Apple Maps has a new name. Siri. It seems only natural to use Siri’s name on Maps because the voice, as best as I can tell, is the same (one of a few different Siri voices, of course). After a driving trip of a few thousand miles where Siri road side-saddle with Google’s Assistant (from Google Maps) I am convinced we are in no immediate danger from artificial intelligence.
For the most part, Siri managed to guide us through many hundreds of streets, highways, and various turns to reach our vacation destinations. A few times Siri rerouted us through a traffic jam or road construction, and once gave us a backside route I was certain was the wrong way but turned out to be correct (thanks to road construction).
We kept both Siri and Assistant running and most of the time their responses were similar, but a number of times both went wacky. How so?
Once, on the way to Niagara Falls, on the Canadian side, Siri had us take an exit, an overpass, and then requested we stop the car in a gravel parking lot alongside a two-lane highway and declared, “Arrived.”
While the destination entered into Maps was correct, Siri suddenly decided to veer from the route and bring us to a destination about 20 miles from the real location.
Google Assistant had a similar problem with a restaurant that we could see on our side of the highway, but Assistant declared we need to travel to the next light and make a U-turn because of a faulty destination.
If there is to be a generalized fear of such artificial intelligence devices it will be fear of how they screw up on basic requests and destinations as opposed to becoming humankind’s digital overlords.
Artificial intelligence, or AI, is crafted by humans, and we humans are notorious for screwing things up despite the best of intentions. Yes, some AI system will cause problems for individuals and perhaps great swathes of humankind, but I suspect that what we expect of AI will be different than what we get.
We have little to worry about fearing artificial intelligence. Real human intelligence isn’t all that great, either.