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Month: August 2017

Why Voice Assistants Will Give You a Headache (great read via Backchannel / Wired)

“Picture this: It’s evening and, after a long day at the office, you’re finally home. You’re cutting some avocados as you prepare dinner when your voice assistant pipes up and reads you an important email that just came in. Without breaking your chopping stride, you dictate a reply—perfecting your guacamole while preserving your relationship with your boss.

This might sound like heaven to you—or, just as likely, hell. Either way, it’s about to be our reality.

When Amazon introduced Alexa, the tech industry quickly anointed voice as the next big thing. Sure, she was mostly reciting the weather and answering lewd questions from nine-year-old boys, but the future held much more. The rise of voice devices will rewrite the digital playbook in unpredictable ways—including how, when, and whether we have the ability to say, “Enough!” In a time when digital detoxing, unplugging, and disconnecting are widely discussed and even yearned for, voice could turn into the platform you can’t turn off.

As we currently experience them, voice assistants are passive devices. We call their names when we have a question, want to hear some music, or need to set a timer. Otherwise, they sit idle. Having Alexa operate the light switch for you, for example, isn’t a source of psychological stress. But it’s when these assistants begin actively demanding our time and attention that, some experts say, we’ll have a problem on our hands.”

Why Voice Assistants Will Give You a Headache | Backchannel
https://www.wired.com/story/why-voice-assistants-will-give-you-a-headache/
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The age of AI surveillance is here (via QZ.com – made me think)

“Facial recognition in still images and video is already seeping into the real world. Baidu is starting a program where facial recognition is used instead of tickets for events. The venue knows who you are, maybe from a picture you upload or your social media profile, sees your face when you show up and knows if you’re allowed in. Paris tested a similar feature at its Charles de Gaulle airport for a three-month stint this year, following Japan’s pilot program in 2016, though neither have released results of the programs.

US governments are already beginning to use the technology in a limited capacity. Last week the New York department of motor vehicles announced that it had made more than 4,000 arrests using facial recognition technology. Instead of scanning police footage, the software is used to compare new drivers’ license application photos to images already in the database, making it tougher for fraudsters to steal someone’s identity. If state or federal governments expand into deploying facial recognition in public, they will already have a database of more than 50% of American adults from repositories like DMVs. And again, the bigger the dataset, the better the AI.”

The age of AI surveillance is here
https://qz.com/1060606/the-age-of-ai-surveillance-is-here/
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A Country of Fear and Courage: Learnings from Two Years in America – Good SPIEGEL ONLINE story

“Fear, of course, is nothing new in America. It's a country that has always believed that the apocalypse is somehow just around the corner. But the level of fear that has developed in the United States -- both on a smaller and larger scale -- my God! You don't have to look very far to find it. Stores provide anti-bacterial wipes to protect their customers from germs on grocery carts. Parents obsessively coddle their children by driving them to school and picking them up each day. Fences surround playgrounds to prevent anything bad from happening. Alarms to protect classrooms from school shooters are ubiquitous. Hysteria is everywhere on the cable news channels.

A study was released recently about the things Americans fear the most. It includes literally everything. Terrorism and identity theft. Corrupt companies and financial ruin. Tornadoes and adultery. There is an explanation for this. America is no longer winning wars. Other countries suddenly also have a lot of power. Everything has become insanely fast. And the fear of external threats can influence the psyche -- there's no question about that.

There's also a domestic dimension to this fear. Many Americans no longer trust their politicians or the elite. They no longer know what to believe in a situation where the macroeconomic indicators are trending positive but the amount of money that lands in their wallets is getting ever smaller. Many believe they have to take their fate in their own hands. And that can be exhausting.”

A Country of Fear and Courage: What I Learned from Two Years in America - SPIEGEL ONLINE - International
https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/what-two-years-of-living-in-america-taught-me-a-1165557.html
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Why Mercedes’ decision to let its self-driving cars kill pedestrians is probably the right thing to do (says Bloomberg )

In an interview with Car and Driver, the manager of driver assistance systems at Mercedes-Benz Christoph von Hugo has revealed that the company's future autonomous vehicles will always put the driver first. In other words, it would choose to run the child over every time.

Although the fact someone has to make this choice feels uncomfortable, it would be more dangerous if they didn't, because unless a self-driving vehicle is told what to do when a child runs into the road, it won't do anything.

Previously, manufacturers have been quiet about what would happen under these circumstances, until Mercedes-Benz's announcement at the Paris Auto Show this month. According to von Hugo, all of the company's future Level 4 and Level 5 self-driving cars will be programmed with the decision to save the people they carry over anything else.

"If you know you can save at least one person, at least save that one. Save the one in the car," von Hugo said in the interview. "If all you know for sure is that one death can be prevented, then that's your first priority."”

Why Mercedes’ decision to let its self-driving cars kill pedestrians is probably the right thing to do
https://nordic.businessinsider.com/mercedes-benz-self-driving-cars-programmed-save-driver-2016-10/
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Algorithms outdo us. But we still prefer human fallibility | Rafael Behr

“It is the zone of ambiguity and imprecision whose decline Jacobson laments when he warns that Twitter reduces us to a world of statement: “There are many good statements in the world, but much of the best part of thought and conversation isn’t statement, it’s exploration, inquiry, irony.”

It often feels as if the subtlety of analogue experience is being pulverised into platitude by the digital machine. It is easy to conjure fear of enslavement to robots, and maybe resistance is futile Luddism. But maybe also we underestimate old Ned. As testimony to the power of the imagination, he is stubbornly, reassuringly immortal.”

Algorithms outdo us. But we still prefer human fallibility | Rafael Behr
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/23/algorithms-human-fallibility-technology-machines
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Help! My Son Confuses Me With Amazon’s Alexa (TIME read)

“Using a voice assistant to run your home feels beamed-in-from-Star Trek cool, making mundane actions magical. You can voice-toggle your lighting, conjure your favorite Beatles' tunes or have your sprinkler system douse the lawn on command. When I get home from a run, Siri unlocks the door for me. While I'm cooking dinner, Alexa pulls together peppy playlists. In my office, I ask "Okay Google, what's my day like?" and a little Moneypenny on my bookshelf fills me in.

But life with this technology can also be a comedy of ghostly errors. As I write this, an Ed Sheeran song begins randomly playing in my house. I’m home alone. My wife intended to play it in her car, but her Spotify account is linked to our Amazon Echo smart speaker. So instead of playing on her car's audio system, "Castle on the Hill" is blaring in our suburban Portland home.”

Help! My Son Confuses Me With Amazon's Alexa
https://time.com/4906071/alexa-echo-siri-google-home/
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Automation may take our jobs—but it’ll restore our humanity (says x.ai CEO)

“Our very human future

One implication of all this is that for humans to succeed in the AI-powered future, we need to double down on our humanity. Technical skills will no doubt remain important in the future of work, but as AI allows us to automate repetitive tasks across many industries, these will in many cases take a back seat to soft skills. Communication, emotional intelligence, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and cognitive flexibility will become the most sought-after abilities. To prepare for that future, we need to emphasize developing higher-order thinking and emotional skills.

While our formal education system catches up to the shifting definition of human intelligence, here are three basic ideas for improving your prospects in the future of work.

Learn to tell stories. Machines aren’t very good at storytelling beyond rote reports. Telling engaging and creative stories is essential if you want to collaborate effectively with other humans. It can improve your communications in many ways—from reframing a product feature to a customer to selling a new internal KPI for how you measure success. A workshop from an organization like The Story Studio is a great place to start.
Boost your creativity. A lot of people think creativity can’t be learned; you either have it, or you don’t. But that’s not true. Creativity is a process and you can ignite that process and improve your chances of creative results. For example, taking regular, reflective breaks, going for walks, and making time for unstructured play (yes, even for adults!) have been shown to boost creativity.
Learn how to sell. Selling is an inherently human trait, and it’s an incredibly important one. I’m not just talking about selling products, but also how to sell yourself, your ideas, and convincing others to get on board with you. Mastering the basic concepts of sales involves a whole lot of very human qualities: understanding psychology, listening and asking questions, empathizing with others, and finding creative solutions to problems.”

Automation may take our jobs—but it’ll restore our humanity
https://qz.com/1054034/automation-may-take-our-jobs-but-itll-restore-our-humanity/
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How Technology Might Get Out of Control (about the Nash equilibrium’s demise?)

“People use laws, social norms and international agreements to reap the benefits of technology while minimizing undesirable things like environmental damage. In aiming to find such rules of behavior, we often take inspiration from what game theorists call a Nash equilibrium, named after the mathematician and economist John Nash. In game theory, a Nash equilibrium is a set of strategies that, once discovered by a set of players, provides a stable fixed point at which no one has an incentive to depart from their current strategy.

To reach such an equilibrium, the players need to understand the consequences of their own and others' potential actions. During the Cold War, for example, peace among nuclear powers depended on the understanding the any attack would ensure everyone's destruction. Similarly, from local regulations to international law, negotiations can be seen as a gradual exploration of all possible moves to find a stable framework of rules acceptable to everyone, and giving no one an incentive to cheat – because doing so would leave them worse off.

But what if technology becomes so complex and starts evolving so rapidly that humans can’t imagine the consequences of some new action? This is the question that a pair of scientists -- Dimitri Kusnezov of the National Nuclear Security Administration and Wendell Jones, recently retired from Sandia National Labs -- explore in a recent paper. Their unsettling conclusion: The concept of strategic equilibrium as an organizing principle may be nearly obsolete.”

How Technology Might Get Out of Control
https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-08-15/how-technology-might-get-out-of-control
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Things to Hang on Your Mental Mug Tree | Edge.org – some great morsels from Rory Sutherland

“There's a rather lovely company in the UK that pays people who are housebound—whether for medical reasons, or are caregivers—to handwrite envelopes and letters. You could regard this as a very silly thing to do, but in costly signaling theory terms, it makes perfect sense. The open rate of these letters, and the response they generate, is an order of magnitude higher than for laser-printed letters.

Another thing worth bearing in mind is countersignaling, which, unlike signaling, seems to be uniquely human. There aren't cases of peacocks who demonstrate their extraordinary genetic quality by having really shitty tails. What seems to happen with humans is you have multiple parallel status currencies, and quite often you will signal your position on status by adopting none of the status currencies of the class immediately below your own, or by essentially demonstrating zero effort in standard status currencies. An unwashed bass guitarist in a cool rock band, for example, can get away with poor levels of hygiene, which signals: "I'm so sexy by dint of my bass guitar playing skills that I can get away with not making an effort in any of these conventional areas." Sometimes it's done as a positional thing, and sometimes it's done as a pure demonstration of handicap.

Relevance theory [from Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson] might be another thing that's interesting. In other words, replacing the “conduit” idea of communication with this idea that we communicate the minimum necessary for the recipient to recreate the message within their own head using context as a very large part of the information. Those interesting new theories of communication, which don't always sit with the Claude Shannon theories, are worth exploring. A very simple manifestation would be jokes which, like IKEA furniture, demand some self-assembly on the part of the recipient.”

Things to Hang on Your Mental Mug Tree | Edge.org
https://www.edge.org/conversation/rory_sutherland-things-to-hang-on-your-mental-mug-tree
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The key to jobs in the future is not college but compassion – good read

“the truth is, only a tiny percentage of people in the post-industrial world will ever end up working in software engineering, biotechnology or advanced manufacturing. Just as the behemoth machines of the industrial revolution made physical strength less necessary for humans, the information revolution frees us to complement, rather than compete with, the technical competence of computers. Many of the most important jobs of the future will require soft skills, not advanced algebra.”

The key to jobs in the future is not college but compassion – Livia Gershon | Aeon Essays
https://aeon.co/essays/the-key-to-jobs-in-the-future-is-not-college-but-compassion
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This is how Big Oil will die – NewCo Shift (must read)

“It’s 2025, and 800,000 tons of used high strength steel is coming up for auction.

The steel made up the Keystone XL pipeline, finally completed in 2019, two years after the project launched with great fanfare after approval by the Trump administration. The pipeline was built at a cost of about $7 billion, bringing oil from the Canadian tar sands to the US, with a pit stop in the town of Baker, Montana, to pick up US crude from the Bakken formation. At its peak, it carried over 500,000 barrels a day for processing at refineries in Texas and Louisiana.

But in 2025, no one wants the oil.

The Keystone XL will go down as the world’s last great fossil fuels infrastructure project. TransCanada, the pipeline’s operator, charged about $10 per barrel for the transportation services, which means the pipeline extension earned about $5 million per day, or $1.8 billion per year. But after shutting down less than four years into its expected 40 year operational life, it never paid back its costs.”

This is how Big Oil will die – NewCo Shift
https://shift.newco.co/this-is-how-big-oil-will-die-38b843bd4fe0
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Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? Some serious food for thought via The Atlantic

“a generation shaped by the smartphone and by the concomitant rise of social media. I call them iGen. Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet. The Millennials grew up with the web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night. iGen’s oldest members were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced, in 2007, and high-school students when the iPad entered the scene, in 2010. A 2017 survey of more than 5,000 American teens found that three out of four owned an iPhone.

The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of “screen time.” But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone.

To those of us who fondly recall a more analog adolescence, this may seem foreign and troubling. The aim of generational study, however, is not to succumb to nostalgia for the way things used to be; it’s to understand how they are now. Some generational changes are positive, some are negative, and many are both. More comfortable in their bedrooms than in a car or at a party, today’s teens are physically safer than teens have ever been. They’re markedly less likely to get into a car accident and, having less of a taste for alcohol than their predecessors, are less susceptible to drinking’s attendant ills.

Psychologically, however, they are more vulnerable than Millennials were: Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.”

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? - The Atlantic
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/
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Human ingenuity will be the genesis for IoT prosperity: thoughtful piece by Jeanne Beliveau-Dunne (Cisco)

“As business leaders, we must think beyond the fiscal bottom line and technological advances in products and services and ask ourselves, how will IoT affect the communities we operate in and whatwill our role be in readying society and the workforce for this digital phenomenon that is rapidly proliferating? Technology itself has no ethics. It is only when people apply purpose and innovative thinking beyond revenue and profit that we will be able to reap collective benefits and security of the digital world.

We explored this topic in depth at the recent IoT World Forum in London, where renowned futurist Gerd Leonhard provided us a stunning window into the ethics of IoT and the critical role of human ingenuity in designing and shepherding its outcomes. (Watch the replay of Gerd’s keynote, moderated by Cisco’s CMO, Karen Walker: “Beyond Business: A Holistic View of the Societal and Human Impact of IoT.”)

As the IoT World Forum team put its agenda together for an influential community of C-suite executives in London, there was a realization that we needed to address this topic, as provocative (and sobering) as it might be. We recognized that we had to acknowledge the “elephant in the room”: that we are in unchartered territory, as we enter into this new era of exponential change together. When we think about what the implications are of a rapid surge in IoT innovation, we must all collectively consider the potential effects on the geopolitical and global economic landscape (in both advanced and developing nations); on global challenges such as wealth inequality, aging populations, healthcare, and the environment; and on the global workforce. Of course, no one has all the answers, but we must be bold in exploring these issues as a global business community. I will explore this in more depth in my next blog, but I will say that we know we need a global unified approach to succeed. No one can go it alone, and a “head in the sand” mentality is not an option.”

Human ingenuity will be the genesis for IoT prosperity
https://www.cio.com/article/3212868/digital-transformation/human-ingenuity-and-iot-prosperity.html
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