For years now, there have been people out there working on AI lie detection, trying to enable computers to identify when a human is lying and when they are telling the truth. Today, they are getting remarkably close to making it a reality. While one can see a number of useful applications for such technology, there should be a real concern for the possibility that this single invention could signify the immediate end of our world.
At first, it was thought that the best way to allow machines to identify human deception was to teach them to recognise changes in facial expressions. But then a study was carried out which discovered that people’s ability to identify a lie was greatly improved if they couldn’t actually see the person talking. It seems that looking at the face simply adds mud to the water.
So the tactics changed. Rather than teaching machines to look at faces, they’re now being taught to listen to voices. There are a number of linguistic clues that we subconsciously give off when we lie. Teaching machines to catch these clues enables them to recognise human deception. Quite remarkably, the method also seems to work for the written word.
Such technology has many positive applications. Law enforcement is an obvious one; taking away a crook’s ability to spin a yarn will greatly improve conviction rates. And the sooner we can get rid of the ridiculous polygraph test the better.
And imagine how lie detection would change the world of politics! Here in the UK, it would be just wonderful to place the technology in the Houses of Parliament for PM’s Questions each week, forcing each and every person in there to speak in nothing but truths.
But when we start to think of American politics, the downsides of AI lie detection becoming unnervingly clear.
Let’s talk about Trump. Imagine the state of America, the state of the world even, if Donald Trump was unable to lie and unable to be lied to. It would probably go a little something like this:
Donald takes a state trip to China to talk trades and North Korea. The man is a mouth-breather who says and does mouth-breathery things, offending everyone he comes across (not in that way…although probably in that way, too).
The Chinese, usually such a polite and reserved people, can no longer hide their true feelings about Donald and, when they hit back after his claims that they harbour North Korean terrorists, his ego takes a battering.
Afterwards, back in his hotel room, Donald throws a tantrump (coined it) and his advisors are unable to tell him that he’s a great guy with great ideas and that America is indeed going to be great again, all because they no longer have lies at their disposal.
Donald is getting increasingly upset, and when Melania tells him he’s an awful lover with tiny hands, he completely snaps, grabs his special briefcase, pops the latches and slams his sweaty, orange-streaked palm onto the big, red nuclear button. Bam!
The end of the world as we know it. All because those closest to Trump can no longer lie.
Bullshit, Rhetoric, Reception.
When this technology becomes broadly available, it will first find a home in environments where it is truly useful. But you can’t trust humans to show any kind of restraint and contain the technology to police stations and political houses; it’s inevitable that we will eventually end up in some sort of twisted world where such technology is programmed into glasses frames, or maybe even spliced into our foreheads like some kind of third eye.
And then what happens?
All hell breaks loose; that’s what happens.
Take couples, lovers, as an example, such relationships would crumble because they’d become impossible to maintain.
We tell white lies to everyone all day, especially our partners, just to try and keep the peace or avoid unwanted conflict and upset. More importantly, we tell lies because well over 50% of our personal thoughts are things that should never ever be shared with the world.
Sometimes we lie to help avoid emotional pain. So if we were to live in a world where truth was the only option, it wouldn’t mean we become any less emotionally fragile on the receiving end.
(On that note, just imagine being bombarded, day in day out, with the truth from everybody you speak to. You would have to know, all the times, exactly what people think of you, and how they perceive the world around us. Nobody needs the weight of that truth.)
In a world of no lies, here are a few sentences, relationship tools if you like, that we will never be able to use again:
“No, I’m not pissed off, I’m just tired.” GONE!
“Of course, a weekend in Dorset with your parents sounds great.” GONE!
“I don’t really notice how attractive other people are.” GONE!
“I love you more every single day.” GONE!
That last one assumes that we live in a world where, while robots have indeed evolved to recognise lies, they haven’t yet learned to differentiate between deception and the common rhetoric of love.
While we all understand that such a sentence is really just common relationship parlance (for levels of love to increase in accordance with passing hours is logically impossible), it still wouldn’t feel great if your partner said to you, “I love you more every single day”, only to have Alexa shout, “No he bloody doesn’t! It’s a lie!” from her spot upon the mantlepiece.
If somehow we survive all this, avoiding a purge and nuclear war, and settle into the new environment of everyday honesty, what then?
Think how many times you lie each day; from polite compliments to excuses for extended lunch breaks. And think how difficult it will be to create a machine that can tell the difference between bullshit, rhetoric and deception. Until then, in my opinion, the innovation is worthless.
For these simple reasons, I beg that humans find it within themselves to contain AI lie detection to those situations in which such capabilities will work to benefit the human race and avoid the temptation to make it part of everyday lives.
Besides, I think I can guess what we’d learn if it did seep into normality, if getting away with lies really did become impossible:
Greed drives everything; lust is mentally overwhelming; everyone’s a sociopath; size does matter; yes, you fart in your sleep; the truth is overrated.