THE other day I came across an ad from a new company that has developed an artificial intelligence solution which sends out and responds to emails and messages, posing as a human sales representative. The company seems to be getting off to a good start and there is a lot of interest in the service. It’s not surprising, as there’s a lot to be gained from such automation.
This is just one example of an area where such solutions are starting to gain a foothold. Soon it will be common for people to let artificial intelligence not only write and answer emails and other messages in their own name, but also to imitate their own voice in phone calls and both their voice, face and body in remote meetings. This way it will be possible to multiply one’s own output by copying oneself.
Imitations powered by Large Language Models are of a different nature from those we have known so far, because the models are capable of imitating the writing style, and for that matter the speech, of individuals, and it is easy to feed them with enough information to make the imitation credible. At first, such imitations will be used primarily for work-related purposes, but that will change quickly. Before long, we can expect them to be used for personal communication also.
The problem is that those of us who use the technology in this way may soon lose the overview of exactly what has been said and done in our name and what information has been received by our AI imitations. But as an individual’s self-image and the image others have of them are to a great extent based on communication with others and on the memory of this communication, the temptation to copy ourselves is probably one of the greatest threats we face from artificial intelligence. This temptation can indeed in a very short time cause us to lose control of our own lives, lose sight of who we are.
There is little or no chance that legislation or regulation will prevent this development. The technology is here to stay, the temptation to use it is too strong, the benefits too great for us to let it be. Those who manage to use these possibilities in a controlled way will fare better, just like those able to take advantage of other opportunities to improve their own skills and performance that artificial intelligence offers. But many more will be worse off, those who lose control over their own lives, gradually merging with their own imitations.
It is only ourselves who can prevent this, each and every one of us. To do so, we must understand the technology and the opportunities and threats it brings. But that’s not enough. To stay in control, we must actively strengthen our own awareness of what matters to us and our own ability to think clearly. And we must start right away.
This article appeared in The Edge of Reason on January 30, 2024, and is republished by kind permission.