The Wizard of Oz effect
The Intercept reports
that Amazon’s Ring home security products use a team of humans in Ukraine to help spot suspicious activity at owners homes. The humans supplement A.I. that is supposed to do the job but is nowhere near good enough to be reliable.
Ring has been criticised for not being clear that it’s humans doing the work. But that’s the big lie about ‘artificial intelligence’ – all too often there are humans doing work that users might think is entirely automated.
Our expectations – fed by flashy tech company presentations and drooling tech press articles – are that A.I. is so smart now that it can do all sorts of incredible things that in reality require human input to carry out at scale. The marketing has outpaced the technology.
It’s like (spoiler alert for an 80-year-old film!) when the Wizard of Oz – initially thought to be a mysterious and powerful being – is revealed to be a little old man with a fraction of the abilities he claimed to have.
At some point, tech companies are going to have to be straight with us about what’s automation and what’s human-powered. But I can’t help but feel that we’ll feel (aside from concern that strangers are examining our personal data) disillusioned that the world isn’t getting more exciting at the speed we were led to believe it would.