Elon Musk Criticizes New Microsoft Feature That Gives PCs ‘Photographic Memory’

Microsoft announced “Recall,” a new feature on Copilot+ for Windows PCs ahead of its Build developer conference, and it is drawing some scathing criticism. With the help of this feature, users may look through a collection of automatically taken screenshots and go back in time in digital history. Tech tycoon Elon Musk, on the other hand, is not fond of it and likens it to a dystopian nightmare.

Musk tweeted, “This is a Black Mirror episode,” in reaction to a video that showed Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talking to The Wall Street Journal about the feature.

Musk is probably alluding to the Black Mirror episode “The Entire History of You,” in which individuals live in a futuristic society and have memory implants that store everything they see and do, enabling them to go back in time whenever they choose.

Microsoft’s Recall works differently, but the underlying concept is similar. Windows silently takes screenshots of all on-screen activity in the background. Later, users can utilize an AI-powered search tool to type in keywords. Recall then analyzes the captured screenshots, pulling up relevant moments from the user’s past computer use. This search goes beyond simple text-based searches, as the AI can also identify relevant images that match the user’s query.

For some, Recall presents a valuable tool for revisiting forgotten information or specific moments they can’t quite recall the name of. However, for others like Musk, the constant recording of everything happening on their computer feels overly intrusive, especially for the sake of a search feature.

“It’s all being done locally,” Nadella assured in the interview, addressing potential privacy concerns. “That’s why Recall works as a magical thing because I can trust it, that it is on my computer.”

Fortunately, Microsoft offers users the option to disable Recall entirely. This can be done through the settings menu by navigating to Privacy & Security > Recall & Snapshots. Here, users can simply turn off the “Save Snapshots” toggle. Additionally, users who want Recall enabled for most activities but not for specific websites can create an exclusion list within the same settings page.

“We are at the very early stages of understanding how our relationship with AI agents should be shaped by us primarily, because that’s the only way to build trust,” Nadella added. “It’s a personal, maybe even spiritual, decision of how we want to [do that].”

Several users have drawn attention to Musk’s criticism’s irony. Ultimately, his own business, Neuralink, is creating brain-computer interfaces that will enable direct brain-machine communication in the future. Neuralink, however, has encountered a unique set of ethical challenges, including as claims of animal mistreatment during the development phase and problems with its threads breaking away from the brain.

Musk has ventured into the realm of AI controversies before. He filed a lawsuit against OpenAI, the AI research business he co-founded, earlier this year. The main focus of the case is how OpenAI allegedly abandoned its initial nonprofit goals in order to pursue a “multibillion-dollar” investment from Microsoft.

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