Is AI a Danger to our Personal Relationships?
They say the two most dangerous words in technology today are “I agree”. They’re the two words at the end of every multi-page End User License Agreement (EULA), and we typically click the “I agree” button without thinking much about what we’re giving up, or who we’re giving it to, in return for some convenient technology.
There are a lot of conversations about consumer privacy and healthcare privacy out there aimed at protecting us from predatory marketing behaviors or exclusionary medical treatment policies, but does artificial intelligence (AI) also pose a potential danger to our personal relationships?
The short film Privacy Lost dives into this dynamic, not only showing how technology can be transformative, turning a mundane restaurant into a beach side café; manipulative, personalizing virtual wait staff to the viewer’s preference and monitoring biofeedback to increase the chance of a sale; and revealing, telling others that you are lying, insincere, or upset.
Watch the three-minute short film Privacy Lost below.
For those skeptical that a machine can read human emotion, “not only can computers detect human emotion; they do it much better than we do,” said award-winning journalist and business speaker Geoff Colvin in his book Humans are Underrated.
Software from companies like Emotient and Affectiva were built on psychologist Paul Eckman’s studies of microexpressions, the little tells in your face that are impossible to control as you transition from expression to expression. They indicate the seven primary emotions—joy, surprise, sadness, fear, disgust, contempt, and anger—and computers read these expressions correctly 85% of the time, compared to 55% with a trained person.
If AI becomes akin to an always-on mood detector test, then we even lose privacy of our most intimate thoughts, which is a concession I would not want to make in the name of advancing technology.
Emotional transparency creates the opportunity for manipulation from a marketing standpoint, but also creates the opportunity for less benevolent manipulation by someone looking to victimize someone else—pulling the right strings at the right times, based on the emotional response of the intended victim.
Glasses like those in Privacy Lost also utilize embedded cameras to scan the physical world and create the augmented and mixed reality overlays. These always-on cameras create a whole other privacy concern, as the glasses are linked to you specifically—and the cameras are always collecting data.
We have heard about the concerns of Alexa and the always-on microphone used for summoning the digital assistant. However, imagine having a record of everything an individual looks at during a given day? Every activity they participate in, now matter how personal or private?
With glasses, at least there is the opportunity to escape the surveillance and manipulation by removing them, much like the couples son does in Privacy Lost. However, when we think about the research being done around augmented reality (AR) contacts, the ability to escape the potential impact of these technologies is greatly decreased. The problem is, devices like these will be more convenient and most likely preferable to something like glasses that can be broken, lost, or forgotten.
I’m reminded of another movie called Anon with Clive Owen and Amanda Seyfried where in a not-so-distant future, everyone is required to have AR contacts, and those contacts record everything everyone sees, all the time, giving the state millions of cameras to collect data and surveil the population. It shouldn’t seem too far-fetched, given the direction things could go. Imagine the implications of someone having access to the world through your point of view, including your emotional state at the time of every experience.
So for me, the short but important Privacy Lost serves as a reminder that there is a constant push and pull between convenience and privacy, and the words “I agree” should be considered more carefully, weighing what you get for what you’re required to give in return. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, even at a virtual Beach Café.