This is dystopian as hell. More so than a hack-prone tool like 23andMe saving your genetic and hereditary data, and then leaking it like a wayward sieve. So, Google – the company that has more data on us than our parents, or the CIA has on your friendly neighborhood weed guy – wants to feed all your data to an AI and let it act as your life's chronicler.
A couple of days ago, Google launched its best AI model called Gemini. It's available in three sizes, with the smallest one running on the Pixel 8 Pro. What next? Project Ellmann. Imagine a chatbot like ChatGPT, give it a more humane nature like Hey Pi, and let it access all your photos and web search history to tell you... about yourself.
Actually, scratch my ruminations. This is how Google itself is pitching the idea:
“Imagine opening ChatGPT but it already knows everything about your life. What would you ask it?”
That's what the secret "Project Ellmann" is all about. According to internal papers seen by CNBC, Google intends to use Gemini AI to cook up a “bird’s-eye” view of a person's life based on data stored on their phone. What data, exactly? All your photos and web search history.
Now, I don't know how far you've dug into the privacy repercussions, but your search history can paint an entire picture of your digital existence. I'm not just talking about your PornHub preferences here, but your shopping kinks, news consumption, professional inclinations, academic roles, activism, and everything else.
Just read this segment from the CNBC report to realize how much control Google seeks with Project Ellmann:
The idea would be to use LLMs like Gemini to ingest search results, spot patterns in a user’s photos, create a chatbot, and “answer previously impossible questions,” according to a copy of a presentation viewed by CNBC. Ellmann’s aim, it states, is to be “Your Life Story Teller.”
Project Ellman has already been demoed internally, but there is no certainty when exactly it will be out. But how invasive Google seeks to get? Here's a presentation quote for the dystopian project:
“We trawl through your photos, looking at their tags and locations to identify a meaningful moment. When we step back and understand your life in its entirety, your overarching story becomes clear.”
Exceeding the bounds of human memory
But the worst is not merely an AI accessing all the stuff on your Google Photos directory. It's reading them contextually, like a human. This is how the CNBC report describes it:
Presenters gave another example of determining one user had recently been to a class reunion. “It’s exactly 10 years since he graduated and is full of faces not seen in 10 years so it’s probably a reunion,” the team inferred in its presentation.
Ellmann also presented a summary of the user’s eating habits, other slides showed. “You seem to enjoy Italian food. There are several photos of pasta dishes, as well as a photo of a pizza.” It also said that the user seemed to enjoy new food because one of their photos had a menu with a dish it didn’t recognize.
Project Ellman is currently in the brainstorming phase. Google, as usual, won't offer any concrete details about it. But the overarching conclusion is that your privacy will soon be at the whims of an AI, nibbling at your personal data and vomiting answers that eerily defy human memory.
Want a taste of just how freakishly smart the Gemini AI is? Have a look at the first two minutes of this video shared by Google chief Sundar Pichai below: