In January, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that his “personal growth challenge” for 2016 would be to build Jarvis an AI system to run his home.
Previously, Zuckerberg has challenged himself to learn Mandarin (2010), only eat meat he butchered himself (2011), code every day (2012), meet someone new every day (2013), write a thank-you note every day (2014) and read a book every other week (2015).
This year’s challenge, however, might actually lead to something that can benefit us all, depending on how much of your privacy you’re willing to relinquish in the name of innovation.
On Tuesday morning, Zuckerberg unveiled the result of a year spent writing code to optimize the performance of his domicile in the form of a video humorously demonstrating some of the AI system’s capabilities. It is a bizarre video, to say the least, one in which Zuckerberg comes off looking more artificial than the system he created, which he calls Jarvis.
We see Zuckerberg wake up and address his helpful new friend, who is voiced by Morgan Freeman. Jarvis then assists Zuckerberg as he goes about his day, telling him the weather and making him toast and giving his parents access to his house after they smile into a camera on his porch.
Zuckerberg’s awkwardness throughout the two-minute video is overpowering. It’s hard to understand how someone with such a wealth of public speaking experience could be so stiff and, frankly, inhuman in front of the camera. Every mannerism is robotic and contrived, from his bulging eyes, to his creepy grin, to the way he eats toast. He even makes an attempt to roast Nickelback, asking Jarvis to play one of their good songs, only for the AI to come up empty. Never has the Canadian rock band been so sympathetic.
Zuckerberg’s weirdness aside, the AI system displayed in the video is intriguing, if not creepy in itself. Who wants an abstract, all-knowing robot with the voice of an old man to be in the bedroom with them when they wake up? Who wants their face to be recognized every time they ring someone’s doorbell? Yes, these things would create certain efficiencies in how we live our day-to-day lives, but it also paints a frightening portrait of a world without any real privacy, which is seeming more and more inevitable. Robot Zuckerberg might welcome it with open appendages, but the rest of us might not be quite there yet.