AI makes wallies of us all

As much as we try to embrace all the various wonders of modern technology, we still turn into Danny DeVito’s character as the bitter, resentful father in Matilda whenever we see a news story about artificial intelligence doing something better than us.

Beyond fears surrounding AI taking our jobs and the real existential threat it poses to our species, the most prevalent problem we have with it might be closer to the simple fact that no one likes a smart-arse. And if that’s the case, creators of a robot designed to instantly pick out Waldo in Where’s Wally? books is only going to exacerbate tensions.

But that’s where we are. Looking at a patronising robot built to look like a budget Ikea desk lamp with a limp false human hand on the end of it – honing in on an outdated cartoon icon that makes our film references sound like the latest Kermode and Mayo podcast – as if it’s the most normal thing in the world.

It does it in such a juvenile way, too. There’s no sense of the kind of professionalism you’d want from a machine designed to assist us. It’s all just a game to it, casually flopping its appendage towards Wally with a teacher’s-pet flair akin to Matilda announcing the answer to 13 times 379. Well, sorry, but we’re not interested. Find a time machine and maybe see if someone in 1987 cares.

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