Google's lovely Super Bowl ad shows how sad the future will be

During the Super Bowl, Google expects you to cry, as well as marveling what its AI can do. I'm experiencing another emotion.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributor on

Hey Google, when will my kids come visit?

Screenshot by ZDNet

Everybody's crying.

In the first few hours after Google released its Super Bowl ad, more than a million people watched it and shed tears. Well, if you believe the comments on YouTube at least.

Sample: "Me: ugh an ad, watches reguardless. Also me after watching: bawling my eyes out that was beautiful and heartbreaking. Bravo."

Bravo, indeed. Here we have the story of an older man missing his -- we assume -- now deceased wife, Loretta. He Googles "How To Not Forget."

The answer, of course, is to commit your every moment to Google's artificial intelligence. Preferably as they're happening.

I apologize for that bout of realpolitik. Back to the ad. Google helps our grandpa by showing him photos of him and Loretta, as well as helping him to remember their favorite movie, her favorite flowers and other personal details.

Having been able to witness all these things, as his memory begins to fade, Grandpa concludes he's the luckiest man in the world.

How can one not be transported to tears after something so beautifully executed? Not that tears are necessarily what you want to be experiencing during an NFL game, but still. The whole thing is deeply poignant.

Then again, this beguiling tale has some small print. Google is kind enough to lay some of this out on YouTube, in a manner that's at least slightly more understandable than, say, its privacy policies have been for the last decade.

So, for Google's Assistant to bring up your photos, remember to "make sure you and your favorite people are tagged in your Google Photos."

Can you imagine if you forget? Some of your favorite photos might be buried. No matter. Let's move on. Next, Google explains, you have to remember to tell the Assistant what to remember. "Then," says Google, "to see everything you've asked the Assistant to remember, just say, 'Hey Google, what did I tell you to remember?'"

Also: Patriots vs Rams: How to stream Super Bowl 2019 online 

OK, I'll try to remember that.

Then there are the instructions for Google showing you photos from, say, your anniversary: "To see photos from a wedding, anniversary, birthday, or graduation, you'll need a Google Photos account, and you'll also need to tell your Assistant the specific date. Just say something like, 'Hey Google, remember my anniversary is May 18th' or 'remember Mark's birthday is March 30th.'"

Are you getting the impression that, in retirement, your job will be full-time Google programmer? If you don't remember to program your whole life into your machine, what will become of you? This feels like a daily update to your insurance policy.

Through all your Super Bowl tears, Google has some more, very detailed instructions. If you want it to know your favorite movie, that is: "First, tell your Google Assistant what your favorite movie is by saying, 'Hey Google, our favorite movie is Casablanca.' Once you've purchased your favorite movie on Google Play Movies or YouTube, all you have to say is, 'Hey Google, play our favorite movie' and the movie will start playing."

Oh, you have to give Google money?

Please, I don't want to stop you from bathing in this pathos. It really is very clever. I wonder, though, how many people will look at this ad, weep and then, a couple of days later, ask themselves why they keep on weeping.

Could it be that here we have an older man who seems to have no one else to talk to but a machine? After all, many believe that one of the great future uses of robots will be to look after seniors.

Who wants to end their life that way?

Now I'm crying.

Humans vs. Robots, which species is winning?


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