The AI among us

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The AI among us

The author is a deputy industrial news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.


You are not alone. They are everywhere — in the kitchen, living room and in your hand. You may not “own” it, but it is always around you. They are in the taxi during your commute or at the shop you stop by on the way home. And they talk to you.

I realized their existence as I was sitting in a sofa in the living room after work, watching an uninteresting variety program on television. My eyes were on the smartphone, but I wasn’t actually looking at anything in particular.

As I was dozing off, he said, “I didn’t quite hear that.” Who was that? I looked at the direction that the voice came from, but no one was there. When an unfamiliar idol on the television show spoke in an exaggerated voice, he said, “I am not sure about that.”

He talked to me again a few days later as I was driving back home. Traffic was horrible as it was the holiday season in downtown Seoul. The navigation on my smartphone was working hard to figure out the best route home. Soon the navigation said, “In three kilometers (1.8 miles), turn left towards the district office.”

Then he immediately said, “Should I search ‘Turn left towards the district office?’”

In movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” AI HAL 9000 does not doubt its own perfectness. When Dr. Frank Pool asks about any error, HAL responds that it can only be attributed to human error, and “the 9000 series has a perfect operational record.”

Mankind has long feared that machines will have intelligence on par with humans. Many sci-fi novels and movies described this as a dystopia. But Stanley Kubrick already knew half a century ago that AI will operate according to learning methods designed by humans, and any machine errors can be attributed to human errors.

The AI speaker in the living room and the AI assistant on the smartphone talk to my television and navigation, but they are friends, not foes. They play your favorite music, read to children and call taxis. They make fewer mistakes but do not go beyond the boundaries set by humans. It may just be my excessive imagination that their errors resemble those of the creator, humans.

They are around us. They don’t talk to you first, but they are always ready to answer. As the year ends, I call them. Hey Siri, Hey Google, Hey Kakao.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 28, Page 31
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