Who Do You Trust?

Who Do You Trust?

“In a shocking finding, scientist discovered a herd of unicorns living in a remote, previously unexplored valley, in the Andes Mountains. Even more surprising to the researchers was the fact that the unicorns spoke perfect English.

The scientist named the population, after their distinctive horn, Ovid’s Unicorn. These four-horned, silver-white unicorns were previously unknown to science.”

Read the rest of this remarkable story here.

Assuming you read the article, how long was it before you started to smell a rat? To be clear, the first two sentences were written by a human being, the rest was generated by GPT-2, an AI trained on 8 billion webpages.

What GPT-2 produces is clearly far from perfect, but it’s good enough to cause a moment of uncertainty. The unicorns – and English-speaking ones at that! – are outrageous enough to trigger scepticism, but imagine a less sensational story. Dodos on a remote island in the Pacific, perhaps? How many of us would have truly believed that story?

I came to this via 99% Invisible, a deeply thoughtful podcast about design and how it impacts our lives. The ELIZA Effect episode looks at whether or not computers will ever be able to use completely ’natural language’. Will there come a point where we will be fooled into thinking we are interacting with another human, rather than a machine? Recent advances suggest those days might be closer than we think.

Our level of trust in machines is gradually evolving. Ten or fifteen years ago, many of us were wary of internet banking – but today, most of us regularly pay for things on our phone. We now trust the machines with our finances. This is true with global businesses, too. While we understand that there are people involved in getting an Amazon order to our front door, we aren’t placing our trust in those people – we trust the Amazon ‘machine’ to deliver our new toaster.

For those of us at the other end of the scale, however, trust in other human beings still lies at the heart of a sustainable business. Through our daily interactions, the trust that flows between ourselves, our team, and our customers is the most important asset we have.

Who do you trust?

And more importantly … who trusts you?