A few years ago, -- Whether robots will take over the world -- was one of the classic debatable issues in the world of technology, but now it seems that the question needs some re-framing. It should now be, "Whether artificial intelligence will take over the world?"
At the on-going CES 2020, AI is one of the biggest draws and perhaps the most interesting AI product was showcased by none other than the world's biggest electronics company Samsung. Now, we'd already heard or read that the Korean tech giant was working on a AI project called NEON well before CES. But it wasn't until we saw it being unveiled that we were really convinced that it actually is perhaps the most brilliant examples of what AI is capable of.
NEON artificial humans
For those who don't know what NEON is, it is a digitally generated human that can visually look and emote like a real human being. Developed by a company called STAR Labs (backed by Samsung), the "artificial human" as the company likes to its brainchild, the various avatars look convincingly human.
NEON is complete with all the human simulations like facial expression, intelligence, learning, emotions, and memory. The basic idea of this "humanoid" AI technology is that they might be used as an artificial alternative to human beings.
AI humans that will take up many roles
The company says that in the near future, you will be able to license or subscribe to a NEON as a service representative, a financial advisor, a healthcare provider, or a concierge. What's more, over time, these NEONs which come in several different avatars, should be able to work as TV anchors, spokespersons and even film stars, or simply be companions and friends.
More Human than you think
Now, I know the intentions of the project and the company are good, but you know where we're headed with this. The tech does seem very promising and all that, but doesn't it seem a little anti-human?
Don't get me wrong, but these artificial humans look so realistic and life-like that when I first saw a video of them, I wasn't buying the fact that they were not actual humans made up of tissue. They look like us, dress like us. They talk like us. They have different skin types and ages and everything that makes a human being, a human being, except maybe that they are not us.
Of synthetic TV hosts and movie stars
So would you as a consumer like to be served by a digital human?. Imagine watching a movie with synthetic actors in it with fake expressions and emotions, or even turning on the news and being greeted by an artificial human who could replace the popular news anchors that you so love. Sure the idea seems very good in a utopian sense of the world, but there's also the concern and fear of having to lose our jobs to these "AI-powered humans."
It's not me whose saying this. As per the company's own description, these AI humans will be able to handle many roles such as a "service representative, a financial advisor, a healthcare provider, or a concierge." Then there are TV anchors, spokespersons and actors. I wonder what will happen to all the Ben Afflecks and Jimmy Kimmels of the world? Will we be seeing some artificial human anchor hosting a talk show, a human without flesh and bone complete with a fake sense of humor?
Not to be rude, but these artificial humans are quite good at what they will presumably be doing in the near future. Watch this teaser video and I'm sure, you'll be surprised at how good and convincing these artificial humans look and behave.
But Not so fast, buddy
Now, coming back to the real question of "whether they will take away our jobs?" and should we even consider them a potential threat. Well, they might.
But initially only the jobs that are digital will be worst affected, jobs such TV hosts/anchors, Radio Jockeys, and the likes. The tech will likely cost a lot more than hiring a human service representative or human concierge.
But then again, if you notice in the video above, these artificial humans have voices, expressions and body features that are recorded from actual human beings. So in a way, the concept is still dependent on humans. Moreover, human services will be in demand when all you see are artificial service representatives and healthcare providers everywhere. Actual human services will be the more sought after and treated more like luxury, but mind you, only the best humans will be able to keep these roles.
AI humans will do us no harm
The least that could happen is that a NEON artificial human could fill in for a popular news anchor when the news anchor gets sick, while the worst could be world domination scenario where AI powered robots rule the world and we're demoted to being slaves. Kind of a swapping out roles.
However, the technology is not going to be that bad at all. AIAI actually learns from humans and these artificial humans will soon start learning from us and read out scripts just like a human news anchor would. The company also claims that they will have memory too which means they will retain information. So they may be functioned to be good to humans.
How to check misuse?
NEON's intentions are good. AI, or for that matter, any form of technology is being improved and developed to make human life easier. But until AI and machine learning becomes so independent of humans, it shouldn't be seen as a threat. It's still an under-development technology which will take at least some more years to get to that level.
However, when the technology becomes more mainstream, it calls for a regulatory body and need to be kept under check. For all we know from sci-fi movies, if it remains unchecked and goes into the wrong hands, it can be misused. For now, NEON'S artificial humans look very friendly and less intrusive.