If you have not seen or heard of the jaw-dropping performance of Google's Duplex and the natural conversations the virtual assistant can have, the first thing you have to do is watch, or listen, to the Google Assistant AI system.
The performance of Google's Duplex is very impressive on a technical level, and it is easy to appreciate from a 'good grief, that is awesome' perspective, but Duplex also has some implications that you may not have considered.
The rise of the machines may not have crossed your mind and how Duplex has the ability to simulate a human being in a conversation, this might put a lot of people out of work.
Robocalls are one thing, but what about people who work in call centres, cold-calling, or providing technical support for a wide range of the world's products and services, what are they going to do when AI systems are capable of making or fielding complex calls enters the market.
It would be near impossible for humans to compete against Duplex, should it ever be deployed into these market sectors. The main obstacle will be cost – in places where labour is cheaper than the outlay for a Google Duplex-powered call centre, jobs will be safe. The moment using a machine costs less than paying human staff, we’ll see changeovers taking place.
The end result is one that has been long feared – human beings being put out of work and there’s no reason to believe that it’ll stop with call centres.
The systems that Duplex is based on, are likely to advance over time, potentially taking over duties reserved for secretarial workers, receptions, bank tellers, just to consider some. The service industries are also under threat, eventually. The staff that take food orders, or dispense room keys might find themselves out of work. If Google manages to convince Duplex to deliver food using a robotic body.
The point is, new jobs will emerge, one could, for example, go from being a call-centre agent to a Google Duplex technician... perhaps.
However, business and private users of Duplex are not going to see it that way, provided they are not in any industries that the AI system is likely to disrupt.
Don't like calling your doctor to make an appointment? Can't stand the idea of checking the status of an online or banking account? You may never have to make a phone call about that sort of thing ever again.
Businesses will also be pleased with the change, as Duplex offers the chance at greater efficiency which will lead to greater customer satisfaction. Callers to a company hotline will never have to go to voicemail, they would be able to call at all hours of the day, provided Duplex has been well trained.
But all this ends up to point towards time. Time to do things you might otherwise neglect. It is a lot easier to get on with your day when you are not dreading setting off a panic attack by making an appointment on the phone or when you do not have to dedicate man-hours better spent building the physical aspects of a business. If you have got a reliable AI system that will keep patrons happy, why not use it?
Google does have plans for Duplex, with initial testing in real world taking place alongside Google Assistant. It is coming, barring regulation by government and industries bent on protecting the status quo. Even then, change is on the horizon.
The potential job losses from Duplex will be offset by new jobs, which do not involve facing people directly. The future of the human race will likely be working alongside AI and robotic solutions, rather than being replaced by them.
In the end, we face three scenarios, we are either looking at the Terminator future where humans are fighting for their lives against machines, or we will find ourselves living in a utopia of sorts where everything is free time and leisure activities. The third scenario, perhaps something like Wall-E? Let's hope not.