The hell of a future where Alexa's algorithms outperform humans

A new short film explores what it'll really be like when a machine tells you what to do and how to live. It's ugly.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer
Alexa as the first AI president? But of course. (Screenshot by ZDNet)

It's already started.

In subtle -- and some less than subtle -- ways, machines are already dictating how how we communicate and how we work.

Why, they're even encouraging us to send silly pictures instead of words.

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What happens, though, when the machine is simply smarter than you? All the time. 

It thinks for itself, so that you don't have to and it tells you what to do and how to feel.

A short film by Leap Motion's creative director Keiichi Matsuda offers a tiny window into your windowless hell.

A woman is sitting at her desk. She has a glorious view through her window. A fake view, of course. This is there, presumably, just to lift he spirits and help her focus on being productive.

"Start your day with exercise. This increases concentration and contributes to your general well-being," says the Alexa-style voice that seems to be her minder/conscience/boss/dictator.

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But the woman is already at her desk. How can she possibly exercise? And how can she possibly contribute to her general well-being when the headline on her online news source reads: "WHY ALEXA MUST BE THE FIRST AI PRESIDENT."

How does this woman -- some sort of consultant -- ever get any work done? The Alexa-style voice continues talking into the woman's head all the time.

Sample: "Try to stay in a positive mindset. Advising small businesses in this economic climate can be hard. Emotionally."

Our tragic heroine talks to (what may be) a shrink who oozes a meaningless soothe. She wants to accept that machines and humans are now one. Or, rather, that machines have taken over humans and the latter might just as well deal with it.

Yet she's invaded by pesky nostalgia.

"Things were so much simpler when people ran the corporations," she muses. "But, at some point, the algorithms just became better at it."

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As the algorithms became more complex, they became more powerful and more opaque.

"The truth is, no one knows what's going on," she admits.

She desperately tries to keep up. She doesn't have time to eat. Dating is a disaster. She surely knows that she'll soon be obsolete.

The only hope she has is to "understand the network." Some hope. Still, she wants to get to the "other side" to find out what's there and how it all works.

No, it doesn't seem like a happy future, does it? You keep on producing and the algorithm keeps on laughing at you. You're just not smart enough, which means you're just not good enough. Which means you'll soon be entirely expendable.

Matsuda's touching expression of nightmare isn't the only one to have recently entered the world.

Filmmakers John Carlucci and Brandon LaGanke offered their chilling version of what happens when so-called smart speakers begin to get too smart for the families who bought them.

The speakers speak on every subject, parenting including. They always know better, which leaves the humans objectified and numb.

Of course, those creating these algorithms at the likes of Amazon and Google ask merely for our trust. Our complete and total trust, that is.

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Their hearts are in the right place, they say, even if their minds have no clue what consequences their work may have on society.

Their engineering skills compel them to create these machines, ones that (supposedly) make human life easier.

And even if, one day, humans want to pull the plug on this mindless experiment, they'll probably be too lazy, tired or numb to do it.

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