Renowned author and expert in technology and trust, Rachel Botsman, has called on society to develop frameworks to deal with the speedy technological advancement of avatars and artificial intelligence (AI), during a Vivid Sydney 2018 and Business School panel.
Ms Botsman joined a panel of experts from the University of Sydney Business School, including ‘Digital Mike’, a photo-realistic computer generated person or “avatar”, in the event, titled “Mummy, can I marry my Avatar? The ethical and societal implications of living with digital artificial humans”.
The debate, which focused on ethical and social issues related to ‘living with digital humans’, including whether it will be deceptive to present an enhanced avatar version of yourself, the concept of ‘avatar parenting’, and who will own the rights to your avatar, was a first for Sydney’s multi-award winning festival.
Director of the Business School’s Sydney Business Insights, Dr Sandra Peter, Professor of Information Technology and Organisation, Kai Riemer and internationally respected expert in computer graphics and virtual reality, and researcher at the Business School, Mike Seymour, whose team developed ‘Digital Mike’, also joined the panel.
“The thing that is very exciting and rich with potential, but also very frightening, is how will we know what to trust as true? How will we know what to trust as real?” said Ms Botsman.
According to Dr Peter, conversations on laws and regulations around AI are already taking place in Australia and overseas, and conversations about digital humans will soon follow.
“However, I’m not sure whether those conversations will be sufficient because I think fairly soon some of these technologies will be consumer technologies,” said Dr Peter. “So whether we will be able to enforce laws? I don’t think we’re quite there yet.”
“I think it’s really interesting that we need new frameworks that are more than legal frameworks, they’re social contracts,” added Ms Botsman.
“Where the law comes from and how effective it is in implementation are huge societal challenges we have coming up,” said Ms Botsman.
While avatar technologies like ‘Digital Mike’ will be accessible in two to three years according to the panel, Professor Riemer made it clear that true AI is a long way off.
“What I find quite remarkable is how ready we are to believe that we can create intelligence in an artificial digital avatar,” said Professor Riemer. “Especially given the fact that the field is nowhere near creating genuine artificial intelligence.”
“All we can do right now is simulate conversations by analysing what you said and with brute force computing match that to something that has been said in the past. There’s no intelligence, there’s no coherence, it’s pretty much a simulation,” said Professor Riemer.