There’s a lot of talk about artificial intelligence lately, some of it kind of scary. Myself, I worry more about the decline of human intelligence than the rise of the machines. Recent news that Facebook AI networks were beginning to converse in a language they invented themselves was not a problem for me. Actually, any evidence of intelligence in my Facebook feed would be welcome.
I’m much more annoyed by machines that speak English. It may be protoplasmic chauvinism, but I don’t like to talk to machines, and I really don’t like it when machines talk back to me. Siri, smart speakers, talking cars, chatbots – no thanks. To misquote the Most Interesting Man in the World. “I don’t always talk, but when I do talk, I prefer to talk with people.” And yelling at the radio doesn’t count; if it ever starts talking back directly to me, it’s time to change my meds.
Moreover, with people, I prefer not to talk through machines. I don’t like the phone; I don’t like Skype – and don’t get me started on webinars. I want to be in the room, even if the other person had garlic for lunch. To put it in machine terms, I want the thickest data feed possible: body language, body odor and all.
There’s no substitute for being present, and a chat is more than stringing words together in the air. The only non-human intelligence I would really enjoy having a conversation with would be a porpoise. Flipper might have something really interesting to say.