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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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indeed top 50 reporter news google

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

Cope Notes: cheeky low-commitment mental health tool for all

(TECH NEWS) Mental health apps can be hard to find, harder to use, and even harder to remember without inundating, annoying alerts. Cope Notes is the perfect solution.

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I recently went searching for some mental health apps and it was a sea of garbage, if I’m being honest. I finally found a meditation app that was kind of cool, but after I figured out how it worked, I mostly spent time on videos of a gal cussing, but not for meditation value, but humor. I deleted the app.

I’m not in a dark place right now, but I work in a fast paced, high stress world, and maintaining focus and mental health is my competitive advantage, and one I take very seriously. But so many of the tools available are overpriced, overly complicated, or short on value.

About 12 hours after I had given up and decided to stick to my current regimen, without the help of any tech, a former Staff Writer reached out to update me on what he’s up to, and it was so timely… Cope Notes.

Put simply, it’s 20 randomly-timed text messages per month. You don’t know when they’re coming, but they’re exercises, encouragement, and witty advice. Finally, something that doesn’t put all of the work on me as a user.

And I’m not surprised – creator Johnny Crowder is young, but has long been a mental health advocate, and very sincere about it. He used to write here at AG in between tours and gigs as a famous straight-edge metal musician (I had no idea what that was prior to connecting with Crowder). He is a talented creative that has a lot of people looking up to him, so what better way to use that spotlight than for good?

“I just don’t want people to get so frustrated searching for solutions that they give up on healing altogether,” said Crowder. “It’s not clinical, it’s not complicated, it’s not confusing. It’s for people who feel great, people who feel rotten, and everyone in between.”

What we love about the creation of the app is that Crowder has suffered his own challenges, and instead of just complaining about an option he says he would have truly benefited from in his past, he took action.

Cope Notes is far different from any solution we’ve seen in that it speaks our language – cheeky, never condescending, and disarming, never douchey.

And because it’s done over text, it doesn’t require you to run an app in the background or remember to turn it back on, giving you a better chance at successfully using it (instead of forgetting which is my biggest fault).

“It took me years to find and hone the coping strategies that I rely on every day to keep me happy and healthy,” said Crowder. “Now that I finally figured out what works, I want to save people from the discouragement and disappointment of scrambling for solutions and fast-track their growth.” Every text is written by Crowder himself.

New users can enjoy a seven-day free trial by visiting copenotes.com/subscribe or texting COPE to 33222. After the trial period, subscribers pay $9.99 per month, with discounts applied to six-month and one-year subscriptions, and no set-up or cancellation fees.

The service also offers an option to purchase and personalize gift subscriptions for friends or family members in need, so check out Cope Notes today for you or a loved one.

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Tech News

Smartphone addiction is killing social norms, physically hurting us

(TECHNOLOGY) Smartphone addiction is increasingly common, and it’s not just manners that we worry about, it’s the physical impact and erosion of social norms that are also a result.

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Sorry, just checking something. Sorry, just need to quickly respond to this text. Sorry, just turning on low power mode. Sorry, just addicted to my phone and compulsively check it even when spending time with family and friends.

Have you ever experienced any of the following?

  • Eyes burning from staring at a screen for hours
  • Your attention span is totally shot and you find yourself in an endless loop checking apps, messages, and social media
  • Curled up in an uncomfortable ball on the bathroom floor for half an hour checking a dumb app, trying to decide if you want to be patient or spend real money
  • Asking your friends to tell you’re not allowed to spend real money on said stupid app

If you answered yes to any of these, you’re probably addicted to your phone.

If you answered yes to all of these, are you me?

I know it’s time for me to get rid of an app when I start making charts optimizing the game. Or when my arm starts to feel like I’m getting carpal tunnel syndrome twenty years too soon. My motivation to write my college thesis was to academically justify all the time I spent checking Snapchat while on family vacation.

Turns out, my phone addiction has more physical consequences than I was previously aware. On average, human heads weigh 10-12 pound. Our neck muscles are super tough since most of the time, we’re holding our heads upright.

Except when we bend our necks to check Instagram, or compose a text. When we bend down, the gravitational pull of our head increases pressure on our necks to nearly 60 pounds. Which, you know, isn’t great for our spines either.

Posture affects your mood, and can even impact behavior and memory. Frequently slouching alters your energy levels, bone development, and your oxygen intake, which can lead to depression. And if you’re already depressed, you were probably slouching anyways.

Add the negative impact overuse of phones can have on social interaction, and you’ve got a recipe for a lot of really unhappy people even more drawn to digital devices.

According to the Pew Research Center, 75 percent of Americans don’t think smartphone use hinders their attention in a group setting.

But as we stare more at screens instead of people, nonverbal cues get lost.

There’s a disengagement, even if you happen to be texting or playing virtual games with whoever is in the room with you. For children, loss of nonverbal cues due to constant phone use or competition for attention with their parents’ phone use can even stunt development.

As a writer, the lure of communicating with my phone is nearly irresistible since I can spend time working and reworking messages. However, social scientist Sherry Turkle’s decades of studies on family interactions and technology suggest that obsession with devices has created a generation afraid of spontaneity from organic interactions.

Receiving a phone call can spike anxiety, and forget about trying to interact with a stranger in the grocery store line. Knowing how much easier it is to type a message than deal with someone face to face can make analog interactions nerve-wracking.

Yet at the same time, the feeling of always being reachable and always “on” brings another kind of anxiety to the table.

According to a 2015 Pew Research center report, 24 percent of teens are “almost constantly” online, and a Nielsen report found adults spend around 10 hours per day consuming electronic media.

If someone doesn’t respond to your text and you know they always have their phone with them, does that mean they’re mad? If you forgot to respond to a message from someone, will they take it as a personal offense?

While smartphones and social media aren’t necessarily harbingers of evil, we’re all affected physically, emotionally, and socially by our use, particularly overuse.

Manner and etiquette experts point out the obvious: spend more time with people in the room than on your phone. However, that’s easier said than done. Especially considering Facebook’s recent admission that the platform was specifically designed to be as addicting as possible.

Even without confessions from other sites and apps, that’s kind of their goal: revving up your dopamine with an addicting platform. So it’s understandable that there’s a drive to check your phone every few minutes (or seconds.)

However, change comes in baby steps. Try to be more mindful of how often you’re checking your phone, and when you’re checking it.

Henry Alford, author of “Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That: A Modern Guide to Manners” suggests making a point to not be the first person in your group to pull out a device.

It’s a small thing, but can at least help delay the eventual waterfall of everyone else bringing out their phones once one person breaks the seal. If you’re really struggling with phone addiction, there are apps that track how often you unlock your phone and spend time on apps.

That may be a reality check, especially if you’re checking your phone hundreds of times a day in the absence of reason. Make an effort to have more face-to-face conversations, and if nothing else, at least keep your phone stashed while you’re driving.

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Tech News

Healthcare app uses blockchain tech to perfect the prescription experience

(TECH NEWS) This healthcare startup is using blockchain to make managing prescriptions less of a headache for patients and doctors. And it’s awesome.

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blockchain healthcare app

New healthcare startup ScalaMed is using blockchain tech to make dealing with prescriptions significantly easier for patients, doctors, and pharmacists.

Founded by former pharmaceutical rep, Dr. Tal Rapke, ScalaMed is an app backed by blockchain that allows users to safely access medical information digitally.

“This fusion of blockchain technology and healthcare is a huge leap forward—it is the spine to an eventual blockchain-enabled consumer-centered health record and represents a big step towards personalized healthcare and medicine,” says Rapke.

Patients can track ongoing medication and upcoming prescriptions, and refill directly from the app. Interaction and allergy warnings are available at every level, as well as cost comparison for filling prescriptions.

Pharmacists are able to service patients remotely, cut down on fraudulent prescriptions, and use the app to communicate directly with the prescriber for any questions.

Healthcare professionals can provide on-the-go support using a secure digital database that can be integrated into existing prescription software. Through the app, doctors can access patients’ complete medication list across providers and update as needed.

The process is faster, more transparent, and overall simplified. It’s how healthcare apps should have worked all along.

The average person sees about 16 different doctors, which makes reconciling medications a monumental task. Adverse reactions to medication interaction and errors in prescriptions resulting in negative side effects account for around 10 percent of hospital admissions.

Nearly half of all patients do not take medication as prescribed, which costs the healthcare industry billions of dollars. Providing information to the patients first increases education and knowledge of prescriptions, reducing hospitalizations due to medication errors, non-adherence, and fraud.

With ScalaMed, clinicians can save time and protect client’s data from ever increasing breaches. The app uses cryptographic design, which provides patients with relevant data without using centralized databases.

Since blockchain’s whole deal is decentralization, it removes the middleman in transactions. According to ScalaMed, “patients become the central point for prescriptions.”

Instead of clinicians sending prescriptions to a pharmacy, patients manage their prescriptions directly on the app. The patient chooses to share information with a pharmacist, who can then download, decrypt, and mark as redeemed in the blockchain record.

For those of you thinking, “I would never trust an app with my medical information,” fret not. The app complies with global data security requirements, ISO standards, and is HIPAA compliant.

Select clinics took part in a pilot run during December 2017, and global scaling and expansion are set for some time in 2018. Patients, healthcare professionals, and clinicians can sign up to be notified when the app is ready for release.

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