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Google Perspective tackles trolling but sounds a bit 1984-esque

(TECH NEWS) Google’s new internet troll catcher, “Perspective” plagues us with lingering questions about censorship and reminds us vaguely of Orwell’s 1984…

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Google launches “Perspective” to ward off trolls

Google has debuted Perspective, an artificial intelligence (AI) tool designed to moderate online comments. The tool is crafted with the intention of helping communities do more than just filter out curse words.

As the tech world fawns over the advancement, let us pause to talk about a substantial flaw in using AI to censor human behavior…

Language is a wonderful and beautiful thing

It is something so ambiguous, so contradicting, so clearly defined by its many grey areas; it is a perfectly human concept. Its innate human-ness has been further enforced with the introduction of Google’s “Perspective” API. Unfortunate, then, that the creation of Perspective and the reasons for its flaws are due to such negative circumstances.

Sticks and stones

Fact: Technology is amazing. Artificial Intelligence is making progress at a substantial rate, robots are ever-increasing in efficiency, and the Internet is leading us to a more connected world.

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Alternative Fact: Whatever people can do, technology can do better.

Reasoning: Nothing can beat human creativity when it comes to finding ways to hurt and demean one another.

Trollololol

There is no questioning that the online environment has a significant “troll” population.

For those that may be unaware, I’m not talking about the kind of trolls that live under bridges attempting to eat unsuspecting billy goats.

Like Sauron’s army in the Lord of the Rings, they march forward, leaving a swath of destruction in the form of poorly worded hate comments in their digital wake. In the Lord of the Rings those were Orcs, of course, but their use of the English language was pretty similar, hence the analogy.

Often, a troll’s verbal vomit is not to express their true opinions, nor is to stir up an interesting ideological debate. Instead, it is merely to stir up chaos, just because they can. Sure, trolls can serve a purpose by pushing more people toward the center as they rant on the fringe, but most people just see their behavior as abusive.

Text toxicity

In response to the often-volatile nature of the comment section, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, created its Perspective API. Using machine-learning, the service had been created to weed out the toxic language that so often turns a section created to express opinions and create open-ended debates into a War of Words. The concept is simple: using an algorithm, Perspective searches for pre-programmed words and phrases.

These comments and phrases are then given a “toxicity” ranking determined by the program.

Perspective is a great idea, created with what are presumably good intentions. However, there are a couple of major issues with the service.

Robots still don’t have feelings

The biggest, and most notable problem is that while it can detect toxic words and phrases, there is no way for it determine context, and even more so, sentiment.

Upon reading David Auerbach’s article for MIT Technology Review, I checked out the Perspective website for myself which offers a free test of the service. Drawing inspiration from Auerbach, I attempted several different phrases to determine their toxicity ranking.

Overall, the service could detect clearly mean or hateful phrases fairly well.

However, just by spending a few moments with it I was able to detect key words it would pick up, and by omitting or substituting said words, comments that would still be considered toxic by human eyes received a comparatively minuscule toxicity ranking in the system. A prime example of this would be the use of swear words, which very much differ in meaning depending on context.

Six degrees of censorship

Another, more potentially troubling issue, is the fact that Perspective was created and is maintained by human programmers. As such, what it deems toxic will generally tend to fall in line with the programmers’ own ideological views.

Though it may be unintentional, one would naturally input words or phrases that they, personally, would deem offensive, while potentially omitting phrases they may be unaware that others would find offensive. Even more so, however, is the fact that Perspective would be marketed to businesses.

In effect, companies would have the potential to be able to weed out comments that did not fall within the range their own ideological beliefs.Click To Tweet

This would be especially harmful in relation to entities such as news sites and forums, which should serve as platforms for users to express and debate their opinions.

Perspective’s potential

Let me restate my belief that Perspective is a great idea created with genuinely good intentions. However, it will be some time before it is, if ever, one-hundred percent effective. And, like all powerful things, it has the potential to be dangerous if used in the wrong hands by creating echo chambers and ultimately, by eroding free speech.

PerspectiveProbz

Andrew Clausen is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and when he's not deep diving into technology and business news for you, he is a poet, enjoys rock climbing, monster movies, and spending time with his notoriously naughty cat.

Tech News

Earbuds that are noise cancelling hit the market just in time for the holidays

(TECH NEWS) There are no shortage of earbuds on the market, however, Nuheara’s noise cancelling, bluetooth earbuds are sure to top everyone’s wish list.

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Noise cancelling earbuds are efficient for blocking out the world around you – when all you want to hear is your music and nothing else. However, for those who want a smaller, sleeker alternative, Nuheara is the perfect fit.

Nuheara are wireless audio earbuds that are customizable to your hearing needs. Even though they have the same power as noise cancelling headphones, they can be adjusted to amplify or minimize sound based on each situation.

You can choose to blend the sounds of the streets and your new favorite album in order to be aware of the world around you. The earbuds are ideal for any situation.

The noise cancelling earbuds use SINC (Superior Intelligent Noise Control) technology, which lets every user create their custom hearing experience.

There are numerous times when it’s hard to hear because of the noise around us. This may be in crowded restaurants, concerts or even when you’re at home trying to avoid the noisy neighbor in the apartment above you.

The SINC technology applies a frequency filter to sounds you choose to hear or want to avoid. Additionally, the left and right earbuds have their own settings, so that they can be customized individually. Everything is customized through the app, so it’s up to each user to decide!

Prior to founding Nuheara, Justin Miller and David Cannington worked in the oil and gas companies creating industrial strength hearing headsets.

The feedback they received during these experiences paved the way for inventing Nuheara. People wanted a sleek headset that they could wear in everyday life, not just at their job.

The earbuds will set you back a few hundred bucks, but they come with accessories like a battery charger, carrying case and 8 different silicone tips. The battery charger provides three full charges. Nuheara earbuds are also sweat and water resistant, but they are not yet waterproof.

As wireless headphones, Nuheara are also compatible with most Bluetooth connected devices. The earbuds also use tap-touch control to make hands-free phone calls, control music and adjust settings.

There is no need to connect Nuheara to external devices to use their noise cancelling capabilities.

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Tech News

Turn your FAQ page into a chatbot without knowing how to code

(TECH NEWS) An easy way to add a chatbot to your site and automate some of your work is through this new simple tool that doesn’t require any tech know-how.

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faqbot chatbot

Reduce your workload and personalize customer service engagement with Faqbot, the tool that turns your online FAQ into a customized chatbot.

Co-founded by Denny Wong and CEO Mathis André, Faqbot uses machine learning to streamline frequently asked questions into a handy chatbot pal.

Based on your existing FAQ content, Faqbot builds a database that learns from every conversation to improve responses. Faqbot can also be used to automate sales and lead generation.

You get to design the conversation flow, mapping out a custom path to guide users to a desired outcome. Set predefined choices or free text, customize the bot’s responses, and determine what leading questions the bot should ask.

For example, on the Faqbot site, I was given two pre-set choices to click after each response from the bot. Clicking “Thanks for helping” gets the polite response “You are welcome! ;-)” complete with an old-school emoji featuring a nose.

If you select “not my question,” Faqbot uses its general response to any unanswerable question: “Sorry, I’m a chatbot. I am constantly learning and have answers to frequently asked questions. Thank you for leaving your email and we will get back to you shortly.”

Choose your own responses based on already defined FAQ or come up with new messaging to better engage and inform your customers as needed. The free text option is also available if customers wish to continue asking questions.

Of course, I had to try out some less than frequently asked questions. When I asked Faqbot “are we friends?” it kindly replied, “Absolutely. You don’t have to ask.” So I’m smitten.

However, when I tried to take it to the next level by asking “Do you love me?,” which seems to be the internet’s favorite way to harass a bot, I got the “Sorry, I’m a chatbot” response.

That’s okay. I’ll recover. Faqbot isn’t here to love, it’s here to answer questions.

You can easily install the chatbot by either copy/pasting the snippet of codes directly into your webpage, or connect Faqbot to your company’s Facebook page. No coding skills required.

Pricing is based on number of users per month, but all levels include the same service offerings of FAQ database management, messaging interface, a ticketing system, and DIY guided conversation flow. You can try out Faqbot free for 14 days by signing up on their site.

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Tech News

This note-taking app is perfect for the creative mind

(TECH NEWS) The newest app for note-taking could be a tremendous asset for a very specific type of creative that tools like trello and evernote fall short on… not all apps work for all people.

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milanote

If you’re like me, you’ve had many phases in your idea-having, note-taking life. There was the AP History period, where I decided the quality of my notes would be judged based on the tininess of my handwriting and the number of innovative abbreviations coined. There was the “song collection” period, in which I wrote down song and band names with reckless abandon, on any scrap of paper or non-paper within reach, and promptly scattered the scraps everywhere. There was the post-it era, in which every single idea was carefully documented on a “Sticky Note” that tiled over my Windows desktop and was impossible to find thereafter.

And then, there was Evernote, and Trello, and I thought my evolution was complete. I had neatly organized “Notebooks” and “Cards” and I felt very structured and efficient and spiritually done with my note-taking journey.

But a whisper of rebellion called out to me. It sounded musical, colorful, whimsical. It asked me whether I wouldn’t like to liberate myself from those neat lists and stacks, let my ideas flow, visualize my thoughts?

It introduced me to Milanote – the note-taking app truly made FOR images, not just tolerant of them.

Milanote markets itself toward creatives: “For the research, thinking and planning behind your next great piece of work.”

But the strengths of this app could benefit anyone who could use a more freeform space to collect their thoughts. A blank page resembles a peg board, and users can add images, notes, links, and more in any configuration their hearts desire. You can also link any elements together with a web of lines, or leave them on their own.

This could be a great app for early-stage brainstorming and planning, when you need to play around and be flexible.

Milanote can be collaborative, like Trello, or individual and personal, like my always-evolving grocery list in Evernote. Milanote currently works in any web browser, and iOs and Android apps are coming soon.

For up to 100 notes, Milanote can be yours free of charge. More than that, though, and you’ll have to pay $9.99 for the pro version.

Something tells me infinity should cost much more, but the organic, customizable concept is something to hold on to.

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