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What can we do about bias in AI?

(TECH NEWS) Each AI system is a reflection of their interaction with the humans who designed, programmed, trained, or used them – and they are reflecting out own deep-rooted biases.

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Skewed samples

The machines we make reflect our own biases, according to Kristian Hammond, who wrote an article breaking down the different ways an artificially intelligent system can be biased. Each system is a reflection of their interaction with the humans who designed, programmed, trained, or used them.

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Data-driven bias results when a system learns from a skewed sample. Often we think this won’t be a problem because of the sheer volume of examples given to facilitate machine learning, but that isn’t the case. In fact a viral video demonstrated that HP motion trackers don’t track faces with non-white skin tones, which might be just such a problem.

Your system reflects your bubble

Bias through interaction comes when smart systems learn from interacting with humans. Never has a more cautionary tale of this kind of bias come as quickly as the day-long life of Microsoft’s Tay. Tay was a twitter chat bot designed to learn based on its interactions with human tweeters. As anyone who has ever spent one day in junior high could have predicted, human users bombarded Tay with offensive statements. With this as a model, the chat bot became an aggressive racist and misogynist and had to be shut down.

Emergent bias and similarity are a little more complicated, but have to do with systems aimed at personalization.

Similar to the problem of social news bubbles, systems trained to show you what you want to see will become more biased the longer they do that thing.

Systems can also have conflicting goals, where they are told to perform a specific purpose, and the interactions with users push them towards a different one.

Identification is key

Hammond notes we view AI and machines as cold and indiscriminating. Whether or not we think this is a design flaw or a great accomplishment, it it reinforces a misconception that the smart machines we make are objective.

After looking specifically at each way things can go terribly wrong, I have to agree with Hammond: we need to identify our own biases. At every level, from engineering to product use, we need to think of how we are making, training, and using these systems in order to prevent our own flaws from getting a Terminator-style upgrade.

#AIBias

Felix is a writer, online-dating consultant, professor, and BBQ enthusiast. She lives in Austin with two warrior-princess-ninja-superheros and some other wild animals. You can read more of her musings, emo poetry, and weird fiction on her website.

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German company funded to become the WhatsApp for employee messaging

(TECH NEWS) Chat apps have been a staple for online communication, and a new one from Germany is hoping to take the top spot from WhatsApp.

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chat app Flip

It’s insane how many chat programs there are out there.

There’s iMessage/texting, Slack, Facebook Messenger, Instagram Direct Messaging, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and so much more. But one thing I think is pretty comical is chat trends within businesses and how this kind of software has affected the market.

To give some background, about 2 decades ago, chat was incredibly popular. You probably remember AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). This was the first online chat tool I used to stay in touch with friends, family, and colleagues.

In the late 90s all the way through the 2000s, chat was the thing – all the cool kids did it. Of course, most programs were pretty primitive in the early years, only offering group chat and direct messaging.

Despite their popularity, though, chat systems had a brief moment where they faded into the background, which lead to an eventual closure of otherwise popular chat software. Most recently, AIM, which had been holding on by a thread for years, closed after 20 years.

Now, it makes perfect sense why AIM closed. They weren’t able to compete with other devices that had similar built-in programs, like Apple’s iMessage. Eventually, desktop chat’s popularity became a thing of the past. But now we’re seeing a mass resurgence of chat features as businesses and marketers-alike realize the immense power chat software has in a variety of applications.

For example, in the newest wave of online retail selling (eCommerce), which has quickly become a flooded market, companies are looking to differentiate themselves by not only providing your average support (email and phone) but also by including customer-facing chat software, like Zendesk Chat (previously Zopim) and LiveChat, for their customers.

eCommerce is growing in popularity pretty quickly, and given recent trends where businesses are focused on immediate assistance, it only makes sense why they’d consider utilizing chat to assist their customers, and in turn, earn more sales.

But, although this background gives you some color to the history of chat and messaging software, that’s not exactly what this story is about.

In recent years, especially during the explosion of startups, it has become incredibly clear that companies can easily become tangled in their own company structure.

Sometimes companies hire off shore, sometimes they hire remote workers, and sometimes they simply have departments that are so separated, they never communicate with each other. For example, when I worked at Apple in Austin, Texas (2013-2014), in a large building with 4 floors and thousands of employees spread out all over, it was critical that I kept in touch with my immediate co-workers and other departments.

Apple’s solution (an elegant one at the time) was to suggest we use their native messaging software, iMessage, but even then, I noticed some serious drawbacks. Aside from the many missing valuable features, such as the ability to connect productivity applications (or any applications for that matter) and create more robust, specific group chats, the tool just didn’t feel like something we should be using in a corporate setting, let alone a startup.

And that’s around the time I started to notice new chat software, like Slack, enter the world – software that would improve communication between departments and co-workers, as well as offer the ability to connect important tools via API and, eventually through “app marketplaces”. The shift to app marketplaces was a great one, too, because before it existed (created in 2015), you had to be a developer to make apps work with the tool.

Because of all of this functionality, and the extreme need to stay in touch with all sorts of people that relate to your company or job, Slack has quickly become the chat provider. So much so that it’s now basically a household name and is being expanded to support like-minded communities, like what’s shown on the Medium.com site. In fact, I can confidently say that chat has come full circle in its popularity, for all sorts of applications.

But with Slack growing at an exponential speed (it’s in Silicon Valley’s hall of fame as the fastest growing business app), I’ve often wondered if there are any tools out there that could compare. So far, I’ve not found one, but a recent announcement by Tech Crunch proves that there are other companies out there who are trying to enter the company communication market. One such company, Flip, who is run by CEO Benedikt Ilg, is a Germany-based employee communication application that may fit the bill.

The company was founded in 2018 and received a whopping $4M in funding. They aim to connect employees and teams through their robust application, which offers features such as a personalized business-related news feeds, employee-specific profiles, cross-platform support, personalized branding, and of course, chatting via their messenger tool. They also brag about their security features, an ever-growing concern amongst most business owners.

According to their website, the company employs 19 people and a pretty adorable dog named Hazel (Chief Happiness Officer). It doesn’t look like the app is readily available to the public yet, but I can only hope it will be soon, as they start to use their funding, which was meant to hire more employees and to expand in general.

According to Tech Crunch, “The startup has now secured customers including Porsche, Bauhaus, Edeka, Junge IG Metall and Wüstenrot & Württembergische. Parts of Sparkasse and Volksbank are also among the customer base. Deutsche Telekom is also a partner.”

Needless to say, once this application becomes available, I’ll definitely test it out to compare to my current toolset, which mostly consists of Slack and associated apps/connections.

With any company, communication between departments is crucial to keep all aspects of it working like a well-oiled machine.

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Productivity hacks for tools you already have

(TECH NEWS) No downloading obscure apps to increase your productivity here. This website gives you productivity hacks to utilize the tools you already have.

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productivity hacks with productivity.so

If you find yourself searching for productivity hacks on the internet, chances are you’re already procrastinating. We’ve all been there and sometimes you do need to invest a little time upfront in order to save time long-term. The problem is that most “productivity hacks” recommend you download a new app or software which means you need to invest time in learning how to use it. All of this strays you further and further from your original goal of working more efficiently and saving time.

A new website called Productivity.so is designed to save you time by better utilizing the tools you’re already using. The websites founders are self-proclaimed productivity lovers who have devoted their own time to collecting a pool of productivity hacks for you iPhone, computer, Gmail, and more. No downloading obscure apps to increase your productivity here.

This website focuses on helping you make your current technology as useful as possible.

It’s a safe bet that there are dozens of ways you could be using your phone, computer, or tablet more efficiently. No one stops to read the instruction manual and even if you did it would only be so helpful because modern technology updates. Everything from your computer to your favorite social media app is constantly pushing out updates with new productivity hacks just waiting to be found.

It’s impossible to keep up on your own! Earlier today I realized you can switch between Twitter accounts by holding down the home button. I use this app every day, but I couldn’t tell you if this a new feature or if I just noticed it.

Productivity.so could be a great way to stay up to date on the latest UX tricks that will help you and your team speed up your workflow. The website currently hosts a small library of hacks that users can browse through. The next great breakthrough in your productivity could be waiting.

The website also offers a free weekly newsletter which promises to send you two new productivity hacks each week. These hacks will be simple tricks like switching between Gmail accounts by holding down your avatar. They’re easy enough that you can start implementing them into your daily routine right away.

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Free streaming service you haven’t heard of boasts 25M subscribers

(TECH NEWS) Tubi may not have caught your attention among the dozens of streaming services, but they are sporting a healthy user count.

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Tubi welcome screen

In 2005, YouTube took the world by storm. A couple of years later, Netflix moved away from its original plan of DVD rentals and switched over to streaming video on demand. At the time, it was a groundbreaking idea. Netflix now reports over 60 million US subscribers.

Who knew it would disrupt the cable industry? Netflix once dominated the market, largely because it was the only service. Today, there are dozens of streaming services that offer hundreds of options. We’re no longer limited to the big three, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. Let’s talk about Tubi, which is making a strong statement.

Tubi started in 2014 as a free service. Last year it reported 20 million monthly users. The latest report is that it’s up to 25 million active monthly users. You can find Tubi on many different streaming devices, Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV and more. One source reports that Tubi has over 50,000 titles, from your favorite reality shows of the past decade to movies from past eras.

Tubi really is free. The service does not offer a premium level. You won’t have to enter a credit card. It is ad-supported, but the ads aren’t intrusive or prevalent. You don’t even need an account to watch Tubi, unless you’re watching programs that are rated R or designated as mature.

The one downside to Tubi is that it doesn’t have a lot of high profile content. Many of the programs seem to be cult favorites. But it does have a large library of content. All of which is free. It is a good alternative to Netflix when you’re waiting for the next season of whatever original programming you like. In my house, that would be “The Crown.”

Tubi’s content changes throughout the month. Don’t assume that just because you see a title today that it will be there tomorrow.

The streaming industry is growing by leaps and bounds. In just a few months, Disney+ has gained 41 million subscribers. Tubi may have a hard time keeping up if it doesn’t keep expanding its library. But thankfully, consumers now have other options beyond Netflix.

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