September 19, 2019

Make Way for the Surveillance State

“Amazon Echo, released in 2014, introduced voice software into the home, quickly followed by Google Home, Apples’s HomePod and other generic smart speakers. In fact, the researcher Canalys, suggests 78 million smart speakers were sold last year. And don’t forget the millions of people who use digital assistants on their smartphones and tablets.

All voice processing devices are pretty much the same across all brands. So, if we talk about one brand you can be sure it applies to all.

Amazon’s Echo has a virtual persona called Alexa that continually records audio while waiting to hear her ‘wake word’. Because Alexa has to listen to regional dialects and different languages, it often mishears the question. It’s then up to a human annotator to flag misunderstood words or phrases and actually specify their meaning. At the present stage in voice software technology, there’s no other way of teaching neural networks.

Apparently, only company employees and subcontractors hear the recordings, and when challenged the official response is usually similar to this email from Amazon to Bloomberg.com.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Picks

"Blackface. I’ve been writing about, and researching – and opposing – racism for more than thirty years. And make no mistake: blackface isn’t funny. It’s racist. Ask Megyn Kelly. A year ago, the former Fox News star was filming a segment about..."

"Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s “selfie line” may be a “political phenomenon,” according to CNN, but it’s also a misnomer, twice over: The photos that supporters end up with aren’t technically selfies—campaign aides snap them—and no one waits in a line..."

"In the archives of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, there is an old postcard from the city aquarium of a large sea turtle with four boys straddling its back. The turtle lies flattened upon a pathway in front of a fence. At the feet..."

"As we celebrated my granddaughter’s third birthday this summer, I made the following rough calculation: I’d trekked from my home in New Jersey to her Brooklyn apartment roughly 150 times to provide once-a-week day care, plus other times as needed."

"That seems to be the emerging bipartisan consensus. “On the evidence we have, the meritocratic ideal ends up being just as undemocratic as the old emphasis on inheritance and tradition,” writes New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. “Our..."

"It was the 2019 Pet Sematary that finally broke me. Was this really necessary? I seethed in a theater earlier this year, at a loss for why anyone would green light a self-serious update to a 30-year-old so-bad-it's-good movie. "Update," even, was.."

"Tuesday was election day in Israel. But no winner has yet been declared. As of this writing, it appears that the parties committed to supporting Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister will not win a majority in Knesset. At the same time, the..."

"The last time Netflix asked me “Are you still watching?” I had to think really hard about it. Was I still watching? Or at least enough to make my $16-a-month payment worth it? The subscription economy can be a wonderful thing. We don’t have to..."