Don’t be Duped by Google Duplex

Adam Feil
2 min readMay 11, 2018
Eliza was fun, but it didn’t really understand you. At least it didn’t use what it learned about you to sell ads.

By now we’ve all seen the Google Duplex demo. It’s neat, but as many have pointed out, it seems to demonstrate a low view of humanity and human to human relationships. I’m not even that optimistic about it. Here’s why.

The Demo was meant to dupe us

Here’s the thing. Technology like Google Duplex is far less valuable and desirable for an individual looking to book a haircut as it is to large companies who don’t want to pay to have humans answer the phone.

Who uses computer automated voice systems today? Comcast and every other large company who doesn’t really want to talk to you. Oh, and those spam phone calls.

Feed the beast (with your data)

How does Google make money? It sells ads. How does it sell ads? It knows a lot about you. What does Google want more than anything? To know you even more.

With Duplex, Google can tap into real-world human communication and the wealth of information contained therein. To Google, the world is divided into two parts — the data that it has, and the data that it doesn’t yet have. Duplex is just the latest offensive to capture what free data remains in the world.

Who needs AdWords when Google can just decide what to buy for you

We all know Google AdWords — it’s how they make all their money. You search for what you want, and the first few options shown to you are given to the highest bidder. It’s all on the up and up because there’s that tiny little box that says “Ad” in the otherwise identical search results.

Just think about the opportunity for Google to not only sell ads but sell products and services through Duplex.

Google, get me a large pepperoni pizza

Ok, I placed an order for you at [Pizza place that just paid $6 to Google]. It will be delivered to you at 7:00 by [Delivery place that just paid $2 to Google].

Would Google go that far? Who knows. But that’s kind of the point. The more of our lives we turn over to a company that is in the business of using the information it collects from us to make money from companies who want to use that information to sells us things, the more it can happen.

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Adam Feil

Educational Psychology Ph.D., business analytics nerd, computer scientist, President @MakeStickers