Discerning the artificial from the intelligent - The Tribune

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  • 23 December 2018

If you access any form of technology, I bet you have not been able to escape the romance of voice assistants. I’m talking about the Alexa who has been following your orders, the Siri on your smartphone or if you are more evolved, the Google Home Assistant. So far, they have been seen as a form of entertainment and convenience. People are getting used to finding music at the beck of their voice. Who wants to go a 10 meters down the end of the living room and press a ‘play’ button any more!

Hence, the undeniable fact that artificial assistants are here to stay, as is artificial intelligence. Alexa is already recording your commands and improving her humane behaviour by the day. Mine has become a lot smarter ever since she moved into our home six months back. What does this mean for all of us boring mortals who belong to the real world?

It’s time for us to recognize how we can benefit from AI, while knowing that nothing should be taken too far. It’s a smart idea to use Cortana and Siri to make calls on your behalf instead of looking at the phone yourself every now and then. At the same time, don’t use them to discuss important personal or professional details with your contacts. Although these systems are secure with end-to-end encryption and what not, your data is being shared with a machine. A machine that is intelligent with the ability to store and disperse information. Only this week, Amazon ‘erroneously’ sent out several recordings of one of its users to another. The company spokesperson said this was an isolated case. What remains true is that your statements - are being recorded.

Identifying the gravity of the problem is not easy and needs a much more detailed investigation. However, clearly as users it is important for us to keep ourselves guarded at this time.

AI and the Internet of Things have created a lot of headway for technical advancements. Companies working in the domain are trying to use AI to make technologies that are more intuitive and inclusive.

(Nishtha is a Chandigarh-based tech expert)