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Google Duplex should introduce itself as a robot: AI expert

An artificial intelligence expert from the University of New South Wales has highlighted an ethical concern around Google Duplex, arguing that the AI technology should introduce itself as a robot.

In an article published by UNSW today, the university’s AI expert and SEIT professor Hussein Abbass said Google’s AI demonstration, although amusing, raised an important question: do you have the right to know you are talking to a machine?

Earlier this week, Google chief Sundar Pichai demonstrated Google Duplex, where the AI tool, which the technology giant has been working on for some time, made a call to a hairdresser and booked a haircut by interacting with a real human at the other end of the line.

Abbass pointed out that unlike Siri, Alexa and other AI assistants, Duplex speaks like a convincing human. During the presentation, Duplex was made to sound more human by using “ums’ and “mmm-hmms” during the conversation where it was highly likely that the person on the other end of the call was not aware that she was talking to a robot.

He rightly pointed out that this poses an ethical concern and Duplex should introduce itself as a robot.

“The key point here is that it should identify itself,” Abbass said in the article. “In the video AI Duplex said it is calling on behalf of a client. The human on the other side of the line never asked it to identify itself. If AI Duplex uses a human name to gain human trust, then clearly there is an element of deception and the AI would be acting unethically.

“If AI Duplex identifies itself as an automated robot or the alike, then it will be up to the human to decide if he/she wishes to continue the conversation,” he said.

Google Duplex collects human voice signatures that continue to train the robot and even its own voice seems to be a synthesis of one or more human voices.

“These humans need to be more aware how their data gets used and they need to offer explicit consent for the collection of the data and for the intended use of the data,” he said.

Read more: Budget 2018: Funding boost for AI and machine learning projects

The article asked, ‘if we can trust Duplex to make our hairdresser appointments, can we also trust it to make an emergency call?’

Abbass said this could have its pros and cons.

“A car assistance could call the ambulance in case of an emergency like an accident, and in this case, it is a life-saving technology. If it gets misused, then like any technology, when it is misused it is an inappropriate act, which could even be an illegal one.”

Abbass believes the technology has a long way to go before it is able to sustain lengthy human discussions.

Read more: Advice for CIOs on getting started with AI

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