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  • Writer's pictureGreg Miller

Artificial Trust

We’ve all heard the phrase “If these walls could talk…”. Well, now they can. Or more accurately, the voice assistants that now ‘live’ in our homes can talk… and listen. Siri, Alexa, and any number of other pseudo-humanistic bots are always listening. They must listen to everything so they can spring to life when they detect the correct trigger phrase and scare everyone in the room. This type of cyber sneak-attack can be very disconcerting. More than once I’ve had to chastise Siri for digitally butting in. These AI manifestations are becoming part of the digital tapestry that surrounds us and we are accepting of it without much thought. Sometimes we even ‘argue’ with them. “No, Siri, I said turn off the kitchen lights, not open the garage door…”


Gradually, almost imperceptibly, we are developing a new kind of trust for these digital delegates. It’s not like the trust you have with your best friend or a family member, but rather an ‘artificial trust’ in what amounts to an appliance. This is not entirely new. Over the years there have been different layers of trust that developed, and people gradually became more accepting of these technological advances. We put amazing amounts of trust in a terrifying number of things that we frankly don’t give much thought to anymore.

We take for granted things like traffic lights, automobiles, airplanes, and elevators. We trust – and rely on – telecommunications, banking systems, power grids, transit, logistics, pharmaceutical companies, food sources. We also put our lives (and careers) in the hands of things like the ‘Mute’ button. Think of the carnage that would result if mute buttons decided to go rogue. Imagine if the boss (or client) heard everything that was said during those insufferable Zoom meetings. Often, the soap and paper towel dispensers in public restrooms can’t seem to do their one job – yet we are expected to trust autonomous cars moving tons of batteries and steel while simultaneously processing tens of thousands of data points per second.


Who knows, maybe one day these AI sidekicks will perfect the art of real conversation, or even talk to each other. Until then, we'll need to be tolerant of getting the weather forecast for Timbuktu when you ask Siri to call Tom back.


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