…or perhaps not naming digital assistants would be better.
The weather was glorious in the UK on Easter Monday, breaking the record for the warmest Easter on record. The whole country went out to the beach, local parks, stately homes and other visitor attractions and as a dad with two young ‘uns, I inevitably ended up in a children’s playground watching over swings, slides and the odd scrape. It was a happy family moment.
And then I heard a voice going, “Alexa, Alexa!” At first, I thought was someone talking to the app on their phone but then I realised this was a mother calling her toddler daughter. OMG! What were they thinking?
Now it’s easy to criticise the parents for their choice of name but perhaps Alexa was their favourite for years and then it got hijacked by an uncaring Silicon Valley giant.
There’s another point here and I feel slightly vindicated. My Amazon Echo is programmed to respond to “Computer”, not because I’m a Star Trek geek, but because I’m concerned about the anthropomorphism of technology – that’s making something seem human when it’s not.
The issue is how we treat machines compared to people and I think it’s particularly relevant when all of the digital assistants – Alexa, Siri and Cortana – speak with a female voice. How many of us have shouted “Alexa, shut up!” when it blurts out irrelevant nonsense, and I’ve heard “Stupid woman” addressed to an in-car GPS asking for u-turn on motorway. I’m concerned that these abusive behaviours will cross over into real life, as it were. Will boys think that it’s ok to yell “Shut up!” at girls?
This problem is only going get worse as the assistants become smarter and robots more life-like. Machines should be thought of as the tools they are. We need to consider the future consequences of pretending that they are more.
Photo by Grant Ritchie on Unsplash
President Donald Trump has signed an Executive Order on Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence.
Reuters summarized it as “an executive order asking federal government agencies to dedicate more resources and investment into research, promotion and training on artificial intelligence, known as AI.” Reuters pointed out that there was no specific funding announced for the initiative.
According to Reuters:
AI and deep machine learning raise ethical concerns about control, privacy, cybersecurity, and is set to trigger job displacements across industries and companies experts say.
The executive order comes after the White House held a meeting on AI in May with more than 30 major companies including Ford Motor Co., Boeing Co., Amazon.com, Inc., and Microsoft Corp.
Personally, this makes me feel uncomfortable. I’ve no idea what these companies (and others like them) will spend on replacing their current systems with AI – but I suspect it will cost them less than paying a human worker to do the same job. Robots and AI systems don’t need sick days, or health insurance coverage, or raises.
The executive order appears to require grants for training programs in high school, undergraduate programs, graduate fellowship, and alternative education. It does not include any AI training for people who are currently working in industries that are likely to invest in AI.
American workers now have to worry not only about robots coming to take their jobs, but also being replaced by AI.
Voice-activated digital assistant devices have become somewhat commonplace in recent years, with the most well-known being developed by Amazon, Google, and Apple. These assistants can be good for getting help with basic tasks. But we’ve all had disappointing experiences with these platforms where it just felt like they weren’t “smart” enough to do what we wanted.
Todd met with Frank of Titan AI. Frank talked about his company’s up-and-coming “AI companion” device that can do much more than just turn on the lights or order a pizza. Titan’s device uses both voice recognition and visual cues (courtesy of its built-in camera) to determine a user’s mood. Come home from a rough day at the office? Titan might suggest entertainment options that’ll put you in a better place of mind.
Pricing is not yet available for Titan’s AI device. It is expected to go on sale between the third and fourth quarters of 2018.
Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.
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At CES 2018, autoaid will be showing off the new Automotive Bulb Camera, combining a high resolution camera and car headlight into standard H7 and H4 lamp fittings. Consequently the camera system can be retrofitted to the vast majority of cars on the road, avoiding expensive specialist redesigns or clunky dashboard attachments. The Berlin-based startup expects the cameras to record traffic video for the training and development of autonomous driving systems. In addition the camera can provide real-time data to in-car driving assistance systems.
Aiming at developers of autonomous driving systems, the autoaid Automotive Bulb Camera is a high-resolution camera which is integrated into a halogen or LED automotive lamp using standard fittings. There’s no need to change anything in the headlight itself and the car still looks like a standard model. The camera communicates with autoaid’s new telematics platform, recording video and joining other driving information, such as steering, acceleration, braking, location, to the dataset. This is passed onto autoaid’s servers, which then uses object recognition to pick out vehicles, traffic lights, signs and so on. This detailed information on driver behaviour can be used to training autonomous systems. For car buyers, the solution also offers attractive driving aids such as a lane-keeping assistant or a collision warning system.
Moritz Funk, founder and CEO of autoaid, sums up the benefits: “The Automotive Bulb Camera can be retrofitted into virtually all vehicles more easily and seamlessly than any other prior
camera. Without visible changes to the car, new assistance systems are enabled for the end customers, while the industry is provided with the urgently needed data pool for the further development of autonomous driving.”
If you want to know more, autoaid are at booth 2401 at CES 2018 or watch the video below.
Much as the steam engine ushered in the Industrial Revolution, A.I. and intelligent machines will bring unimaginable change to the latter part of the 21st Century. Visionaries suggest that A.I. is more Pandora’s Box than Prometheus’ stolen fire, with many jobs likely to be consigned to the history books and it’s already clear that the transport industry is going to require far fewer people.
It’s not all doom-and-gloom though. Pushing back against the “A.I. equals job losses” trend, a recent study by Oneserve, a field service management company, suggests that UK-based manufacturing industries that take advantage of A.I. could boost productivity by the equivalent of nearly 7 days production per annum. That might not sound like much – it’s an increase of 2.5% – but when dealing with companies that turnover millions, it’s a healthy extra margin.
It’s still early days, though. The survey asked the management of manufacturing companies about A.I. and their responses were interesting. Of the senior business leaders consulted, 93% said their workforce would be more productive as a direct result of moving towards A.I.-enabled systems….but the research also found there is a concerning lack of understanding around A.I. in the industry. Seven out of ten (72%) senior decision makers who took part said A.I. is important to the future of manufacturing, yet 67% also said the benefits are not clear.
Ideally, there’s opportunities for A.I. to reduce machine downtime, manage resources efficiently, and improve customer relations, all based on historical data analysis rather than guesstimates. The attached infographic (courtesy Oneserve) shows the impact of machine downtime in manufacturing and while the infographic is an oversimplification of the impact, the problem is still significant. Let’s hope A.I. can help keep the machines running, increase productivity and keep people in jobs.
Time to mix it up a bit to keep things interesting. Watch and see :) Lots of great commentary tonight. Times are a changing and it is going to be an amazing time to watch it all go down. I will be on the road for the next two weeks, will likely have guest hosts for the next two shows enjoy.
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