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Are You Dealing With a Real Person or AI?

By Peter Clarke, JD | Last updated on

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

Perhaps you saw the movie "Ex Machina" a couple years ago. In that movie, a male internet coder was drawn into an unusual experiment, as he engaged with an Artificial Intelligence (AI) being provided in the form of a very attractive female robot. Is this the stuff of science fiction, or are we already dealing with AI, even when we do not know that is the case?

Generally speaking, we hopefully know that we are not dealing with a live human being when we talk to Apple's Siri or when dealing with Amazon's Alexa. However, according to a recent article by Forbes, we often interact with AI unbeknownst to us. For example, we probably do not think about the fact that AI controls Google's searches for answers to our questions, and AI also controls how Gmail and Outlook know which emails to put in our spam folders.

And you probably have received phone calls when the "person" on the other end of the line sounds like a live human, only to realize that you are talking to an AI system with a life-like human voice. Indeed, when we call businesses of various types these days, we first are directed through a number of prompts by automated voices before we might be able to get to a live human.

As the Forbes article points out, a recent study of 6,000 consumers by Pegasystems revealed that when asked the question "have you ever interacted with Artificial Intelligence technology," 34% responded yes, 34% responded no, and 32% said that they did not know. BUT, the actual fact is that 84% had interacted with AI. This means that practically a whopping half of respondents had interacted with AI without having such knowledge. This appears to show how seamless AI has become in our lives.

Is this a good thing? Well, 70% of respondents have a fear of AI, and 25% of respondents even fear that AI might "take over the world."

At this point, AI assists us in various aspects of our lives. Whether AI actually will become a true threat to humans in the future, we might have to stand vigilant to make sure that AI does not become so intelligent that it someday might seek to further its own interests ahead of the interests of humans.

We do not want a situation like in the 1968 movie "2001 A Space Odyssey," when Hal, the artificial brain behind spaceship created by humans, locked the human Dave out of the craft, because Hal feared that Dave was planning to shut down Hal. Was that movie of almost 50 years prescient or just Sci-Fi?

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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