Big Brother is Listening, So is Alexa, Echo, Siri, and Google Home!

This post is not meant to make you worry about all your digital assistants, but I guess the best advice is just to remind yourself that “somebody” or “something” else may be listening. But who really cares about all my mundane conversations in the privacy of my own home or someone else’s? Personally, I don’t have any state secrets to share, but it all does seem a little spooky to me. The again, why would you share you secrets with a talking machine?

Danny Hakim, in NY Times Sunday edition, put it this way: “At least I can take comfort that I’m not the only one who wonders about these things. In the past three years, the Better Business Bureau told me that it had received 9,876 complaints about Amazon.com. Seventy-nine were related to the Echo speaker, which features Alexa, and just a single one of these complaints mentioned privacy concerns.”

So why should I worry? Let’s face it, we may all be living in an era when our lives are an “open book,” or at least those parts we share with our digital assistants!

Ray Myers

P.S. Please have a look at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India

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Doing It All Virtually

Now we all know that Siri is a very smart piece of artificial intelligence (AI), but have you heard about Viv?  She (I think that’s the voice gender, or maybe you can choose) is even smarter.  Her creators like to call her a virtual assistant more than simple piece of AI.  For the past four years the same people who brought you Siri have been working on creating Viv.  She who will do more than just give you requested information.  Using simple voice commands, she will actually do things for you, like ordering a pizza delivered to your doorstep.  Please don’t ask me why ordering a pizza is the most critical task in assessing the performance of a virtual assistant.  I guess you just get hungry putting all those pieces of code together?

In all fairness, Viv has moved on from ordering pizza.  She can order a car, flowers, turn lights off and on in your home, and is talking with other potential partners to unite many businesses into a single, unbroken conversation: television companies, car companies, media companies, and makers of smart refrigerators, etc.  Forget all those apps, unless you really like living in an earlier technological era.

It’s the latest and easily the biggest time-saver in our busy and more connected world.  So what are you going to do with all that free time?  Looks like you will have more time to do things in the real world.

Ray Myers

Throwing an Internet Lifeline to Low-Income Households in U.S.

This is all about broadband access for millions of households that have been described as living on the poorer side of the digital divide.  They will receive a monthly subsidy of $9.25.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that one in five people do not have access to broadband in their homes, and the vast majority of those disconnected are poor.  Only about 40 percent of people earning less than $25,000 a year can afford broadband whole 95 percent of all households making over $150,000 have high-speed Internet at home, according to the FCC.

Consumer advocacy groups cheered for this decision by the FCC.  Inexpensive options for access have dwindled, not grown.  “A broadband subsidy for Lifeline will transform access to this basic human right in American cities, where such access is necessary to apply for even the lowest-wage jobs.” (Media Mobilizing Project).   There will also be benefits for students from low-income families who do not have Internet in their homes.  Seven out of ten schools assign homework that requires Internet access.

Let’s remember that connectivity and all the technology tools that are now available to today’s learners and future generations can only be as helpful as we make them.   Educators and families remain the primary guiding forces.  I don’t think there will ever be “Siri teachers” that will replace classroom teachers in any of our communities, regardless of income.  But I could be wrong?

Ray Myers