“No one is in doubt”.
That’s how the editor-in-chief of the local Danish news site Bornholm.nu, Bjarne Hansen, puts it about Bridget, a presenter, who reads out some of the local Bornholm news. She has long straight dark hair, bright brown eyes and wrinkle-free skin. She is not as pretty as so many other robots who are made to look like women – usually with very full lips and long eyelashes. Bridget is more ordinary. If you just look at a photo of Bridget, you might have doubts about whether she is a machine or a human being. It’s only when she starts reading that you know, because the rhythm is somewhat mechanical and similar to the automatic reading of audio articles that we know from several media websites.
Bornholm.nu was the first among Danish media to introduce a robotic anchor on its website, and it has received a lot of media coverage. A local Social Democratic municipal election candidate has even used Bridget – for advertising purposes – as a “pure gimmick” that made people slap their thighs with laughter, the politician told DR.dk on Monday.
‘Androids’ are robots designed to look like humans. Their purpose is to make people feel something, and in Japan in particular they are playing an increasing role when it comes to loneliness.
In recent years, androids have started to look more and more like humans, and it won’t be many years before it becomes quite difficult for the human race to distinguish between themselves and machines. For that reason alone, we should declare when we use robots that look like humans, especially in positions where we are used to humans sitting.
Bornholm.nu also stated in an article in connection with the introduction of Bridget that it was a robot. But that is not enough. When you watch the videos one by one, there are no declarations that it is a robot. There should be a declaration on every video with both Bridget and with the local paper’s new male android presenter, Jason.
Data ethics is HUMANS first
We probably won’t see a ban on androids or legal requirements that they have square heads, for example. Nor should we expect the state to solve all the technological challenges with regulation, just as we expected with climate for far too many years.
We all have a responsibility to put humans at the centre of all new technology and ensure that the human race is not cheated, manipulated, or worse – loses control of artificial intelligence.
Most of us have chatted to a customer service agent online and been unsure whether we were talking to a human or a machine. Today, if a company wants to be data ethical, it immediately declares that it is a machine, so the human is never in doubt. Nordea and Elgiganten, for example, both do this very well. The same should apply to news companies and their use of robots of all kinds.
Bridget is a first step in what we have in store, when it comes to androids. And when you follow experts’ concerns about artificial intelligence (AI) getting out of hand, you stop laughing at the robots.
Just read ‘Homo Deus’ by Yuval Noah Harari, who fears that AI-powered superhumans will treat us ordinary humans worse than we have treated animals. Or listen to Professor Stuart Russell, AI expert, who stressed in The Guardian on Friday that we humans must remain in control if we want to survive as a race or just avoid being tampered with by artificial intelligence.
Today, Bridget on Bornholm is a gimmick, but we need to be humble and ensure that she remains so, because we will all at some point have doubts about whether we are interacting with humans or machines if we do not get used to the difference being declared. And this is where news media could well take the lead.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator, a wonderfull European alternative to Google Translate.
Picture: From Bornholm.nu