On My Mind// Has AI Gone Too Far?

The possibility of a robotic companion is coming more into reality with the unveiling of the Neon.


Haley Wernz, Reporter

Earlier this month, it was announced at the Las Vegas CES tech show that Star Labs (backed by Samsung) is creating a new form of artificial intelligence (AI) called the Neon. In the CES presentation, they showed examples of a yoga instructor, a news anchor, and a financial advisor, which were given names like Frank and Hana. In theory, having the Neon at home should be like Alexa or Siri but for specific tasks, like teaching you how to play an instrument. It isn’t as all-knowing as a Google search; it’s supposed to be your friend.

However, the actual working Neon showed at the show was less than perfect– the tech used to answer questions was glitchy and was unable to answer onlooker questions accurately despite being worked on the sidelines through an app. Star Lab’s CEO, Pranav Mistry, says that the Neon is “just a baby right now,” with no real intelligence capacity but the fact that the idea of the Neon is even possible is still wild. You shouldn’t be able to create an entire person, that’s not possible (yet).

Artificial intelligence isn’t anything new. The software company IBM created a question-answering AI in 2010 called Watson that was able to be a contestant on Jeopardy! and win in 2011. AI has been a part of our lives for years. Remember when Cleverbot was cool in 2011? It was preceded by Jabberwocky, which was created in 1985 and completed in 1997. There was even a 2016 Microsoft programmed Twitter-based chatbot called Tay, which was discontinued the same year after user interaction turned it into a Nazi and a racist. AI is influenced by the people who use it since it is based on human interaction, which shows that they are intelligent, yes, but it also shows that they wouldn’t be able to have any real human morals. They wouldn’t be able to empathize unless programmed to. 

We’ve had all sorts of media telling us that intelligent robots are absolutely NOT a good idea. Did Arnold Swartzeneger (Terminator) teach us nothing? Detroit: Become Human, a game released in 2018 and produced by Sony, is about the idea of an AI uprising after having Neon-esque robots do tasks for you is as commonplace as saying, “Alexa, turn on the lights.” On the other hand, there are movies like Big Hero 6 that show the benefits of robots as healthcare assistants (and superheroes). Having robots for specific tasks in the home is fine, and have been used to assist the disabled and elderly (remember when a robot did surgery on a grape? Classic!). But the Neon was presented as something you could befriend and form relationships with, like a person… Remember the movie Her (2013)?  Why would you ever want your robotic assistant to think for themselves?

  If the Neon really does become a real, tangible thing, no one knows what it could be capable of. In the CES presentation, the Neon was presented as a video of a “person”, which isn’t as invasive and weird as if it were a physical robot you could touch. It’s still an eerie, uncanny valley feeling. It’s a person you can talk to and connect with, but never touch.

Even people like Bill Gates consider the idea of AI as “promising but dangerous,” probably with good reason. Elon Musk says that “we should be careful about the advancement of AI,” and compared it to “summoning the devil,” according to Vox. Even so, what do we really know? For now, it’s not a thing. It’s not something to be worried about now because it’s the future’s problem. We don’t currently have the technology, so there’s nothing to be worried about… yet.