My first reaction upon seeing a recent TV advert for Persona Synthetics, a company which claimed to create an eerily lifelike form of artificial intelligence, involved raised eyebrows, suspicion and a quick scramble for my phone to load up Bing and immediately investigate.
My suspicions were correct – Persona Synthetics was actually just a clever promotion for a new TV series but judging by the response online, I wasn’t the only person who had been caught off-guard by the human-like appearance of the “synths.”
As anyone working in the technology space will tell you, artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the sexiest technologies, and by far one of the most exciting. It has been the subject of endless films, books, articles and TV shows for decades and has been dominating popular culture heavily in recent months. We are also seeing some of this fiction become a reality and experiencing new AI technologies, ranging from intelligent personal assistants which anticipate our needs before we tell them, to household robots which can help us with domestic chores. Whilst we might not be ready (physically or emotionally) for a fully-fledged humanesque AI, it’s not inconceivable that a Persona Synthetics type reality, in some form, may not be too many years away.
So why are we so fascinated with AI and why does it play such a leading role in popular culture at present? Is it because of the possibilities, good and bad, that it presents? Or is it because we can’t really imagine something that will ever be quite as real as us humans?
Either way, the next few months promise more breakthrough AI and multiple possibilities as to what shape or form that will take. As the Persona Synthetics ad suggests, all the signs point to AI arriving stronger and more powerful than the technology we’ve seen before.