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    • The Atlantic has an interesting long piece about Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri and voice interaction with computers in general. Up until now I've been rather dismissive about the whole subject--I don't have one and don't want one mainly because I'm quite impatient with technology that almost works, but not quite. I'm also mistrustful of the possible privacy invasion, though I suspect that those fears are quite premature at the moment. The curious part is that I have been hoping for decades that we would finally move beyond the WIMP interface to something more like the Star Trek computer. However, this article raises a number of social and psychological issues that hadn't occurred to me. I can't say that it made me more eager to embrace the technology, but it did make me realize that there's more at stake than I thought.

    • I have refused to use Siri, Alexa, or Google or whatever, nor do I allow them in my dwelling ( as far as I can tell at least ). I miss them searching for TV shows for me at times, but I prefer the illusion that I still have some control of my own privacy.

      I quit using Google many years ago, although I do like their maps and use them more than occasisionally because they are so good, effective, etc.

      I was really surprised how able iPhotos is at recognizing people and objects in my images from the image data - not from the text or data associated with the image. Really amazing at times.

      I have reservations about how many folks will handle dealing with robotic friends. The article really brought up many interesting threads. That computers can manage prosody is truly remarkable.

    • That article was quite a find, Richard. There were some profound insights I had never considered.

      Talking to machines gives us a way to reveal shameful feelings without feeling shame.

      I remember being shocked to learn that we would reveal to Google things through our searches we wouldn't tell our wives, therapists or pollsters about our racism. We don't feel the machines judge us.

      Also, the article really brings home the unexpected power of voice, tone and the way you answer if you're a machine and a child asks you about your favorite ice cream.

    • As a tiny reference, something scraped at me in the text and I tried to find what it was, it was a line saying baby boomers don't want to talk to computers. Here's a little something to counter that notion:

    • baby boomers don't want to talk to computers

      I'm a boomer and I would love to talk to my computer, but only when it can understand me and respond as well as another smart human. Perhaps some day, but not today, I think.

    • I understand your sentiment and agree to it to a degree.

      However, as someone who had to learn a foreign language or two, in varying circumstances, I know that a perfectionist approach which manifests as "I won't start talking in that language until I learn it properly" is a recursive fallacy and rarely works, if at all. Inversely, as soon as you start actually talking, certainly making mistakes, possibly embarrassing ones from time to time, you start to rapidly improve and also discover things about the language that you would never ever garner from books or audio courses alone.

      I think this, in a sense, applies to talking with our computers, both ways.

      And then of course there is the standard vicious circle of introducing new technology. Take NFC-enabled smartphones. Nobody wanted to make them, because there were no practical applications, and introducing new technology pipelines and inventory meant squeezing already thin margins. And nobody wanted to create practical applications and install hardware (vending machines, public transport ticket scanners, smart locks, etc) because why bother if there is no critical mass of people equipped with compatible hand terminals (e.g. smartphones). To break out of this stalemate, some parties have had to take a leap.

    • I'm not sure I see the parallel to learning a language. Will Alexa get better if I use it more? I mean personally, not some collective 'we' over generations. Or is the idea that I learn to dumb down my speech so that Alexa understands? In that case I would be unlearning. That might suit Amazon just fine, but what's in it for me?

      I suppose the old adage, 'the pioneers get the arrows but the settlers get the land' applies to me now. I understand that technology develops incrementally, but I paid my dues with many years at the command line. I just want stuff that really works, not stuff that's merely 'getting better,' I'm glad that others are willing to put up with the arrows and hope that one of them sends me a telegram when they succeed. 😉

    You've been invited!