The little robot was programmed to do one thing – to keep things clean. He had his morning rituals and then he set off to do his thankless job. He was a cleaning robot, and so he swept up garbage, compacted it and turned it into cubes. After the end of the working day, he would head home and get ready to do it all again the next day. This went on for a very long time. One day, something changed. A visitor appeared and changed the little robots life. To make a long story short, he ended up leaving his planet and found himself on a spaceship. On that spaceship were people, except they weren’t people. They were humans, but they didn’t interact with each other face to face – only by screen. They lived in flying chairs and had the food pushed into their faces. If they had any questions, which they rarely did, they asked the magic screen in front them and the answer was given. In fact, the people never have to worry about anything at all, since the wise and all-knowing computer takes care of everything for them. If this plot sounds familiar, that is because this is from the classic children’s movie WALL-E. And while the dystopia portrayed in the movie looks cute and very futuristically neon, it should be realized that it is a dystopia nonetheless, and that we are already half way there, or are we?
The Washington Post ran a story that noted — “Toy giant Mattel recently announced the birth of Aristotle, a home baby monitor launching this summer that “comforts, teaches and entertains” using AI from Microsoft. As children get older, they can ask or answer questions. The company says, “Aristotle was specifically designed to grow up with a child.” That’s right. For all of you too busy parents, this is a computer that will watch over your children for you! No more will you be shackled by the constraints of listening to the same question being asked- again and again!
The article goes on to justify “the more tech-the more better” parenting approach when it noted — “Today’s children will be shaped by AI much like their grandparents were shaped by new devices called television.” Of course, TV didn’t talk to you, but that aside, it goes on to note that — “Boosters of the technology say kids typically learn to acquire information using the prevailing technology of the moment — from the library card catalogue, to Google, to brief conversations with friendly, all-knowing voices.” So, there you have it. Like it or not, the modern day technological oracles are here to stay, right?
In fact, the article continues by noting that — “In 2012, University of Washington researchers published results of a study involving 90 children interacting with a life-size robot named Robovie. Most kids thought Robovie had “mental states” and was a “social being.” When Robovie was shoved into a closet, more than half felt it wasn’t fair.” Strange, right? It’s not as if the actual designers of the robot with big eyes, round pleasing features and a cute aesthetic knew what they were doing when they designed the robots physical appearance? And it is not as if those who had a Tamagotchi back in the 90s felt any less sad when their virtual pet died as well. Heck, listen as some motorheads about their babies, and more than likely, they will come back with specific names for their favorite cars and what brand of polish or type of gasoline she likes the most. Emotions and attaching ourselves to those around us are what make people, people, after all.
Anthromorphics aside, or the idea of attributing human characteristics to an object, there are other problems that are associated with this type of computing. Once again, we can read that — “ Naomi S. Baron, an American University linguist who studies digital communication, is among those who wonder whether the devices, even as they get smarter, will push children to value simplistic language — and simplistic inquiries — over nuance and complex questions.” Of course, the article was being diplomatic, but just try to have a conversation with anyone under the age of 30. Good luck with that! It is probably better just to send a text and use simple language, since as the Daily Mail wrote back in 2013 — “Mobile users can't leave their phone alone for six minutes and check it up to 150 times a day”. Crazy, right? In fact, to go one step further, you don’t even have to use language to communicate on the phones anymore. All you have to do is use emojis, which are basically little pictures that say everything and nothing, at the same time. Isn’t technology great?
The big story of the week kicked off on Sunday, when US President Donald Trump accused the former President Barak Obama of wiretapping him during the presidential elections. Of course, it was denied, with mainstream media not only shouting the most, but the loudest. However, a curious thing was pointed out when looking back, the NY Times themselves ran an article in January headlined —“Wiretapped Data Used in Inquiry of Trump Aides”. That’s right. Wiretapped, as in, someone was listening, and while that story has yet to be fleshed out, another interesting thing happened- apparently, it was wrong, and as WND reported — “The Times changed its headline from “Wiretapped data used in inquiry of Trump aides” to “Intercepted Russian communications part of inquiry into Trump associates.” Because, as we all know, or should know by now, — Russia!
The second big story this week came from Wikileaks. Apparently, conspiracy theory has once again been proven to be conspira-fact. TVs are listening to you, phones can be pawned and yes, cars can be taken over and controlled remotely. It seems as if Big Brother is alive and well. As Edward Snowden once said- "A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all." Oh, and the neatest revelation? Well, as the Daily Mail reports — “With the CIA's ability to 'breach almost anything connected to the internet' made public, many citizens have begun questioning their devices. A clip has surfaced showing an anonymous woman asking Amazon's Alexa a series of questions — starting with 'would you lie to me' and finishing with 'Alexa, are you connected to the CIA?' The virtual assistant swiftly responded to the first question, but shutdown after it was interrogated about its connections with the US government agency.” Curious, right?
So, what do you think dear listeners — “Is Alexa connected to the CIA?”
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