21 May 2018

Theo Miller


Can we all agree that Google Duplex demo was eerie? A robot, posing as a human being, scheduled a reservation over the phone. We all knew artificial intelligence was coming, but it was breathtaking to hear software come to life.

Before we go any further, let’s get our terms straight. Automation and artificial intelligence are not the same thing. According to Dave Evans, “Automation is software that follows pre-programmed rules. Artificial intelligence is designed to simulate human thinking.” Automation, in this context, refers to the impact of artificial intelligence on tasks that only humans can perform today.

Even if you’re skeptical of Google Duplex in light of the current backlash, Alexa has made her way into millions of homes. Amazon and Google are proving the value of artificial intelligence to consumers. (Apple still has a ways to go with Siri.) While Alexa won’t take down the government, there was a recent debate about the impact of automation on democracy that’s worth watching.

Intelligence Squared U.S. features debates about current events. Each episode puts forward a provocative motion like “Automation Will Crash Democracy.” Two teams of two debate the motion. There are polls conducted at the beginning and at the end of the debate. A team wins by persuading audience members to change their opinion. Ian Bremmer and Yascha Mounk argued for the motion, insisting automation will crash democracy. Andrew Keen and Alina Polyakova argued against the motion.

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