by Joey Green

When it comes to artificial intelligence, few are more progressive than tech giant Google. Ready or not, the future of advanced AI is coming. It’s likely you’ve got at least one tech product on your person with a built-in AI right this second. Whether it be an iPhone with Siri, an Amazon Echo with Alexa, or an Android with Google Assistant, our “virtual assistants” are always ready to help at any given moment. In the next few issues of Lines Magazine, we will delve into the world of artificial intelligence, how it is starting to reveal itself in daily life, and how your utility may be dealing with it on a professional level sooner than later.

Google, in its never-ending research/data collection efforts, takes its users’ daily tasks and puts it into their AI technology in hopes of making their customers’ lives a little more convenient. Earlier this year at its annual Google IO conference, Google unveiled a new technology called Duplex, which created a bit of controversy. The Duplex demo presented a scenario where an automated AI ‘bot’ telephoned a local salon to schedule an appointment for the user. Normally an automated system is conspicuous by its typical robotic, monotone, or pre-recorded voice. The conversation with Google Duplex was anything but. Some audience members were freaked out, while others were left in awe. The exchange between the two “parties” truly resembled conversation between two human acquaintances.

Google Duplex converts the experience of talking to a simple, automated IVR to that of sharing a natural human conversation. Industries in the future could use such convenience to alleviate the understandable frustration many have had thus far in talking to machines. Customers themselves may also incorporate AI into their dealings with their local utilities For example, a utility customer might set their AI device to pay a bill the last week of every month. When the AI calls a utility to make the payment, the (real) person on the other end might ask, “what day would you like to pay?” With Google Duplex, the AI might check into the users’ history and see that historically the user pays their bill the day before the due date. As a result the AI might answer, “it looks like the bill is due September 3; how about on September 2?”

It’s incredible to see how far technology has advanced over the last decade. Skip Hall’s article in this edition of Lines touches a bit on what advancements in technology will be like over the next decades, and it boggles the mind. Artificial intelligence for one is here to stay and seems to advance exponentially. However, while having our own digital AI assistant certainly seems beneficial and would help take the load off everyday menial tasks, the elephant in the room is trust – do I trust tech conglomerates to use my data for good? Is my information kept private and secure? What if the information sent is incorrect? Doesn’t true “communication” involve more than just ones and zeros of mathematical logic? Have you seen the Terminator movies?

That last question was a bit tongue-in-cheek, these are all valid claims, and concerns get pretty deep-seated. People have a right to question what their data is being used for. Earlier this year, we saw Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg giving a statement to Congress over discoveries of malicious usage and collection of data. What individuals are willing to divulge to perfect strangers via the anonymity of the Web continues to grow less surprising. But that trend will likely grow given the personability of amazing AI products like Google Duplex.