Imagine if software could automatically respond to a request using your own intellect while you were away on vacation. Not a, “thanks for your email, I’m out of the office.” But instead a detailed, “John, arg, mate, that’s a superb proposal, and I think the pink elephant-on-a-Mercedes is just the concept needed to win the account. Let’s do dinner at Emily’s next Thursday to nail this down!”
Two years ago we predicted in Businessweek that the convergence of three technologies — voice recognition, artificial intelligence simulation such as Siri, and social media datasets — would enable some savvy marketer to create an app that would simulate your personal response to any situation without you being there. Now, Google has patented a system for “automated generation of suggestions for personalized reactions” that does just this.
In essence, Google would pull data from all your social networks and email accounts to learn how you would respond, and then prepare detailed automatic replies for future events. Initially you would opt-in by clicking “approve” on the replies, but like email out-of-office notifications, eventually you could set your doppelgänger-intellect on autopilot. Mike Elgan over at Cult of Android suggests the most obvious application would be Google Glass (where responding via the eyeglass-frame computer is now cumbersome, and an expanded auto-reply would be most helpful), but other opportunities include managing waves of email without reading them or extending your social network persona while not really being there.
For instance, the Google patent notes,
“Many (people) use online social networking for both professional and personal uses. Each of these different types of use has its own unstated protocol for behavior. It is extremely important for the users to act in an adequate manner depending upon which social network on which they are operating. For example, it may be very important to say ‘congratulations’ to a friend when that friend announces that she/he has gotten a new job. This is a particular problem as many users subscribe to many social different social networks…”
The most startling aspect of Google’s system is it won’t just suggest replies, but also actions. Sure, you can set it to say “congratulations!” … but you could also have the system give your opinion, cast a vote on an initiative, or say go or no-go to a business decision. Add in voice simulation, such as that used by Roger Ebert after his throat cancer, and your persona could talk through your automatic replies.
As we wrote back in 2011, the social repercussions will be huge. Conference calls won’t require you being there — and the artificially intelligent version of you might even sound smarter. Or imagine a widow receiving a call from her deceased husband, in his own voice, opining on whether she should marry that new guy. Everyone could take actions without action, decide without thinking, and live long after they are dead. Google isn’t the only tech company chasing self-intelligent avatars; Apple has a patent that does exactly the same thing.
It’s heady stuff, this autonomous future. Yes, you may like Google’s self-driving cars. But do you want a self-driving you?