IMAGINE YOU'VE JUST been offered a job at Google. Excitedly you show up for work on the first day, only to shown to a windowless room where you repeatedly book restaurant tables for people too lazy to dial a number.
Embellishments aside (Google can probably afford windows), that's apparently what is happening in some capacity. Google Duplex - the AI-powered service that books restaurants for humans - isn't working as well as it should, so 25 per cent of the time, it's a human picking up the slack.
Yes, in other words it's humans stealing computers' jobs. What a twist!
The finding comes from the New York Times, which also learned that in a further 15 per cent of cases, humans had to step in when the AI fails to complete a booking, which must be incredibly strange for restaurant staff.
The Times speculates that having human helpers making calls on AI's behalf may help train the system, teaching it how to deal with unexpected follow-up questions and so on. But because Duplex is designed to sound like a human, with pauses, 'ums' and ‘ahs', this revelation makes it doubly tricky to tell whether you're talking to man or machine.
Nick Fox, the exec in charge of Google Assistant told the paper that the company "was not aggressively trying to eliminate human involvement from Duplex, because that could make the experience for business owners worse."
That makes sense: Google doesn't want things to get so bad that restaurants feel the need to screen calls and block Google Assistant completely. All the same, it's slightly weird to think that Google is paying people to essentially be concierges for Android users, rather than just making them book their own damn tables like grown-ups.
Frankly, our faith in Google Assistant is somewhat shaken. We're off to crack open a Google Home smart speaker, to make sure there's not a tiny human hidden inside. If there is, it only seems ethical to upgrade to the more spacious Google Home Max. µ
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