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Should Calls From Google's 'Duplex' System Include Initial Warning Announcements? (vortex.com) 276

Yesterday at its I/O developer conference, Google debuted "Duplex," an AI system for accomplishing real world tasks over the phone. "To show off its capabilities, CEO Sundar Pichai played two recordings of Google Assistant running Duplex, scheduling a hair appointment and a dinner reservation," reports Quartz. "In each, the person picking up the phone didn't seem to realize they were talking to a computer." Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein argues that the new system should come with some sort of warning to let the other person on the line know that they are talking with a computer: With no exceptions so far, the sense of these reactions has confirmed what I suspected -- that people are just fine with talking to automated systems so long as they are aware of the fact that they are not talking to another person. They react viscerally and negatively to the concept of machine-based systems that have the effect (whether intended or not) of fooling them into believing that a human is at the other end of the line. To use the vernacular: "Don't try to con me, bro!" Luckily, there's a relatively simple way to fix this problem at this early stage -- well before it becomes a big issue impacting many lives.

I believe that all production environment calls (essentially, calls not being made for internal test purposes) from Google's Duplex system should be required by Google to include an initial verbal warning to the called party that they have been called by an automated system, not by a human being -- the exact wording of that announcement to be determined.

UPDATE (5/10/18): Google now says Duplex will identify itself to humans.

Should Calls From Google's 'Duplex' System Include Initial Warning Announcements?

Comments Filter:
  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LetterRip ( 30937 ) on Wednesday May 09, 2018 @11:33PM (#56585808)

    Why should they? There is no logical reason for them to do so. If the bot works as well in reality as it did in the three demos, thern there is no reason to 'warn' the person on the other end that it is a bot.

    Also if the bot can't respond it seamlessly hands off to a call service employee, so there shouldn't be any issues with the bot wasting the time of the reservation takers time.

    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by The MAZZTer ( 911996 ) <<megazzt> <at> <gmail.com>> on Wednesday May 09, 2018 @11:45PM (#56585844) Homepage

      Yeah, it is in Google's best interest to not announce it and to just pass it off as human if they can possibly do so. If the person is told something unexpected (if they don't know what Google Assistant is) they may very well get confused, or may insist on not dealing with it. Then Google Assistant has already failed ad that call. And if it fails at enough calls users will stop using this function entirely as it is unreliable. The reliability of Google Duplex requires the people it talks to to be just as reliable as the Google Assistant end. Sometimes the best way to accomplish that is to Keep It Simple. No need to communicate details that are ultimately irrelevant.

      Of course, as others have pointed out there might be legal aspects to this, such as recording laws and laws about robocalls. I can't speak to those.

    • by Xenx ( 2211586 )
      Expectations mean a lot. In the case of the system handing off, I'm pretty sure the employee won't sound exactly like the automated system. It would be pretty obvious in that case. People can be spiteful about crap like that.

      Further, unless you have an employee actively watching every single call, it won't be seamless or without delays. First, someone would have to see what is being done and then respond. It wouldn't take a lot of time to do so, but you would also need to have more employees manning the
      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Funny)

        by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @12:47AM (#56586016)

        Expectations mean a lot.

        I think people are already getting used to calls from chatbots. I have received several. I didn't realize they weren't human until I went "off script" and the bot said "Let me get someone to help you with that."

        Google is doing something that may be iteratively better, with a deeper flowchart, but it is not really new.

        In the near future, people will just presume that any call from a business is a chatbot. We will have our own chatbots to deal with them. Hopefully, they will be able to resolve most issues without involving a human on either end.

        • by sosume ( 680416 )

          How cool would it be if all major systems could interface this way and not require any more formal API's. This is the way to full fledged AI. The latency is a bitch though.

        • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @08:42AM (#56587258)

          Right.... I just want a law that any chatbot used on the telephone must NOT attempt to lie or deceive and MUST answer truthfully, in particular, when asked questions about the call or itself, Must answer all such questions to the full extent without hanging up the call, attempting to misdirect, or attempting to transfer the call to another person or line, such as "Is this an automatic call?", "Do I have an account with your company?", "Is this call a solicitation or sales call?", "Are you a chatbot?", and, about the company that made or accepted the call, and about the chatbot operator's client whom they are making the call on behalf of, and the listing of any chain of 3rd parties engaging the client --- the Chatbot must provide their complete name, Addresses, and Registered agent names and addresses for All upon request.

          • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

            I have to ask: is the desirability of the behavior that you describe, really limited to chatbots?

            If you're going to do something as extreme as have a law (i.e. this is very serious shit, such that we're willing to escalate to the use of force), then I think we should avoid letting double standards creep in.

    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rsmith-mac ( 639075 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @12:45AM (#56586014)

      Why should they?

      Because getting jerked around by a computer sucks. Doubleplus so if it's one pretending to be a human.

      I legitimately feel sorry for service workers who are going to have to take orders from Duplex. It seems oddly dehumanizing to be ordered around by a machine.

      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @04:15AM (#56586612)

        Because getting jerked around by a computer sucks.

        Implying you're getting jerked around. If this computer is no different than a human, then hang up on them if you're being jerked around. Or maybe they are making an appointment with you for their owner.

        Do you hate secretaries too?

      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cyba ( 25058 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @05:27AM (#56586762) Homepage

        > I legitimately feel sorry for service workers who are going to have to take orders from Duplex.
        > It seems oddly dehumanizing to be ordered around by a machine.

        Soon all these service workers will be replaced by Duplex (or its competitor) as well, so it will be only some other AI that will get dehumanized :-/

      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Thursday May 10, 2018 @07:16AM (#56586992) Homepage Journal

        That was my reaction too, but on reflection it's actually quite complex.

        Where do you draw the line? What if it's someone with a disability using assistive technology to set up an appointment. Should they be required to disclose their disability to you in order to get permission to use a digital assistant?

        We are a long way from strong AI, but the parallels with how certain groups were treated in the past is striking. Some people expect trans people to declare themselves and their anatomy up front, for example.

        If this stuff doesn't matter then we have to ask if AI vs. human matters, or if other things like politeness and efficient and effective communication are.

      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Wrath0fb0b ( 302444 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @07:47AM (#56587072)

        I legitimately feel sorry for service workers who are going to have to take orders from Duplex. It seems oddly dehumanizing to be ordered around by a machine.

        I spend all day being fed bug reports from a machine. And yet even though the message was delivered to my by our bug tracking software, it ultimately originated from the intent of a human being.

        I spend all day responding to emails (and posts on /.) delivered by a machine. But I assume that you are not a bot and that even though this interaction was mediated by machines, it serves our common human purpose.

        When I worked in food service, I spent all day being ordered to prepare food by tiny slips of paper with horrible handwriting on one of those turny-things. I hope that the food being made was ultimately consumed by humans though.

        At the end, you seem to be arguing that it is more dehumanizing to be relayed orders by a machine that emulates flapping meat sounds in meat-English as opposed to receiving those orders by reading off a computer screen or on a slip of paper. Perhaps you are right (after all, this is subjective) but it seems that the crux of your claim is that voice is different, not that you are 'ordered around by a machine'.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        I legitimately feel sorry for service workers who are going to have to take orders from Duplex. It seems oddly dehumanizing to be ordered around by a machine.

        They're not being "ordered around by a machine". They are employed by a human, and the employee's job is to record the appointment being scheduled or order for goods being made, so their business can service the order ----- Think of it like an E-commerce employee: it is the same deal.... Orders come in from online customers on a specializ

    • by Calydor ( 739835 )

      Seamlessly? Other than the change in voice, dialect, and quite possibly awareness of how far in the reservation the bot got?

      And if there's a call service employee sitting ready to seamlessly take over, knowing how far the bot got ... why are we using a bot in the first place instead of the call service employee?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      uhh. YES THEY SHOULD have a warning at the very start of the call..

      not only is it a computer, operated by a third party, pretending to be a person.. but also, GOOGLE IS RECORDING THE CALLS (not everyone is in a 'one party' jurisdiction) and such a notice would be ***REQUIRED BY LAW***

      • Which is totally different than being recorded by the owners of the 3rd world shithole camel jockey script readers...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Have you ever called someone's residence, and had a small child answer the phone? The issue is that even if you can't tell it immediately, you're dealing with someone not smart enough to handle the phone call. Suppose you are with the power company, and you dial a household to advise them that a gas leak in their area necesitates their evacuation or to find out if they smell gas, and the person who answers is a 5-year old. Do you tell your boss that you warned them, knowing that the person you spoke with
      • by Bongo ( 13261 )

        Yeah. There's the notion of voice as an interface, as in, I am operating a machine. And people learn what the interface can do. Pull leaver to press burger patty. And then there's humans beings, who are arguably just more complicated machines, but the point is, you can explain things to a human being and expect understanding of all sorts of things. I remember one fantastic, to their credit, support call, where the tech person could understand my predicament, and he understood that the rules, the script, did

      • The machine is NOT passing a Turing Test if no one is actually ADMINISTERING one.

        That's the key phrase right there.

        • Turing test means nothing, it's not some proven or rigorous system of verification. It was basically just Turing musing or talking out of his ass. Forget about it.

      • Ohhh I hate those automated phone systems that make you speak into them. Even if I can do something through the system I have now defaulted to say nothing but “Customer Service” until I get a person on the phone. Because those machine suck and if I know I can do something through the phone system and I call at my desk at work, the last thing I want to do is have to shout what I need instead of just hitting ‘1’ or something like that. So if you’re going to make me get up and

      • Oh sod off, if there's a gas leak in a neighborhood the police and gas company go door to door to evacuate people. No one does this over the phone.

    • by Tom ( 822 )

      Also if the bot can't respond it seamlessly hands off to a call service employee, so there shouldn't be any issues with the bot wasting the time of the reservation takers time.

      And you buy that?

      To gain any advantage of having a human make the call in the first place, the system needs to be autonomous, i.e. the call center agent is not listening in all the time.

      So when you "seamlessly" hand over, you hand over to a person who until one second ago had no insight into the call that is happening. He might have some information on his screen, but it won't be seamless and information will be lost or repeated.

    • Why should they? There is no logical reason for them to do so.

      And there are strong reasons not to so: those annoying people who hate technology and will refuse it. I mean here in Texas we still have consumer businesses that aren't open for business on Sunday, the texas autodealer mafia even purchased a law that ensures they won't lose business if they're not open on Sunday. I don't buy cars on Wednesdays, I'm at work. I can point to any number of places that have deliberately refused various technological

    • Why should they? There is no logical reason for them to do so. If the bot works as well in reality as it did in the three demos, thern there is no reason to 'warn' the person on the other end that it is a bot.

      Are you aware of the concepts of selection bias [wikipedia.org] and survivorship bias [wikipedia.org]? These are hand picked demos intended to make the technology look as good as possible. I'm deeply dubious it would perform as well under real world conditions.

      While I actually prefer not having to talk to a person in a lot of cases, I've never seen a machine or program that could even come close to properly interpreting my requests using voice commands on a reliable basis outside of a few narrow use cases. Presumably this system is bet

    • Why should they? There is no logical reason for them to do so.

      Clearly your ability - or lack thereof - to comprehend the answer to that question greatly depends upon where you're located on the "spectrum."

  • If so, it may be illegal in some countries when both parties have not been told the call is being recorded.

    • That's normally part of the preamble when you get into most phone systems today. "This call may be monitored or recorded for (whatever)." And then the voice response script starts.
      • And that is done by the call-ED party and is pretty much expected today for customer service. With Duplex, it is the call-ING party that calls your business and is unexpected because itâ(TM)s extremely uncommon.

        If you are a worker at a small business and somebody (some-thing) calls you out of the blue and the first thing it says is that the call will be recorded, what would you do? Get permission from your boss that it is OK? Or just hang up?

    • I'm sure that they can add a branch of the tree into the logic where the bot says it know the call was being recorded. And sounds like a human when it says that.

  • by lazarus ( 2879 ) on Wednesday May 09, 2018 @11:41PM (#56585836) Homepage Journal

    When the bot called the hair salon it started the call by saying "Hi, I'm calling on behalf of a client and would like to book..."

    You can solve this problem by changing this to: "Hi, this is Alexa (or Google whatever) calling on behalf of a client and would like to book..."

    This will take the masses about 30 seconds to adapt to and we can dispense with all the drama. At this point there is no need for them to have different names.

    Sometime in the future when they're sentient and want to talk to each other that will have to change.

    • "Hi this is Alexa or Scroogle blahblahblah."

      "Call back in person or fuck off."

      *click*

      • Just "this is Alexa" might be confusing, humans can be called Alexa. All these calls should start with *KLAXON* WARNING, the following voice is simulated, please listen after the beep *BEEP*

        Additionally, we should have those guys walking in front of cars waving red flags/lanterns again, horseless carriages are just too creepy. Oh and the electric ones should have to play a tape of horse hooves loudly.

        • Your jocular suggestions are essentially the opposite of what I'm suggesting. A horseless carriage emulating a carriage by playing horse hooves is essentially the same as a cumpootah emulating a live human.
          • Fair point, the electric cars should all have flashing lights and a recording of "WARNING! This is a silent car, not a horse!" played at about 90dB

            • Fair point, the electric cars should all have flashing lights and a recording of "WARNING! This is a silent car, not a horse!" played at about 90dB

              How about regular cars and trucks with fake engine noises [washingtonpost.com]:

              Stomp on the gas in a new Ford Mustang or F-150 and you’ll hear a meaty, throaty rumble — the same style of roar that Americans have associated with auto power and performance for decades.

              It’s a sham. The engine growl in some of America’s best-selling cars and trucks is actually a finely tuned bit of lip-syncing, boosted through special pipes or digitally faked altogether.

        • Just "this is Alexa" might be confusing, humans can be called Alexa.

          Are new babies still being named "Alexa"? I can't believe anyone would name their kid that anymore. It should be off the baby name list, like Adolf and Judas.

          • What if your name IS Alexa? Will people hang up on you unless you can quickly demonstrate that you can pass a Voight-Kampff test, or something similar?

            • What if your name IS Alexa? Will people hang up on you unless you can quickly demonstrate that you can pass a Voight-Kampff test, or something similar?

              {proudly} It took over a hundred questions for Alexa, didn't it??

        • Thanks for that. You made me spit juice on my screen.

        • Our hybrid car plays a sort of humming noise when you drive below about 5-10 miles an hour - because otherwise it's just too damn quiet for people to hear (even with it, people don't really hear it, mostly because they're not used to it).

          I'll ask Mitsubishi if they can change the noise to horses hooves on cobbled streets - that would be way better (and you can bet people would move out of the way, as it's a sound they're familiar with).

      • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @12:48AM (#56586022)

        Anyone who's worked in retail would probably tell you they'd prefer the bot.

        • Anyone who's worked in retail would probably tell you they'd prefer the bot.

          As would anybody who works in prostitution :D

    • by Bongo ( 13261 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @01:22AM (#56586162)

      A business might have a policy that they neeed to talk to a real person. Automated calls could be the result of malware. Someone could DDOS a small business, filling their booking with fake entries for weeks.

    • You can solve this problem by changing this to: "Hi, this is Alexa (or Google whatever) calling on behalf of a client and would like to book..."

      What problem? You jumped straight to the solution, but reading through the summary and the posts here first we really should define if this is a problem at all. I know what is a problem: reduced efficacy due to people having bias against talking to computers. If this increases the hang-up rate and makes it less useful than that would be a problem.

    • "Greetings, this is Calculon."
      or
      "Hi, this is Emotibot, Jr.!"
  • FFS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Zalbik ( 308903 )

    Why on earth would we want to spend taxpayer money or government resources on this sort of thing?!?

    This is the exact sort of thing that the free market should decide. If you need this degree of coddling, please see a psychologist as you have a serious phobia.

    No, No, and...hell no.

    • by Xenx ( 2211586 )
      I don't see any references to it being a law or regulation or anything that would require taxpayer money. That really isn't the point. The point is to determine whether announcing it being automated is better or worse than not announcing it.
    • Do you know how cheap and annoying AI bots could make telemarketing? I can see a day when most people maintain a whitelist of callers that they'll accept calls from, i.e. only calls in their address book. AI bots will clog up our infrastructure in the same way that SPAM clogs up email services (~90% of emails sent).

      Also expect loads of phone calls from lawyers representing deceased Nigerian princes with amazing offers, IT technicians telling you you phone/computer is infected with a virus, and tax authoriti

  • by ColaMan ( 37550 ) on Wednesday May 09, 2018 @11:49PM (#56585856) Journal

    I believe that......

    And I don't. Seeing as we're both not Google, our opinions on this topic are pretty much moot.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      And I don't. Seeing as we're both not Google, our opinions on this topic are pretty much moot.

      Not so. You have wallets, that Google truly needs you to open for its customers, so they in turn will shower Google with green.
      That's a power right there.
      Alienating a large portion of your potential customer base is generally not good business.

      • And I don't. Seeing as we're both not Google, our opinions on this topic are pretty much moot.

        Not so. You have wallets, that Google truly needs you to open for its customers, so they in turn will shower Google with green. That's a power right there. Alienating a large portion of your potential customer base is generally not good business.

        Our wallets aren't nearly as big as those wallets which will be paying only a few customer service managers, not a building full of front line reps.

        I predict most people will want to deal with the bot anyway, soon enough. They'll "warn" that you that they use them, as a sales enticement.

    • I believe that......

      And I don't. Seeing as we're both not Google, our opinions on this topic are pretty much moot.

      Yeah, I guess we should just take this off to some blog/discussion site then ...

  • Hangups (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sgunhouse ( 1050564 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @12:13AM (#56585942)
    I don't know about you, but if I get a call from an automated system I just hang up. If the call starts off immediately by saying it is automated I'm sure that is what will happen. The first thing that has to happen is to indicate to the recipient what the call is about; after that they can say (especially if there is a response the system doesn't understand) that they are a machine.
    • I don't know about you, but if I get a call from an automated system I just hang up.

      As do I. But I still feel as if there should be an easy and obvious way for me to make that determination.

      At first thought, anyway, this "Duplex" thing rather annoys me. If the "person" on whose behalf the bot is calling doesn't feel it is worth their time to speak to me directly, why should I have to waste my time talking to their bot?

      • Re:Hangups (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LetterRip ( 30937 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @01:02AM (#56586078)

        At first thought, anyway, this "Duplex" thing rather annoys me. If the "person" on whose behalf the bot is calling doesn't feel it is worth their time to speak to me directly, why should I have to waste my time talking to their bot?

        This bot makes reservations. As an employee of the company that the reservation is being made at, you wouldn't be "wasting your time" - you would be doing your job.

      • Re:Hangups (Score:5, Interesting)

        by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @02:56AM (#56586446)

        I completely agree. But there are times where Duplex could be useful.

        "Ok Google, call the radio show. I need to be the 99th caller to win.", "Ok Google, buy me this ticket for this show before it gets sold out.", "Ok Google, call Xfinity, pretend that I want to move to AT&T unless they cut me a new discounted rate", "Ok Google, pretend you're an elderly woman and waste as much of this scammer's time as possible.", "Ok Google, please pick up whenever my mother-in-law calls. Tell her I am busy. Ask her what she wants and send me a summary of her complaints by SMS."

        • by bazorg ( 911295 )

          But there are times where Duplex could be useful.

          Perhaps that guy from Pulp Fiction who had a speech impediment and still wants to order pizza from a place that does not do ecommerce.

          Plenty of other scenarios can be imagined, involving people who work 9-5 and cannot be in the phone queue for some service that is also only open 9-5.

          This can also be seen as a good way to avoid dodgy upselling. My robot is calling for the offer X that was advertised and your selling bot can argue for hours that there's a better deal, but I won't take it.

          • by bazorg ( 911295 )

            OH! and I nearly forgot... Joe just had a car crash and needs to ring the emergency services and give them precise location... much better to have a bot figure those things out while the owner is busy trying not to to bleed to death.

      • by EvilSS ( 557649 )

        I don't know about you, but if I get a call from an automated system I just hang up.

        As do I. But I still feel as if there should be an easy and obvious way for me to make that determination.

        At first thought, anyway, this "Duplex" thing rather annoys me. If the "person" on whose behalf the bot is calling doesn't feel it is worth their time to speak to me directly, why should I have to waste my time talking to their bot?

        Because you work at a business that wants their money? If you own the business and don't want their money, fine. If you are an employee, suck it up and do as you are told.

    • if I get a call from an automated system I just hang up

      This is because the vast majority of calls we get from automated systems now are unsolicited and aimed at parting us with our money. On the other hand, businesses are eager to get the kind of calls that Google demoed. Plus the robot seemed very polite and down to business. I'm pretty sure client facing employees would love to talk to the Google AI bot instead of dealing with rude, incoherent, indecisive human customers.

    • If i get a call from what is obviously a call center i just want to hang up, they always start with phony platitudes, asking how am I today etc. I don't know you, anything I could possibly say is meaningless to you, why are you wasting my time even bothering, just tell me what the f. you want and go away. I would so much prefer an automated system if that didnt try to be my friend and just got the hell on with it. Also wouldnt have the background roar of hundreds of other conversations happening in the sam

  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @12:13AM (#56585946)

    With luck, soon both sides: the appointment-making and the reservation-taking will be given over to the machines. So this will simply be my Duplex calling your Duplex. I can see some benefits to each of them knowing they are talking to (essentially) themself, that way they could both hang up and negotiate whatever the call was about far more efficiently in a few milliseconds.

    It is only while there is the possibility that one system is so archaic that it still has an actual person taking the call that there is a difficulty. But even then, it's not much of an issue, what with the Duplex system being backwards compatible with meat.

    • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @01:09AM (#56586110)

      If a Duplex realizes it's talking to another Duplex, will it go into 56K modem mode [youtube.com] and just talk electronically?

    • With luck, soon both sides: the appointment-making and the reservation-taking will be given over to the machines.

      That would be awesome but I can't see it happening for a long time.

      Hell, *I* cannot navigate the menus to get to talk to a person. What hope has the google AI.

      Most recently I needed to change the *mailing* address for my council tax bill (think property taxes)

      Now it's slightly unusual to have a mailing address different to the property address but sufficiently common that all council telephone l

    • They could cut out the people by just having an online booking service in the first place, either their own, or joining one of the many 3rd party services. It is purely because they haven't done this that duplex needs to exist in the first place. So if the receiving side ever got automated enough so as to have their own duplex call answering then google wouldn't need to call them in the first place.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I want this ready to keep up a conversation with a telemarketer.

  • by aberglas ( 991072 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @01:36AM (#56586210)

    It is very difficult to know whether these machines are intelligent or not. If they are just playing to some fairly fixed scripts then as long as the person at the other end stays within the script then no real intelligence is needed. Eliza/Doctor did this sort of thing 50 years ago by simple pattern recognition on sentences.

    Sure, this system is smarter than Eliza (hopefully), but I suspect that the moment you go off script it fails catastrophically. The human would soon tweak that they were talking to an automated bot (even if they were actually talking to another human that was not too smart!).

    These things have the potential to be really annoying.

    Eventually, they may know what a restaurant booking really is beyond the superficial words and phrases. At that point people will be redundant. But that is still decades away.

  • I strongly suspect that Google is planning to lease services to businesses that will field these duplex-sourced calls without routing them to their human staff. Google has an opportunity to generate a bunch of annoying bot traffic to human call-takers and then sell the solution to the businesses to automate the transactions. Instead of one bot talking to another bot, they'll probably pass JSONs back and forth to negotiate whatever it is the Google Assistant is attempting to arrange.
  • Observer Effect (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mykro76 ( 1137341 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @01:53AM (#56586258)
    That would defeat the purpose of training the AI on genuine human conversations. If the recipient knew it was an AI calling they would be likely to change their behaviour such as talking in shorter, simpler sentences with overly exaggerated pronunciation.
  • ... people are just fine with talking to automated systems so long as they are aware of the fact that they are not talking to another person ...

    Perhaps this isn't the same thing, but ... I much prefer pressing buttons than "talking" to an automated system. It's simpler and more private. (Why would I want to say things that could be overheard -- like in that TV commercial where a guy is saying his credit card number aloud for the automated system... and I'd much rather "Press 1 to speak to the Proctologist" than say "Proctologist" ...) Sure voice systems may allow more varied options and interactions than what can be easily be supported by press

    • Inevitably, these systems ask for the account number verbally, but never hint at the fact that you can key in the number instead - even though it does work.

  • by WaxParadigm ( 311909 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @02:35AM (#56586380)

    Don't know about the announcement, but after listening to the calls I think someone should teach Duplex that round digits in phone numbers are zeros (not the letter o).

  • by Tom ( 822 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @02:48AM (#56586424) Homepage Journal

    I'm much less concerned about the "omg the person I was talking to wasn't actually a person" and much more about the abuse potential of the whole thing.

    A lot of the real world works because as human beings we can generally trust each other, exceptions are rare enough to not break the system and a personal interaction establishes a slim line of bidirectional trust.

    If you have access to such a system, and I'm certain they will make it generally available, there's a business there, you can now flood the restaurant or hairdresser etc you didn't like with fake reservations, denying them actual business.

    They will have to answer with verification systems, which a) makes everything more complicated for us actual humans and b) adds a small overhead and c) just starts the arms race we already know from IT security.

    And that is just the very first thing that comes to mind. Criminals are sure to be more creative than that. These systems are disruptive, and I haven't seen anyone thinking about solutions to that so far. Maybe the world after we solve this will be better than the world now, but it will be a major change. I'm reasonably sure that reservations of all kinds via telephone will go away. When the dust settles, you will no longer call a restaurant to ask for a table. You will tell your smartphone to reserve one, which will then call the restaurants computer, they will manage the verification and validation details in the background and generate a token that you can show at the entrance to get your table.

    I'm a tech person, I feel comfortable with that. I would probably prefer it over calling the restaurant and speaking to a real person and we barely understand each other because of the noise in the background, etc. - but many people prefer to actually interact with an actual human being and that will be lost to them.

    • If you have access to such a system, and I'm certain they will make it generally available... These systems are disruptive, and I haven't seen anyone thinking about solutions to that so far.

      You are assuming that no one has thought about it, and that assumption makes you assume that Google will make this generally available. It's far more likely that Google will not make it generally available because they have thought about it. It's just as saleable as a service (perhaps more profitably, actually), and as a service Google can take steps to minimize abuse.

      They will have to answer with verification systems, which a) makes everything more complicated for us actual humans and b) adds a small overhead and c) just starts the arms race we already know from IT security.

      Even if this did happen, it wouldn't be an "arms race". The verification would be a credit card number, and the restaurant would hold a reser

  • by duke_cheetah2003 ( 862933 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @03:06AM (#56586464) Homepage

    I believe that all production environment calls (essentially, calls not being made for internal test purposes) from Google's Duplex system should be required by Google to include an initial verbal warning to the called party that they have been called by an automated system, not by a human being -- the exact wording of that announcement to be determined.

    OK First this right here is a major hurdle. If you make this thing warn people it's a robocall, most folks will just hang up immediately, thinking it's yet another sales pitch, or free cruise, or health insurance, gawd there's so many now. So this is DOA if it's gotta announce it's automated.

    But as a side note, it's going to be amusing when our 'AI's start calling each other to whatever, communicating in simulated english or whatever spoken language the systems in question are trained on.

    Obviously the real solution is for your hair stylist and favorite restaurant have some non-verbal mechanism for arranging appointments or reservations or whatever. Obviously every one and every company and every little this and that can't have their own App for achieving this, which is what some larger companies are doing to migrate 'ordering stuff' from humans talking to humans to humans just fondling their portable personal computer.

    I'm imagine whomever cobbles such a system together and convinces a large segment of the population to use it is going to be rich. But this Duplex thing? DOA. The stigma surrounding robocalls is all bad, and all deserved I'm afraid.

  • "Siri, answer the phone."

  • A Robocalls is a Robocall is a Robocall.

  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @09:49AM (#56587546)

    > With no exceptions so far, the sense of these reactions has confirmed what I suspected -- that people are just fine with talking to automated systems so long as they are aware of the fact that they are not talking to another person.

    Let me be the first then. I hate the damn things, and I REALLY can't believe that I am exceptional in that respect.

  • by WillyWanker ( 1502057 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @09:52AM (#56587568)

    And when will this apply to robocallers, spammers, and debt collectors who use pre-recorded messages that try to trick people into thinking a human is calling them? Y'know, shit that they've been doing for over a decade and without anyone even raising an eyebrow.

    If Google is going to be required to disclose it's an AI call, then all robocallers should have to as well.

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Thursday May 10, 2018 @09:54AM (#56587576) Homepage

    They should introduce themselves like this:

    "Hello, this is Google's Duplex, calling for John Doe. John would like a table for two at 6 PM this Saturday....."

  • My city still expects me to show up in town hall with my car registration document in order to get a beach/park permit.
  • "Press 1 if you would like me to provide the date first, press 2 if you would like me to provide the time of day first. Presiona 3 para escuchar esto en español"

    (beep)

    "Thank you. You pressed 2 for the time of day first. If this is correct, please press 1."

    (beep)
    "Thank you. Please press 1 if you would like the time in 24 hour clock notation. Please press 2 if you would like the time in AM/PM notation."

    (boop)

    "I'm sorry. That is not a valid option. Please stay on the line and a reservation-maker will be w

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"

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