk. They were the butt of a joke, made by one of the most powerful companies in the world.
It isn’t just distasteful, it comes off as tone-deaf given our current media environment. We’re living in a reality of cosplay journalists going undercover trying to expose real journalists, conspiracy theories broadcast to huge audiences, and disingenuous ‘intellactuals’ portraying themselves as martyrs. And along comes Google, building impressive products without any forethought of how it will be used to malevolent ends. A disclosure should be in there. The fake human pauses and inflections should be out. The future here needs to be robot assistants, not passable human clones.