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Google is showing their second face by backing robot reporters

(TECH NEWS) Google spent years pushing people to blog, to share, to index, to feed it information and have no switched it up and are undermining themselves.

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RIP human reporters

So! Turns out I’m doomed. Evidently, Google is funding a machine to write news articles. And after all the good press I gave the robot apocalypse, too.

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As my future is naught but despair and devastation, I suppose there’s nothing to talk about but history. Ever hear of Ned Ludd?

Old Ned Ludd

Even if you haven’t, you probably have. “Ludd” as in “Luddite,” which is to say, per Dr. Wik I. Pedia, “one opposed to industrialisation, automation, computerisation or new technologies in general.”

That’s really not fair.

First of all, Ned Ludd shouldn’t be remembered in history at all, because he isn’t. He wasn’t real. Ned Ludd, which may or may not be rural English for Edward Ludlam, was a Robin Hood-type fictional figure. They even both hung out in Nottingham, albeit some centuries apart.

Much like brave Sir Robin (extra geek cred for catching the reference), old Ned was both an empowerment fantasy and a cautionary tale. Robin Hood stories warned about the depredations of power-hungry nobles: here is what honest fellows who would farm and hunt may expect when rich men come for their land, and here is what may be done about it.

Likewise Ludd, who was the hero and horror story of 18th century industrialization.

Poking the bear

The story goes that Ned Ludd was an abused, developmentally disabled teenager. An “idiot boy,” in the charming idiom of the time. He worked for a weaver, and after either being mocked by children because he was due to lose his job, or failing to keep up with the pace that technology set for his job and being flogged for idleness by his masters – yes, masters, and yes, they could flog him; the 18th century sucked – he quite reasonably got a big stick and bashed said technology to scrap.

That brings us to second of all.

Ludd was right.

I mean, obviously he was right in the short term. If my options are “break something” or “starve,” give me 5 minutes, I got a wrench in the car.

But the real Luddites were right too.

The actual, historical Luddites weren’t kneejerk anti-technologists. They were skilled artisans, mostly weavers, which is to say, they required tech to do their jobs. And yet, they masked up and stomped out a bunch of machines, and when they got busted, remembering the tale, they’d say “Ned Ludd did it.”

Those workers weren’t afraid of technology.

They were afraid of what was being done with technology by people who didn’t understand the work they were doing.

Masters of their craft, they knew important aspects couldn’t be automated, and that those aspects, those fundamentally human qualities, could vanish in a generation if not systematically tended. People forget. Skills die.

The cost of robots

Now the dread machines are coming for me and like the Luddites, my first concern isn’t my job as such. I am hubristically hopeful no machine made by man can match my curling chestnut locks or inexhaustible supply of geek wisdom. Besides, if an evil robot does take my job, know what I used to do? Tech support. Thinking that’s gonna come up in the AI Age.

What I’m afraid of is what the Luddites were afraid of.

I’m afraid of what we lose.

The Luddites, those master artisans, understood the value of work. Work demands craft, experience and inspiration. Those things cannot be automated, and trying is not only silly but dangerous. They can only be acquired by doing the work, with the help of people who already know it.

Happily, neither that kind of learning nor that kind of work are in short supply, at least not yet.

Both went digital with the rest of humanity.

Ironically, the best example in the entire world is Google, whose core business model is acquiring, assessing and presenting the results of that work. On the whole, Google doesn’t create things, not even knowledge. It just aggregates, sorts and presents it better than anyone else. That’s a remarkable achievement, and it shouldn’t be undersold.

It also doesn’t change the fact that Google doesn’t do the work. Other people do.

The Ludd Question

Google’s business is connection, linking questions with answers, needs with solutions, people with people. Connection is the best part of the digital revolution. The worst, by far, is hacking the human parts out of vital systems and pretending they’re OK. Companies hack out employees. News outlets hack out fact checkers and failsafes.

It has become possible to have things that still work (barely) after you pull the humans out of them.

As it stands, and fair dues, it’s early days on this thing, that’s exactly what you get with the Google news robot. It produces nothing. To quote the article, it “turns news data into palatable content.” It’s built on the universal, deadly dangerous assumption of the digital age: somebody else has done the work. I just have to find it.

The trouble is that good journalism is about doing the work, and good work requires humans. Taking humans out of the equation means losing things that cannot be replaced.

At the end of the day, that’s the Ludd Question. How much can you afford to lose?

#RobotReporter

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Tech News

Tinder creators launch Ripple, a professional networking app void of pros

(TECH NEWS) Ex-Tinder employees have come together, backed by Match.com, to create a swipe-based professional network, but we don’t plan on giving it a second date.

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In 2015, we discussed briefly the possibilities of taking the dating app’s and repurposing them for professional networking. What if finding professional connections was as easy as finding a date on Tinder? Tinder (executives) literally heard us because they have introduced a solution in their new mobile app called Ripple.

Not to be confused with Ripple the cryptocurrency, Ripple the app is a professional networking tool that literally feels like Tinder.

As it should, the former CTO, Director of Engineering, and Lead Designer of Tinder all make up the founders, along with Mike Presz from Match.com. People who make good dating platforms came together for a professional networking solution that they hope makes networking easier, more natural, and more modern. I took the liberty of signing up for a few days and experimented with the app and I have a few things to say about it…

The good?

Design. Design. Design. The app has a luxuriously simple UI, and is fabulously easy to use. If you even tried Tinder for six minutes, you’ll be able to use this app. The use of symbols, big images, and easy UI is great. The application navigates simply.

It’s fantastic. It’s minimal, it’s content oriented, the interest categories are so good (but they could be better – no interest in process improvements? Go learn about Six Sigma) LinkedIn should look it. The profile set up takes no time at all, about five minutes and you’re ready to go.

But that’s about it.

Everything that’s not good? Everything else.

This is probably because the app is new, but there is nothing going on for the US market. I saw a lot of European professionals and professional groups, but zero people in my area, a major US metropolitan area also called Dallas-Fort Worth. The lack of content and the lack of professionals means the app has nothing.

I can’t rate group experience or say I met the mentor of my professional dreams because no one is on it. Which leads me to ask: What’s next?

The branding, marketing, and advertising for this app are going to have to take off. This is a beautiful product, but the lack of content makes it a pretty dull use. I had to actively remind myself to use it, and I’m in a serial relationship with LinkedIn.

Basically, no second date for me with Ripple until they get… something to happen.

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Tech News

The cutest part of CES was Sony’s AI robot doggo, Aibo

(TECH NEWS) The Consumer Electronics Show revealed the technologies that are dominating and will dominate the market, with Sony’s AI puppers stealing the show.

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One of the most endearing items to emerge from CES this year was Sony’s revamped robot dog, Aibo.

Aibo’s first unveiling in 1999 featured a blend of emergent Sony technology, such as their Memory Stick and companion operating system. By the time of its demise in 2006, the Aibo was equipped with a large vocabulary (it could speak 1,000 words) and could interact with an owner’s commands and motion. The computerized canine wasn’t limited to just the realm of their traditional counterparts, however – the 2006 model of the Aibo could take pictures from the eye-embedded camera system, play music, and write blogs.

Equipped with more personality and a better interactive capability with its environment, the 2018 Aibo looks more like a real dog as well.

Composed of 4,000 parts and OLED-screen eyes to more authentically mimic movements, Sony says it relies on sensor systems and embedded cameras akin to those in self-driving cars to provide as close to an authentic experience as they can. The cameras, located in nose and tail, allow the robot to learn its way around the house and to deliver it back to its charging station once the two-hour charge runs out.

Reviewers at CES noted that the updated version of the Aibo was very “puppy-likem” barking and scampering with unlimited energy.

The current model is also touch responsive on its head, back and under its chin, allowing the user to give “puppy love” in a way that mimics that of what real dogs like.

Perhaps proving that Aibo is capable of acting more and more like a real dog, the robot canine was unresponsive to commands from Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai on stage at its unveiling, prompting Hirai to return Aibo to Sony staff quickly.

Slated to go on sale in Japan later this year, the dog isn’t cheap, priced at nearly $1,800, but does find itself selling into a dedicated Aibo fanbase from its earlier issue and a consumer market which is hungrier and more accepting for interactive experiences of this type of poo-free pet ownership.

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Tech News

Lyft offers test rides in their autonomous cars – how’d it go?

(TECH NEWS) Lyft let passengers roll around Vegas in their self-driving cars, and surprisingly, no shocking viral videos resulted.

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If you haven’t been paying attention to the progress of self-driving cars, you’re in for a shock – they’re closer to a daily reality than you might think. As part of this year’s CES conference, Lyft offered test rides in a handful of their autonomous cars, and the results were reportedly decent.

Unlike other companies’ public tests in the past, Lyft’s demonstrations consisted of normal passengers taking normal routes in Las Vegas; there was little in the way of preemptive route control, meaning that the tests were as authentic as possible. Passengers were able to board autonomous Lyfts from the Las Vegas convention center, with some testers traveling well over three miles with minimal operator interference.

The cars themselves are designed by Aptiv, which is a technology company heretofore unaffiliated with Lyft.

While both companies are aware of the potential for flaws and the need to iron them out before production begins en masse, test riders reported that the cars were able to anticipate and respond to a myriad of traffic conditions (for example, slowing down to allow a faster vehicle to merge); this bodes well for the 2020 goal that many autonomous car companies have set.

Naturally, there were a few kinks in the cars’ respective operations, including yellow light confusion and some other finessing issues, wherein the cars’ human operators had to intervene.

The technology behind self-driving cars is only part of the equation, however. As autonomous vehicles become more commonplace, cities will have to adapt to accommodate them.

This process will most likely include things like redefining road architecture, legislation regarding car use (at the moment, autonomous cars must always have a driver in them), and implementation of smart technology.

There’s also the matter of public perception. While most of the reports from the Lyft demo in Las Vegas were positive, the fact remains that plenty of people will be skeptical of new technology – as well they should be, since any emerging technology is bound to make a few bad headlines before it evens out.

How Lyft counters this perception will be key in determining the future of its autonomous fleet, and perhaps even the future of autonomous cars as a whole.

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