A Small ReAIlity Check

Heaven forbid Microsoft should be left behind in the global rush to incorporate AI in everything we use.

At their developers’ conference, they announced a slew of AI-related “advances” we should prepare for in the coming months. Starting, of course, with Windows. “Windows Copilot” will be built into Windows, bringing an AI assistant to everything you do. Shades of Clippy!

I see you’re trying to plagiarize a school assignment from Wikipedia. Would you like me to rewrite it in your style?

Apparently it won’t be limited to Microsoft’s programs, either. It will watch what you do, learn how you typically use all the software on the computer, and offer to lend a hand. “Hey, it looks like you’re trimming your ex out of all your photos. I can help you with that!

I’m curious to see how it interacts with programs that have their own AI components. Adobe, for example, is adding generative AI to Photoshop. Just wait until Clippy 2.0Copilot starts issuing instructions to the AI. Imagine the feedback loops you’ll get as Copilot tries to fine-tune Photoshop’s efforts to match your tastes.

Microsoft is also following Google’s lead when it comes to identifying and tagging AI-generated content. Hopefully their standard will be interoperable with Google’s. We certainly don’t need tagging wars with Bing refusing to indicate that Google-tagged content is AI-created and visa versa.

Other news: Edge is about to get a way to group related tags together in “Workspaces”; once you build a workspace, Edge will generate a table of contents for the group, allowing you to easily jump to what you’re looking for. Handy, especially if you typically have a couple of dozen tabs open at a time, but not exactly groundbreaking: Chrome has had a similar feature for some time now.

Then there are the VR-related changes coming to everybody’s least favorite conferencing software, Teams. Don’t want to go audio-only in a meeting, but don’t want everyone seeing the soup stain on your shirt either? Have no fear: soon you’ll be able to use a 3D avatar to represent yourself as you want to appear–as long as you want to appear as a somewhat plasticized figure with limited facial expressions.

Wait, it gets even better*: if you and everyone else in your group wants, you can break out of the standard meeting grid of video boxes and meet in a virtual environment. Or least your avatars can. Does anyone see a good use for this in the business world? “Hey, let’s save a bunch of money by having a virtual Christmas party this year!” Might have been useful in 2020 or 2021, but it’s hardly going to fly today, what with employers doing their best to force everyone to come back to the office.

* For some values of “better”.

Could be fun in a “play” category. But then, haven’t we had similar, albeit less video-oriented, versions of this since the days of, say, MySpace?

Chalk up another victory for the forces of “gamify everything”.

Seriously, though, AI is unquestionably the flavor of the week. Given current tech industry trends, though, you have to figure that things will shake down soon enough. One or two big names will dominate the field (though whether those names include Google and Microsoft remains to be seen) and all the other companies currently betting big on AI will either fold or turn their attention to the next hot topic.

Random thought*: what I find most interesting about the current state of the AI “revolution” is the way all the companies working on it are going to great pains to disassociate themselves from NSFW applications of the technology.

* And please, let’s not get into the argument over whether that’s good, bad, or indifferent–or the same discussion about porn in general. Thank you.

Consider how many of the technological advances of the last fifty-plus years have been porn-based. VCRs and streaming media are merely the most obvious examples. And yet, today we have every major player explicitly and vociferously turning down porn-derived funding. I can’t help but wonder if that’s going to backfire. A small player who takes smut funding under a “we’re protecting real people from exploitation” tagline might just manage to make the next big breakthrough and take one of those “big name” slots.

You’re always horny on Friday night. I can deepfake a movie of you and [name] so you can get off without having to, y’know, actually do it.