Last week Google demoed Duplex, an AI intended to make phone calls on users’ behalf. Depending on who you ask it’s either mind blowing or dystopic.

Here’s the presentation, if you missed it—the demo starts around 1:12 if you’d like to skip the preamble.

The first thing you’ll notice: this thing is pretty good at thinking on its feet. This is a recording, not a live demo, meaning odds are this is a best case scenario for the tech. But it’s not hard to imagine something like this being useful, especially if you hate making phone calls. Read more on the Google Blog if you’re interested about how this all works, there are a couple more demos there too.

More than a few people noticed Duplex inserting filler words like “umm”, which is clearly intended to make the machine seem more human. Is that a useful feature, making the interaction more seamless, or a deliberate deception?

Google put out a statement later saying Duplex would identify itself as an AI, which satisfies some of these complaints. But there’s something unsettling about AI pretending to be human in vaguely social situations, and I think this kind of pushback is only going to get louder as the tech improves.

Justin Pot Justin Pot
Justin Pot has been writing about technology for over a decade, with work appearing in Digital Trends, The Next Web, Lifehacker, MakeUseOf, and the Zapier Blog. He also runs the Hillsboro Signal, a volunteer-driven local news outlet he founded.
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