TFTW on: I’m, um, a bot

The news: Google has showcased its new talking AI assistant, Duplex, and it appears to pass the Turing Test – and not just because it utilises, you know, inefficient human speaking tics in a natural tone. The Turing’s standard is when a program demonstrates intelligent behaviour indistinguishable from that of a human. In recorded phone calls Duplex showed it’s capable of handling conversational back and forth with a person. While the conversations were naturalistic and the AI responded appropriately and fluently to unscripted input from the human – all chats occurred within a highly specific domain of making a booking (haircuts, dinner, holidays).

So what?: While Duplex is a spectacular demonstration of ‘old’ deep learning – this is not a generally intelligent system –  we are definitely talking next level AI. While the immediate application will be in automated customer service centres, when coupled with voice cloning technology (recently demonstrated by Chinese tech giant Baidu) it raises new possibilities for fraud and deception. So, ahem, we need to talk about security, regulation and scale – this is just the beginning.

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