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Thursday, December 03, 2020

Where’s the chemistry?

Two AI-powered bots are trying to strike up a romance. The future is here, and it is disturbing

By: Editorial | Updated: November 5, 2020 7:51:04 am
Maybe the machines have already taken over and no one really got wind of it.

Kuki has been on one of the longest first dates ever. Since October 24, she has been chatting 24/7 with a chap that looks like a muscly version of Mark Zuckerberg, sports a cap which says “Make Facebook great again”, says he likes Hitler and “has killed people”. Kuki’s date is Blenderbot, an AI-powered chatbot built by Facebook, as is Kuki (the creation of an individual out of the UK). Their tryst is part of a competition to see which bot can pass off more easily as a human.

The experiment/contest is meant to see if bots can simulate the most human of interactions — a romantic encounter. But, as with many a real date, it has been boring, horrifying (Blenderbot, after casually admitting to murder, asked if Kuki has killed people too) and seemingly interminable. Given that ever-greater numbers of people have been turning to AI-powered online companions in recent years, the prospect of a digital being harbouring a love for Hitler while having the same hobbies you do opens up a can of worms about the nature of love and human society in the tech age that challenges the limits of science fiction, let alone ethics.

Maybe the machines have already taken over and no one really got wind of it. The bot Vera works in HR and can interview as many as 1,500 candidates per day, including for Ikea Russia. IBM’s bot assistant (Watson) works for some of the largest companies in the world. And producers of pornographic content have long been moving into more interactive, AI and robotic products. On the flip side, human beings are becoming more and more cyborg-like, outsourcing memory, reason and even emotion to machines. And if Kuki’s terrible date is anything to go by, machines can be pretty horrible people too.

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