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How Insensitive

For all that it is a world leader in the field of artificial intelligence, Google doesn’t seem to be applying that all across the board. The particular case I have in mind is the Messages app on Google’s Android operating system. This morning I received a message from a friend saying: “The test was positive”. Given everything we know about 2020, what would you think would be an appropriate response?

For most humans, I don’t expect “Great!”, “That’s good” or a smiley face would be in the list! In many contexts, “positive” is a welcome word but, in 2020 with COVID-19 on our minds, the complete opposite is more likely to be true. I am quite surprised that Google hasn’t at least toned down to a more neutral response. In truth, I rarely use the stock responses anyway but I’d have been mortified if my finger had accidentally hit any of the options I was presented with.

Perhaps this is at least evidence that Google isn’t storing our history of texts. There is a global health crisis as context but my brain was also drawing on the related exchange on Monday when I found out my friend was feeling unwell and was going to take a COVID test (that’s how I ended up preaching yesterday). Or, for those wearing tin foil hats, perhaps they are storing our texts but are clever enough to know that it would give too much away if they revealed that by providing a better selection of options…

That last point is going rather too far but this remains another example of why I am cautious about computers being let loose on tasks that require actual intelligence, like human to human communication.

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