six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

Support this Site

Become a Six Colors subscriber and get access to a special weekly podcast, monthly newsletter, and community.

Linked by Jason Snell

‘Hi, this is a Google assistant’

Drew Harwell at the Washington Post:

The technology, debuted at Google’s I/O developer conference, could be a huge convenience for anyone who hates picking up the phone. But it is also raising some thorny questions about the ethics of using a machine to copy a person’s voice, carry out commands - and potentially deceive the unsuspecting listener on the other side…

“We want to be clear about the intent of the call so businesses understand the context,” Google engineers said. “We’ll be experimenting with the right approach over the coming months.”

Disclosure sure seems like the right approach here. 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.