Tag Archives: Google

Manipulation of the ‘filter bubble’

In my previous post, ‘Is Facebook the Real Big Brother’, I talked about Facebook and manipulation. Here, now, is a TED talk from 2011 about the ‘personalisation’ of the internet, and how it locks us in rather than freeing us up.

I have to say I was shocked when I watched this TED talk, especially as Eli Pariser foresaw the problems we’re now facing…6 years ago. I was also shocked because I had no idea that even my searches were being ‘tailored’ for me by Google.

“From human gatekeepers to algorithmic ones.”

When I do a search, I want it to be relevant, yes, but I also want to see what’s out there. I want to choose what I see, because if I can’t see the things that I may not like, I may be manipulated into seeing things that are skewed for someone else’s benefit.

Cambridge Analytics already boasts that:

  • it knows us better than we know ourselves and
  • used that knowledge in both the Trump election and Brexit.

Truth or bullshit?

Given the company’s connection to billionaire software genius Robert Mercer*, and Mercer’s connection to Breitbart and Bannon, I can’t shrug it off as bullshit. But if Trump and Brexit are possible, then Eli Pariser’s filter bubble could turn out to be more like a noose.

My thanks to Honie Briggs for the link to the TED talk.

Meeks

*The Guardian expose is here and you can Google the details to check their validity:

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/26/robert-mercer-breitbart-war-on-media-steve-bannon-donald-trump-nigel-farage

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Natural language processing – or the future of chatbots

Natural language is what we humans use with each other, and it is not always logical and straightforward. That is why we have had to learn to rephrase our queries so Papa Google knows what we mean.

But most people don’t know how to search effectively because they are still stuck in natural language. Hence the rise of chatbots.

For now, chatbots are stupid, irritating pieces of code that work by leading us through a long, tedious process of questions and answers. If this article is right, however, chatbots of the future will use natural language processing [NLP] to work out what we want, and give it to us with the minimum of fuss and bother [on our part]. Machines getting smarter? Or humans dumbing down?

Meeks

 

Chatbots don’t quite understand us yet. We speak and they process our commands. In a chatbot like Yahoo Weather, you ask about the forecast in Seattle and the bot returns an answer. Natural Language Processing or NLP can read what you say and interpret some meaning. You don’t want to know the current temp in…

via Pat.ai chat technology is a step in the right direction — VentureBeat


#Chatbots – and we need them because…?

Okay, all I know about chatbots is what I’ve been reading on Medium lately, and the frustrating experience of ringing my utility company and being forced to answer the STUPID questions of its chatbot.

You know how it goes. You ring and either have to wait forever for the call to be picked up, or the chatbot answers and asks for your account number when all you want is some general information. Grrrr….

So you dig out a utility bill and spit out the account number, knowing full well that if you get through to a real person they will ask you for the number again anyway.

Then the utility company bot asks you to explain the reason for your call. You grit your teeth and try to think of a one or three word description and e.n.u.n.c.i.a.t.e it as clearly as possible while growling in the back of your throat.

What happens next? The chatbot either mishears you, or simply doesn’t have a response for your particular query and asks if you want to speak to a customer service representative…

-face palm-

Do I want to speak to a real, live person? Oh god…

Anyway, if you look at this infographic from Medium, you will see a comparison between a chatbot ‘conversation’ and the same query via a simple Google search:

chatbots vs google

To me, there is no point in carrying on a long, inane Q&A ‘conversation’ with a chatbot when a word or two is all I need to get all the information I need from Papa Google. But am I just being an elitist nerd?

I rather suspect I am. In fact, I rather suspect that most people who regularly use computers are elitist nerds. Why? Because using a computer is actually a lot harder than learning how to use apps on a smartphone. That is why smartphone use has skyrocketed world wide. It is also the reason some pundits believe the days of the desktop [computer] are over. Why pay so much and have to go through such a steep learning curve to do things a smartphone can do so much easier?

There is a part of me that wants to scream that what a smartphone can do is just a fraction of what a ‘proper’ computer can do, but the words barely form before I get a flash of the early 80’s and the emergence of the personal computer. Back then, PCs were much less powerful than mainframes, and I’m sure a lot of old school programmers could not see why everyone couldn’t just learn FORTRAN or something…

So…smartphones may be to the future what PCs were to the past because they are:

  • cheaper,
  • convenient,
  • portable in a real sense,
  • easy to use, and
  • a growth market

But I hope, truly ruly hope that chatbots are just the toddler stage of a technological progression that will end [?] with real voice recognition and real AI support.

Until then, I’ll stick with old school search engines and my antiquated desktop because…I’m an elitist dinosaur with poor eyesight and a pathological hatred of chatbots.

cheers

Meeks


Are you just tapping your pocket, or are you happy to see me?

Google and Levi Strauss are partnering up to produce a fabric that will bring wearable computing [?] out of the realm of sci-fi and into the realm of everyday life.

http://rgscomputing.com/2015/06/04/interview-this-is-google-and-levis-plan-to-redefine-the-clothes-we-wear/

This sounds like a great idea, but I do wonder how it will change our behaviour. Will we walk down the street tapping different parts of our clothing as we access different wearable apps? And how will that affect our perception of body language?

Jane:    “John! Are you listening to me?”

John:    “Of course I am, Darling.”

Jane:    “Then why are you tapping your pocket like that?”

John:    “Tapping? Pocket? Oh, I, um, just had an itch…”

As a baby geek, I do love the idea of wearables but I don’t think I’m ready to incorporate this into my writing just yet. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


OMG – have you seen the Google ARA?

I have never been a huge fan of smart phones, but this …this excites the hell out of me!

It’s quite a long video clip so I’ll give you a very quick summary of what it’s about. Basically, this is the first launch of a new technology that makes the smartphones of the future completely modular, and completely customizable.

So what? you say. Well, imagine that you are a little old lady of 90 who can’t make head nor tail of all this smartphone technology. But she needs some way of making calls, and her family need some way of ensuring she’s ok. They buy one of these ARA phones and put in just two modules – one for making calls, and one that acts like a current SOS device [i.e. it rings for help if the user falls unconscious etc].

Not a little old lady? No problem. You buy an ARA phone and plug in a camera and some high end modules so you can break dance wherever you are.

Not a break-dancer either? A reader perhaps? Easy. Just plug in the basics you need, then plug in an Amazon module that will allow you to comfortably read your favourite books as you commute.

But these are just the things I can think of that would appeal to users. The true beauty of this new technology is that it will throw the hardware development market wide open to every manufacturer in the world. The consequences of that will change the world as we know it.

In fact, it will be similar to the revolution that modularization brought to computers. Wha’?

Back when personal computers were babies, they were very, very expensive because the technology had not been standardized. These days, you can either buy a generic computer off the shelf – say a Dell or whatever. Or you can buy the modules you want and install them yourself, effectively building your very own computer exactly to your specifications. Or …you could do what I do which is to research which modules you want, and the relative quality of each module, then go to a local computer shop and get them to build your new pc for you.

The point is, making pc hardware modular allowed all sorts of manufacturers into the game, and that level of competition brought the price down to the level we have now. Beyond that, however, the true beauty of this technology is that we have no idea where it will go!

I’m guessing Google ARA will develop hand in hand with 3D printing to completely change the way ordinary people interact with technology. And that, my friends, is the stuff of science fiction. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be alive at this turning point in history.:D

Enjoy!

Meeks


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