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Big Revolution - 'You don't sound well today...'

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Welcome to Wednesday's Big Revolution. Let's get stuck right in... – Martin
 
October 10 · Issue #227 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Wednesday’s Big Revolution. Let’s get stuck right in…
Martin

Big things you need to know today
  • Google’s hardware event went exactly as expected. The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL phones, the Pixel Slate Chrome OS tablet, and Home Hub smart display all made their official debuts. I was disappointed that they didn’t launch a sequel to the Pixelbook, though. Maybe they’re holding off until Windows dual-boot functionality is ready.
  • Google Pixel phones in four US cities will soon be able to use Duplex, the automated phone call A.I. shown off earlier this year, to book restaurants.
  • The founder of once much-loved productivity app Wunderlist has a new project. After having sold Wunderlist to Microsoft a few years ago, Christian Reber and team are now working on… a Microsoft PowerPoint rival called Pitch.
The big thought
'Sounds like you're sneezing on your keyboard, should I order some antiseptic wipes?' Credit: Piotr Cichosz on Unsplash
‘You don’t sound well today…’
The Washington Post’s A.I. correspondent (he’s a human covering A.I., not the other way around) yesterday tweeted out a patent application from Amazon. The technique they hope to patent is “an Alexa system that can tell when you’re sick (so it can sell you cough drops). Technical description: a voice-processing algorithm that detects when a user’s emotional state is abnormal.”
I thought about this this morning as I snuffled with a cold, asking my Echo to stream my favourite radio station. If Alexa had responded “you sound bunged up – should I order some cough medicine on Prime Now?,” I’d have probably said yes. It might have been delivered to my door by the time I wrote this sentence a couple of hours later.
The obvious response to technology like this is to recoil in horror. But it’s hard not to feel a sense of delight when tech gets something totally right without you asking. Google Photos recently sent me – unprompted – a montage video called 'They Grow Up So Fast,’ showing my daughter as a baby, growing into a toddler over the space of several images. Yes, I was a little creeped out, but it was lovely to watch, too.
The potential for this tech to be used for the wrong purposes is undoubtedly a serious concern. What if Amazon tracked how vulnerable you sounded, and then offered you unbeatable deals on things you didn’t really need when it thought you were most likely to say yes? And what if Google’s tech was sold to law enforcement so they could collect every photo of each of us all ever taken, just in case they needed them as evidence in the future?
That’s why A.I. ethics boards at tech companies are so important, but given how prevalent this kind of tech is becoming, we’re going to have to learn to take the good with the bad. I just hope the bad uses don’t impede the benefits pre-emptive A.I. can offer.
One big read
UK Autodrive: Inside the UK government's weird and wacky self-driving car trials UK Autodrive: Inside the UK government's weird and wacky self-driving car trials
The UK government made a splash three years ago by backing a number of self-driving vehicle tests in various cities. Wired takes a look at how they’re coming along.
One big tweet
Who will buy troubled social media publisher Unilad? £20m would put a price on the reach that the fourth biggest publisher on Facebook has.
Matt Navarra
My Source: Unilad’s administrators had bids from Social Chain Group, Daily Mail, Lad bible, Jungle Creations, and Goat Agency.

Bidding price reached £20million~.

Final bids were submitted today. https://t.co/Ju3ARaSNKJ
9:16 PM - 9 Oct 2018
That’s all for today...
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