In Bots We Trust

Benjamin Koe
Nov 27, 2015 · 2 min read

Humans today are increasingly placing their trust in machines. We trust the autopilot in airplanes, trust our smartphones to remember our contacts and appointments, trust the cloud to store our precious documents, and trust Netflix to recommend our entertainment. But this is merely the beginning of a significant behaviour shift.

We are quickly approaching a future of AI and robots. A future where our trust in machines is greater than our trust in fellow humans.

An obvious example of this future is the self-driving car which is predicted to be commonplace by 2020. Complete and utter trust has to be placed in these machines to transport our fragile bodies while avoiding every obstacle and navigating every situation. As technology improves, self-driving cars would eventually be better drivers than humans resulting in fewer accidents and fatalities. Why would we trust a human driver then?

This clear trend is already informing strategies at Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon as they invest heavily in assistant bots. When Siri first arrived on our phones, we mocked her inability to understand our natural speech, much less get anything done. But that’s because we didn’t fully appreciate her potential and the vast improvements in technology.

In time to come, I believe it would be common practice to ask Siri questions such as, “Which restaurant should I bring my parents for dinner next Saturday?” A question often asked of a trusted human friend. Siri would analyze all restaurant ratings, understand your medical and dietary data, figure out schedules and availability, as well as tell you if you can dine al fresco based on the weather forecast.

Then with the Internet of Things boom, our trust in machines will extend to our homes. Companies like NEST focus on learning about you in order to provide better home automation. Home security cameras are also moving from dumb algorithms to being “conscious”. In time, humans will trust these machines to take care of their children at home.

It doesn’t take much to imagine devices or robots that know how to prepare food and clean up after your kids. Having a nanny at home will soon be history too.

While replacing a nanny may be trivial, could we also replace doctors? Or at least the basic consultation. When we have smart toilets which can figure out how healthy we are by analyzing our daily pee and poo coupled with beds that know how well we’ve slept, and kitchens that know what we’ve been eating. Who would you trust to make the best medical diagnosis? The doctor who you’ve just mentioned your symptoms to or your smart home that has analyzed your quantified self?

Whichever future scenario becomes reality is anyone’s guess. But humans’ trust in machines will only increase; in some cases even more than other humans.

Benjamin Koe

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