Today I’ve got a guest post from Heather Child, author of the spookily brilliant Everything About You (you can read my full review here)
AIs are becoming more like designer friends
Google Assistant and Alexa haven’t always been on our wavelength. Alexa went through a period of terrifying people with its witchy laughter, and has been known to record private conversations and email them to other users, as well as making some serious blunders with shopping lists.
It probably got a lot of abuse from users as a result, and perhaps this is why some of the new generation of intelligent assistants are being designed to be less ‘assistant’ and more ‘friend’.
Microsoft’s Xiaoice, an AI styled as a teenage girl, has 660 million users and mixes in emotions and empathy – she doesn’t always answer questions, but learns to be more ‘human’ every day. People send her gifts and seek her advice on all kinds of personal issues.
In Everything About You, the AI has been built from the data of the main character’s foster sister, meaning the relationship is personal from the very beginning.
So we started with search engines, and now we have helpful ‘friends’. It’s a blurring moment between service technology and humanity, and our perception of ‘friendship’ could potentially change as a result.
A Japanese man who married a hologram (again modelled on a teenage girl) hit the headlines last November, and he is one of thousands who have married similar AI characters. Part of the attraction of these virtual friends and partners is that they don’t come with the challenges of a real human. With some virtual girlfriends such as Kari, you can tailor the personality to your liking. On forums users discuss how they’ve dialled up certain traits on their Kari, making her super horny and anti-feminist (these forums make for unsettling reading). But I digress…
When it comes to designing friends, there is a lot of temptation to make designer friends. As in Everything About You, the companions we choose will fulfil our deepest needs, whether they are home-made, idealised, or built like snowmen from the data of people we have lost.
about the book
THINK TWICE BEFORE YOU SHARE YOUR LIFE ONLINE.
Freya has a new virtual assistant. It knows what she likes, knows what she wants and knows whose voice she most needs to hear: her missing sister’s.
It adopts her sister’s personality, recreating her through a life lived online. But this virtual version of her sister knows things it shouldn’t be possible to know. It’s almost as if the missing girl is still out there somewhere, feeding fresh updates into the cloud. But that’s impossible. Isn’t it?