Friday Five: AI for good…and for bad?
Zone’s Ross Basham handpicks and shares the five best stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…
1. AI-powered text generator spells trouble
An AI-powered text generator that was initially considered too dangerous to be made public has been updated to make it more powerful and realistic. Oh, and it’s now been released into the wild, leading to one tech journalist saying he is “legitimately terrified for the future of humanity if we don’t figure out a way to detect AI-generated content”. Crikey.
The model, called GPT-2, was built by research firm OpenAI and trained on a dataset of 8 million web pages. It can adapt to the style and content of the initial text given to it, and although a lot of the time the content it generates is nonsense (try it for yourself), the possibilities for abuse and fake news are, unfortunately, all too real.
2. Apple seizes initiative on voice privacy
Apple has apologised after it emerged that the tech giant was hiring third-party contractors to listen to recordings of Siri voice commands to improve speech recognition — a practice known as grading. It’s not just Apple — Google and Amazonwere doing the same thing (although Google has also called a temporary halt).
Now Apple has said it will no longer retain audio recordings by default, only Apple employees will have access to them and Siri users would have to opt in in the first place (unlike Alexa users, who have to opt out). Although why anyone would want complete strangers listening in to their private conversations is beyond me.
3. Pinterest pins public health responsibility
It’s not often we get to praise a social network, so hats off to Pinterest for taking decisive action around vaccination content. Like other networks, Pinterest was plagued by anti-vaccine misinformation so, unlike other networks, it stopped returning results for vaccine searches.
Now it’s gone one better — by enabling vaccine-related searches, but only serving results from credible public health organisations such as the WHO. As this article explains, it’s easier for the smaller and less prominent Pinterest to take such bold editorial action than, say, Facebook, but when measles is on the rise around the world, it’s great to see a social network not simply burying its head in the sand.
4. Lego building breakthrough for the blind
Here’s another good news story — Lego has announced a new accessibility initiativethat will make building instructions available as Braille or text for voice readers, in order to help those with blindness or visual impairment. It’s still in pilot mode, with plans to build out the offering next year.
The idea came from Matthew Shifren, a blind Lego enthusiast whose friend, Lilya, would write down all the building steps so he could read them through a Braille reader. Matthew and Lilya have themselves painstakingly transcribed over 25 Lego sets for the blind community — and now their work has been officially recognised.
5. LG’s AI washing machine will rinse you
No one likes to be nagged, especially if you’re actually doing something useful like loading the washing machine. But what about being nagged by the actual washing machine? That’s what LG’s new AI feature, known as “Proactive Customer Care” promises to do.
Too much soap in the washing machine? Blocked airflow in the fridge? LG’s app will have something to say about that. On the plus side, the service should help you maximise the lifespan of your appliances, provided you don’t mind being scolded from time to time…