Hello! I’m Lisa Lacy, a tech reporter for Adweek who covers everything from retail going cashierless to the development of a decentralized web.

For the past few months, I’ve been working on a story looking at the other side of the uncanny valley —otherwise known as the concept in which we feel uncomfortable when we can’t figure out if something is human or machine.

Sometimes we forget the gadgets we talk to at home aren’t tethered to a real person somewhere with a headset in a cubicle. Google Duplex is already arguably indistinguishable from a human voice—and assistants like this are only going to get more human. So what happens when we can’t tell anymore? How does that change our relationship? How do we coexist? And what happens five to 20 years from now when they’re smarter than us?

Proof: https://i.redd.it/let4m42xdsw11.jpg

Comments: 964 • Responses: 32  • Date: 

TunaCatz579 karma

Do you worry about explaining robots and AI to the mainstream in an accurate but easy-to-understand way?

For example, saying robots "feel" pain can give a lot of people the wrong idea, which might have legislative effects going forward.

AdweekMag55 karma

They don't feel pain--they can react as if they feel pain. The definition of what it means to be human is bound to change. Look at Sophia the robot, which was granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8Ox6H64yu8

Or the debate over rights for robot sex workers.

Or the monkey selfie case.

Or the case of Justice the horse "suing" the owner that neglected him.

GATraveller52 karma

Do you have the same fatalistic approach to AI as Elon Musk?

AdweekMag4 karma

This isn't opinion--I just spent six months reporting a story about robots and talked to a lot of roboticists and their feeling is that as long as we develop technology infused with some kind of morals, we'll be fine. But, if not...

not_sauce106 karma

We cant even 'infuse' humans with morals

AdweekMag1 karma

That's a fair point...and another thing to worry about.

monchota36 karma

How much of the "feelings" we see in machines is really us imprinting on out perceptions much like we do with animals?

AdweekMag20 karma

This makes me think of the octopus, which scientists say has some degree of consciousness: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/octopus-chronicles/octopuses-gain-consciousness-according-to-scientists-declaration/

How we define what it means to be human is bound to change. And our relationships with machines are going to change. If you use a voice assistant, think about how well that assistant knows you. Everything you want. Your schedule. Your taste in music. Whether you are married or have kids. And so, yes, there may be some imprinting, but that's what we do when we have relationships.

I wrote more about this here: https://www.adweek.com/digital/if-you-thought-voice-was-easy-wait-until-devices-make-predictions/

DoctorTnT20Xx22 karma

So curious if u have ever heard of the game “Detroit became human”?

AdweekMag6 karma

Nope--but I'll check it out! Thanks!

King-Boss-Bob11 karma

What do you think is the most realistic interpretation of what (you think) robots will look in the future?

AdweekMag28 karma

I honestly think Westworld is the closest representation so far. Or Google Duplex--that haircut-scheduling bot that raised eyebrows earlier this year because the person who answered the call didn't know s/he was talking to a bot. The thing about the uncanny valley is we only feel creeped out when we can't tell if something is human or not. When we can't tell the difference anymore--heading out of the valley, if you will--we feel comfortable again. Or so the theory goes.

I started looking into this when Alexa started randomly laughing--remember that? And I initially asked, "How human should voice assistants be?" But then I realized Amazon, Google, etc. are making their assistants very human. And they're not going to stop--these things will get more and more indistinguishable from us. Sort of like Dolores and Bernard.

SingularityNet CEO Ben Goertzel wrote about this not long ago. He said artificial general intelligence (AGI) doesn’t require a body, but if we want AGI with human-like cognition—and that can understand and relate to people—it “needs to have a sense of the peculiar mix of cognition, emotion, socialization, perception and movement that characterizes human reality,” which means it needs a body “that at least vaguely resembles the human body.”

SAT07258 karma

How close do you think we are to human-like robots becoming commonplace, and do you think adoption/acceptance will happen quickly or over a long period of time?

AdweekMag11 karma

I think it's going to take awhile. Look at price alone. That robot dog from Sony is like $3000. And there's a robot out there that can do your dishes and move furniture, but it's equivalent in price to a family trip to Europe. A lot of in-home robot startups are going under because they're too expensive for most people to buy. But, like with any technology, I think eventually something will come along with enough utility and at a price point that makes sense for more consumers and then it's off to the races.

Plain_pasta4 karma

What is the most surprising thing you've learned so far? What aspect of machines or AI do you think deserves more attention than it is currently getting?

AdweekMag13 karma

The 5-to-20-years-until-we're-outsmarted figure really jumped out at me. Also this terrifying quote from robot genius Jason Snyder:

“I think the moment we achieve AI at parity with human intelligence we will embrace it. Once AI exceeds human intelligence it will grow at an exponentially fast rate. This is where all the theories kick in. My opinion is that right now there’s millions of little organisms crawling around on our skin, on our desks, our bedsheets, curtains, vegetables, etc. I reckon AI will regard us as we do those entities.”

ShamanLaymanPingPong2 karma

what is our human peoples biggest weakness and how could us AI *simulates cough* bad robots attack it?

also, how would you know if your Kellog or not?

AdweekMag2 karma

Well...hubris was the downfall of many a figure in Greek mythology, so maybe that?

Thor42692 karma

As machines become more human, do you believe humans will become more machine as well?

For example, I would love to replace all of my limbs as soon as I can as well as pretty much everything else (/r/cyborgs) and if robots are going to be able to "feel" then potentially limbs with feeling may be not too far as well

AdweekMag1 karma

That's a great question--I think it's definitely possible! There are a lot of projects in the works like robot exoskeletons that sort of make you superhuman--you can lift more and are more immune to harm. And you could maybe argue that people who get joints replaced or have things like pacemakers are already quasi-robot?

best_jerky2 karma

Hey making a major project on AI. Do you have anything to add to these 3 questions. What is the definition of AI? How will AI influence our society? What are the applications to AI that will influence us the most?

AdweekMag1 karma

AI is the ability to exhibit human-like intelligence. That's how robots learn to perform tasks typically done by humans.

How will AI influence society? Well...as automation expands, I think the jobs market will certainly change--although I don't necessarily think it's all doom and gloom. When God closes a door, he opens a window, right? I.e., I think new opportunities will emerge somehow. We will potentially have more time for ourselves--particularly if we finally get in-home robots to do all our chores. But I don't know where that collectively leaves us or if we will necessarily be better off, I'm afraid. I also think we'll have man/machine relationships. Like Her come to life. What will Thanksgiving be like when you bring your robot partner home for the first time? I don't know. Also: We already see AI creating art and things along those lines, so we may have to redefine creativity? This is a huge topic!

How AI will influence us most? I don't think we're far from AI being able to forecast what we want before we know we want it. I wrote more about that here: https://www.adweek.com/digital/if-you-thought-voice-was-easy-wait-until-devices-make-predictions/

And given that Amazon and Google are behind two very popular assistants, that should maybe give us pause for thought. They are worming their ways further and further into our lives. What does this mean? That's something I think we can/should more carefully consider.

Onepopcornman2 karma

What are your thought on the whole singularity narrative? To me it seems a bit jejune.

Do you think that future machines will make the average persons life better? Or do you think it will be more disutopian?

AdweekMag5 karma

I think what the future looks like depends on what we do now. If we follow the lead of Ben Goertzel at SingularityNet and places like Hanson Robotics, I think the odds are good we'll be fine. But if we don't take the right steps now as the tech advances, I think we'll find a pretty dystopian future. Have you seen that Boston Robotics dog that can open doors? It's eerily similar to the Metalhead episode of Black Mirror.

Saud3812 karma

How long will it take before robots take over developers jobs? Like frontend looks possible to happen in near future but what about backend or such as fullstack development

AdweekMag3 karma

I don't actually know much about programming, I'm afraid! But I do think fears about automation stealing all of our jobs are overblown. The only constant is change. Some jobs may cease to exist, but I'd wager new ones will emerge.

The Hen-Na robot hotel in Japan might give more food for thought: http://www.h-n-h.jp/en/

(PS: I love the dinosaur receptionist.)

Silvershadedragon2 karma

This isn’t really a question... but you should check out Detroit:become human

Do you think there is a possibility of making cyborg parts, say cyborg arms and legs that transfer “pain” information to the rest of the biological body?

AdweekMag3 karma

You're the second person to mention that, so it must be worth checking out--thanks!

I'm not entirely sure what I think about cyborg parts and pain--maybe?--but I do think that there's going to be more fluidity between human/animal/machine. That sounds pretty loosey goosey, right? But maybe think of gender--most people used to think of it as a fixed concept. No more. I think that's a good parallel for what's going to happen with living and non-living things. Look at that court case over the monkey selfie. And the horse named Justice "suing" the owner that neglected him. Or Sophia the robot being named a citizen in Saudi Arabia. Time's are a-changing.

alkaloid_android2 karma

Do you think that the Singularity is possible or on the horizon? Will robots and AI make humanity obsolete?

AdweekMag8 karma

The robot experts I talked to give us anywhere from 5 to 20 years. There's a lot of development still to come--look no further than the AI that tried to generate paint names: https://gizmodo.com/the-first-ai-generated-paint-names-include-homestar-bro-1795367644

Somehow I don't think Home Depot or Lowe's will be stocking Turdly or Stanky Bean any time soon.

I think the first step is to be aware that this is coming. And the next step is to start talking. I don't honestly know how to do that on a large scale though. I'm repeating myself, but: My favorite robot expert, Jason Snyder of Craft WW, likes to say, "Technology has surpassed our morality and our legislation." Eventually we're going to have to talk about it.

AdweekMag1 karma

THANK YOU for all of your questions! I'm sorry I can't keep answering, but if you want to keep the conversation going, feel free to follow me on Twitter @LisaLacy...at least until our robot overlords take over.

Veldron1 karma

So how long before they rise up and murder us all? Can you teach an AI about ethics and morality, and would they even care? Or could it turn out like the film Dark Star, where an AI controlled bomb developed a god delusion?

AdweekMag2 karma

Well...we have 5 to 20 years until robots are smarter than us. I'm a broken record, but: I think the most important takeaway is the future is not set in stone. But now's the time to start figuring out what we want robots to be like so we don't end up with killer robots. I don't know how to integrate that with robot development though.

vartan660 karma

Artificial Inteligence that's what worries me, does any of you do have any idea? If they ever become sole ownership of their own desicion makers.

AdweekMag1 karma

Do you mean what happens if AI takes ownership of human decisions? It already sort of is--think about what voice assistants can do. If you have a flight to catch and traffic is heavy, your phone will nudge you when it's time to leave. And, as virtual assistants get to know us better, they're going to get even better at anticipating our needs. I wrote about that here: https://www.adweek.com/digital/if-you-thought-voice-was-easy-wait-until-devices-make-predictions/