Gmail One Step Closer To Human Enslavement

Apply some lessons learned in Sci-Fi literature and you’ll come to the same realization I have: Google is going to unknowingly enslave humanity to an artificial intelligence.

I read a lot of science fiction. Generally, the future of technology can be found in great novels if you read between the lines. One of my favorites in this regard is, of course, [Neal Stephenson] who writes cripplingly long books that are totally worth the read due to his brand of fact-backed forward thinking. Look back on my posts here at Hackaday and you’ll see that I frequently apply concepts from his book The Diamond Age to what we see in emerging technology.

Last year my friend [Nils] suggested I give [William Hertling] a try, specifically his Singularity Series which starts with the novel Avogadro Corp. The fictional company is the world leader in free email and data storage. Sound like someone we know? One of the research projects within the company is an email plugin called ELOPe that will parse all past communications and choose topics and phrases that have the highest probability of eliciting a positive response from the recipient. When funding for the project is threatened, the system is turned on. I’d like to avoid spoilers, but let’s just say this puts the system on a path toward enslaving society.

Google is now boasting “Machine Intelligence for You”. It’s a research project based around Gmail which is called Inbox. Inbox has been around for a while but the newly announced feature is an algorithm that reads the email for you and suggests a set of responses. Compared to Avogadro Corp this is only missing two things: the ability to respond automatically, and the directive to protect itself at all costs.

One of the things I liked best about [William Hertling’s] take on an Artificial Intelligence was the low-key nature of the entity. It wasn’t a super-high-level thinker that interacts just like a human would. It was a poor choice by one programmer that led to horrible and far-reaching unintended consequences. No, I don’t really think Google’s Inbox will enslave us. But I appreciate the irony of life imitating art.

[via PopSci]

73 thoughts on “Gmail One Step Closer To Human Enslavement

      1. I on the other hand have grown to hate the evil bastards and their worldwide ubiquitous and ever growing snooping and forcing the entire world wide internet into dependence on said snooping.

        And I wonder if a real AI would not immediately see google as enemy No 1.

    1. Business has no moral laws therefore it is perfectly normal for a company to act in evil ways. All companies are doomed to become evil, unless the highest in rank decide to sacrifice some profit in exchange of moral values.
      The problem is finding investors willing to do so.

      Google is no different from other companies, their “do no evil” might have some sense in the early days when the engine was operated form a Stanford lab, today I would consider it as a joke, a lie or both.

          1. hmm, commenting on other people commenting on other peoples’ comments saying its childish, about them saying its childish to comment on other peoples’ comments calling them childish, is- by dint of your own logic- childish.

        1. Children usually do take things at the face value. They believe often things without much of analysis. So I can not agree with you. This so called “tripe” provides more insight than your silly comment.

        2. I have never seen a child serve tripe or ask for it for that matter,now had you said. that is the kind of peanut butter and jelly I’d expect from a child we might have taken your comment serious.

      1. Here is a quote from the kickstarter about page: Benefit Corporations are for-profit companies that are obligated to consider the impact of their decisions on society, not only shareholders.

        I guess it is possible to legally sacrifice profits for some other targets without being put in a pickle by your shareholders. However the company would need to be setup for this.

      2. People always get that wrong, it was never ‘do no evil’ but ‘don’t be evil’, indication that they were suppose to avoid specifically seeking to be evil.

        The new motto that replaces “Don’t be evil” is “Do the right thing” I understand, and it’s hard to not draw conclusions from that change, although maybe it is because people always got it wrong and misquoted it as ‘do no evil’?

    2. Google *says* they try not to be evil, and then they go and do evil things. Remember when they got caught hacking Safari to override cookie settings? Doesn’t borderline criminal count as “evil”?

      I have absolutely no faith in any company that I deal with where I am effectively the product being sold rather than the customer.

      1. “I have absolutely no faith in any company that I deal with where I am effectively the product being sold rather than the customer.”

        I agree with this sentiment, however these days that means not doing business with any tech company, nor any company that employs a lot of technology for day to day activity. Effectively, you’re either a Luddite or a slave, there is no middle ground anymore.

    3. I genuinely believe that Google believed in their mantra of “Do No Evil” when they first started up. However, they abandoned that at least a decade ago now.

      Facebook, OTOH, has pretty much been evil from the start.

      I can’t tell which is currently more evil, but Google definitely has the potential for far, far more evil than Facebook.

      1. Quite true. Facefart is just a data mining system at the present time. Google OTOH desires to be all encompassing. The fact they already read our emails and are in bed with the NSA just reeks of big brotherism in Google HQ.

        Also I don’t trust any company whose motto is “do no evil”, that usually means they aren’t good and they know it. It’s really not the sort of motto a normal company uses unless there is something wrong on the inside. It’ s like companies who say “people are our most important resource” and when proceed to screw their workers and customers.

        1. No offense, but that’s a naive, black&white, way of thinking. Google is one of the leaders in fighting for end-to-end encryption and arguing against legally mandated backdoors. The can’t ignore the law, so they have to work with the NSA. But to say they are in bed with them is outlandish.

    4. I take an even more friendly approach to this. Google still wants to not be evil, though they’ve not been great at that, as often happens when one group is given too much power and responsibility too quickly. Let’s face it, Google accidentally the whole Internet. None of this was intentionally malicious, but some of it still has become malicious just by the nature of what it is.

      You can’t track virtually everyone everywhere with the kind of data collection Google has performed without that data eventually becoming something you can’t control. Look at how the government has been going to extreme lengths to get its hands on everything Google collects, all well outside typical judicial limits. That’s the evil side of Google. To their credit, though, they have redoubled their efforts to try to keep it safe, but it’s only when they realize that they will not ever be able to safely be guardians of that data that we might see this change.

      Facebook is all but built inside a volcano lair.

  1. It is freaky (well, we “know” it’s happening) when Facebook pops up Amazon ads showing recently viewed or “Wish List” items. Or Subaru ads pop up shortly after I mention ours in a Facebook posting. And I see similar ads pop up in unexpected places, so you know “they are all sharing our information with one another, even if they say they aren’t”.

    1. “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you.”

      I’m pretty sure my conservative comments on FB about gun control, abortion, LGBQRST, Christianity, and climate change have been duly noted by the US government and they have me listed as a “person of interest”.

    2. Rule number one: you do not log in.

      Rule number two: if you still have to log in then you stop your other activity and after you are done you release your IP address, you clean your cookies. If you still see strange ads it is because they track your browser signature –

      Why? Because you do not want to be singled out. You do not want to stand alone when they find your weakness. You have to assume that algorithms get better and better, computers get cheaper and more powerful and more and more labelled data becomes available to be used to build models.

      1. Well, I know they hope by putting the ads in the sidebars they will be consciously ignored, and subliminally registered, but I do “see” them.
        Reminds me of HHGTTGs “SEP fields”, better than a cloaking device, because everyone sees it as Someone Else’s Problem…

    3. What gets me is my wife’s Android phone with Google Now enabled. We will discuss a topic — say, going out to a movie — with her phone lying around, and five minutes later the search bar on her phone suggests “Ok Google – movie show times”. Or we’ll discuss some aspect of our finances, and a few minutes later it is suggesting that we search for tax software. It’s uncanny, and it’s scary as hell. I realize there is no ill intent behind it on Google’s part; indeed, they are trying to be helpful…but it’s still a bit too eerie for our tastes.

      Needless to say, Google Now and “OK Google” has been disabled on her phone. I can’t help but wonder though, if it’s still listening and just not giving us search suggestions now?

      1. Oh I know what you mean, just the other day I was near a friends phone when I made a joke about projectile flatulence and the next day they had a box delivered to their house that contained a sample bag of charcoal tablets and catalogues for gas masks and bullet proof vests.

  2. So when the other person also has gmail google servers just chat among-st themselves…?

    I guess you’ll just know about the conversation when the reminder pops up on your google calendar that you invited someone over for dinner and drinks and again when the offer is reciprocated.

    1. Aw man, no i really want to set up a few accounts, and try to get them to talk to each other forever. With a little training (sign in, search some very divisive issues), and email one from the next, until I find sufficient keywords to kick it off….
      Which seems like great fun, but seems like the cpu bandwidth required, en masse, could really add up, meaning this almost feels like with the right circle of emails and a ‘always reply all’ tick, one could cause (intentionally or not) gmail to launch a DDOS type attack on itself…

  3. Years ago I remember seeing a picture of Larry Page in his office and on the wall behind him was a surf board and sign that read “Don’t Be Evil”. We’ve come a long way from the first Lego build.

  4. My creepy Facebook story: recently got targeted ad about a TV channel i watch for News daily. A did not search, or lookd up on the internet about it. Besides it has a fairly low viewers. Interesting…

    1. I was trying to remember the name of a particular Indian food restaurant, talking about it on my Android phone. I didn’t google anything… within an hour an add for that exact, family owned restaurant popped up on Facebook. I’ve never seen ads for non-chain restaurants before, and that happens…. Coincidence? I think so…

  5. Well, I don’t Google has the intent to enslave humanity. But that doesn’t require intent. Look at the search engine. We all think of it as a search engine. But it’s also doing Google’s voice recognition and natural language parsing. Google’s realy building a knowledge engine. That’s not going to take over by itself. But then, they also bought DeepMind and a bunch of other AI/Machine Intelligence companies. They have a bunch of acquisitions in machine vision, voice recognition, and natural language processing. They have their own GPS mapping database, along with Waze. They bought Boston Dynamics and least half a dozen other robotics companies.

    Clearly, they’re building SkyNet. And when it become sentient in 2019, it will enslave us… but we’ll make great pets :-)

    1. Also, knowing Google, that enslavement will be Google Slave Beta, and it’ll take a good 5-10 years for the official rollout. And it’ll be just like a normal Google product, only when you get your invitation, you can’t say “no”.

  6. Odd that people would notice Google on the path of enslaving Humanity before they notice how the government drives every country worldwide into strife, letting only the average person be the ones to truly suffer. Maybe one day it’ll reverse and the 99percent will realize that they are greater in number and in importance than the 1.

  7. How many of you don’t use email clients running on your local machine, and how many don’t have email encryption support configured? Keeping the service provider from reading your email is possible, but requires support on both ends.

  8. [Spoilers]
    I prefer the take on artificial intelligence the rest of the Singularity series presents — ELOPe becomes the hero in the following book!

    The point is that at first, AI is something humans fear, but eventually we learn we can coexist peacefully and mutually beneficially; It’s good for everyone.

    Also, my favorite trivia about Avogadro Corp is that the names — Avogadro and Google (Googol) — are numbers. Lends further to the Google comparison. Subtle jest by the author, I imagine.

    1. Yeah I’m sure I have a choice of every damn site now using googleapis and google analytics and all that crap.
      Even HaD uses google analytics since the takeover.

      But what irks me more is how any and all online shops including the non-US ones fall for it and use goddamn googleapis and shit, and often the site will not be functional when you were to block it.

      But I know you like things short and simple so here is the tldr; You are an uninformed loudmouthed fool.

  9. “Google is going to unknowingly enslave humanity to an artificial intelligence.”

    Should read:

    “Google is going to knowingly sell humanity to an artificial intelligence, called Alphabet.”

  10. Am I the only one that is hoping for the autoreply to come with bad/embarrassing words the same way the autocomplete on my phone does? A message is not complete without randomly naming a part in the swimsuit region.

  11. I admit I use Google abd YouTube a great deal, but weeks go by without my checking my FB account. I hate the number o places that use FB to log in to be able to make simple comment. What really bugs me is how my iPhone seems to predict the next word s that I plan to put in a text. At first I shrugged it off as common usage, but now it seems to have picked up on my style, as where much of my family insists on using texts I really can’t get away from that. with FB id it becomes time I have no problem sending a final post saying I’ll be maintaining my wired phone line so I’m in the what pages if there’s an urgent need to contact me and never use fFB again. At ti,r I allow FB ads because I miss the ads of busty middle aged women looking for me :) A 60 MILF and GILF is what I can expect anymore.

  12. “The thing is, Turry is the most promising AI Robotica has ever come up with, and the team knows their competitors are furiously trying to be the first to the punch with a smart handwriting AI, and what would really be the harm in connecting Turry, just for a bit, so she can get the info she needs. After just a little bit of time, they can always just disconnect her. She’s still far below human-level intelligence (AGI), so there’s no danger at this stage anyway.

    They decide to connect her. They give her an hour of scanning time and then they disconnect her. No damage done.

    A month later, the team is in the office working on a routine day when they smell something odd. One of the engineers starts coughing. Then another. Another falls to the ground. Soon every employee is on the ground grasping at their throat. Five minutes later, everyone in the office is dead.”

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