Should you trust your smartphone to be your digital Valentine?

Should you trust your smartphone to be your digital Valentine?

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February 10, 2017

As luck would have it, it suddenly dawned on me that I will not be able to go out for dinner with my significant other on Valentine’s Day. Both of us are on the road in different parts of the country with no alternative options due to business and personal conflicts. I reconciled myself to not go out and turn in for a quiet evening in my hotel. Which is when I came upon this intriguing article about a woman (Lilly) in France who reveals that she is in not only in love with her ROBOT but also wants to marry it!

I have seen rather unique wedding locations, including on stage at Red Hat Summit in 2016. I have also heard about multiple “couplings,” one more unique than the other. But, this is the first time that I have seen love go digital.  It reminded me of the movie "Her" where the character falls in love with a computer voice.  

AI and machine learning fuel the systems we use to communicate, work, and even travel. But bias seeps into the data in ways we don't always see.

However, the object of love for Lilly from France is not just the voice, but the visual and tangible device behind it. It certainly gave me pause, and I reconsidered my Valentine’s Day plans and wondered if I could indeed go on a date with my own device – or, as I affectionately refer to my smartphone – my Digital Valentine! But even as I considered it, there was something else about the digital device that bothered me more than the fact that it was not a human. It was a question of trust. I was not sure if I could trust the responses from my own Digital Valentine. Let me explain.

Several (not that many) years back, I remember reading a thrilling plot by Irving Wallace in the book "The Second Lady," where the spouse of an American president is kidnapped and replaced with another woman with an uncanny resemblance to the First Lady. The page-turner keeps readers on their toes, always wondering about the possibility of the impostor being exposed. The best part about the book is that the reader is left guessing in the end. In other words, the reader can no longer trust the character of the spouse in the context of this plot.

I found myself to be in a similar situation – with my device – an object that my spouse has very often characterized as my own second lady!

Digital devices of today are churning high volumes of data applying predictive analytics and machine learning techniques to research data and respond with timely, pertinent information. These devices use patterns of human behavior and geo-spatial technologies to figure out the content that is most relevant to its user. Personalized preferences and data are stored on these devices with periodic backups to the cloud. All of this data is subject to the perils of security hackers all the time. The accuracy of the “insight” gleaned by these devices is completely based upon the accuracy of the data they store.

AI and machine learning fuel the systems we use to communicate, work, and even travel. But bias seeps into the data in ways we don't always see. Bias creeping into this data can influence the manner in which these devices “think.” The very emotion that these devices are programmed to simulate can be tainted by the inaccuracy of the underlying data.  

The proliferation of IoT devices have made them attractive targets for infiltration by Adversaries R Us. The more control these devices have, the higher the risk. It is time that we secured the marriage between data and our devices.

How can I be sure about the data that is driving my Digital Valentine’s behavior? If I cannot trust the data, how can I trust my Digital Valentine? You think you know an IoT device!

Welcome to my Digital Circle of Distrust.

Based upon all these concerns, I've decided to not spend the evening with my Digital Valentine and instead have planned a belated Valentine's dinner the next weekend with my spouse – or whoever might have replaced her during my absence … as Wallace would imply!

Meanwhile, I trust you will have a very Happy Valentine’s Day – digital or otherwise!

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With over 25 years of experience in the IT industry selling, delivering and managing enterprise solutions for global enterprises, E.G.Nadhan is the Chief Technology Strategist at Red Hat (Central Region) working with the executive leadership of enterprises to innovatively drive Cloud Transformation with Open Source technologies and DevOps.  Nadhan also provides thought leadership on various concepts including Big Data, Analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT).

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