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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Wired Desktop: Do we know what’s real?

For decades, we were bombarded with many movies showing how artificial intelligence and robots would try to dominate the world. Of course, it is written by us, and ultimately, the humans will triumph over machines.

There are assumptions in the movie that are fallacious. One of the most frequent scenes is that the machines or robots will shoot at humans, and miss, while the humans will always hit the mark. Unfortunately, the reverse is true. Intelligent machines can shoot with super accuracy and can hit a target as small as an egg almost 100 percent accurately even from thousands of meters away. There is no way a human can do that.

And the robots are getting more real. Robots chatting and talking with us are now so realistic that many people cannot distinguish whether the one chatting back or answering the phone is a real person or just a machine. A few months ago, at the Tokyo Game show expo, some companies put in robots, and humans acting like robots, and told the expo goers to guess which was the robot, and which was the real person. Many got it wrong.

Now there are even artificial developments that will clone you. For many years, I was a fan of crime and mystery science, and of course, when I was young, the way to catch the criminals was using evidence such as fingerprints, video and the sound of one’s voice.

Right now, everything we learned could be thrown out of the window. Baidu, a Chinese company, and Lyrebird, a Canadian company, have all announced that they have mastered voice cloning so that with just a few minutes of sample audio, they can create not only the voice, but also the accent that can pass off as the original.

There is also technology like Deep Fake, that will allow you to edit a video but change the face in real time. With that, even with valid fingerprint, voice, or even video, nothing can be believed anymore.

Pat Quinn, who has speech impairment because of ALS (he is known for starting the famous ice bucket challenge), is now seeking assistance to clone his voice based on old recordings. With that, he may not be able to talk himself, but he can sound like himself through technology.

On social media, you see that there are now people who marry robots because robots provide them with companionship. I am actually scared that someday, when technology has become so advanced that you may end up marrying a robot without even knowing it. Or you can have a clone of your parents and they would never leave you because they would be able to act and talk just like the original ones.


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