The EU

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Siri Helps Out

For John, BLUFMachines are very, very patient.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Over at The New York Times a Ms Judith Newman talks about her son Gus, who has autism, and how the iPhone App Siri is helping out.  The title of the article is "To Siri, With Love:  How One Boy With Autism Became B.F.F.'s With Apple’s Siri".  Here is the lede:
Just how bad a mother am I?  I wondered, as I watched my 13-year-old son deep in conversation with Siri.  Gus has autism, and Siri, Apple’s “intelligent personal assistant” on the iPhone, is currently his B.F.F.  Obsessed with weather formations, Gus had spent the hour parsing the difference between isolated and scattered thunderstorms — an hour in which, thank God, I didn’t have to discuss them.  After a while I heard this:

Gus:  “You’re a really nice computer.”

Siri:  “It’s nice to be appreciated.”

Gus:  “You are always asking if you can help me.  Is there anything you want?”

Siri:  “Thank you, but I have very few wants.”

Gus:  “O.K.! Well, good night!”

Siri:  “Ah, it’s 5:06 p.m.”

Gus:  “Oh sorry, I mean, goodbye.”

Siri:  “See you later!”

That Siri.  She doesn’t let my communications-impaired son get away with anything.  Indeed, many of us wanted an imaginary friend, and now we have one.  Only she’s not entirely imaginary.

The Siri technology was developed by SRI International, where Mr William Mark is the Vice President for Information and Computing Sciences.  He noted:
See, that’s the wonderful thing about technology being able to help with some of these behaviors.  Getting results requires a lot of repetition.  Humans are not patient.  Machines are very, very patient.
Technology holds promise of helping us in many areas.  We just have to be careful about it being imposed irresponsibly.

Why my concern about misuse?  Because misuse and abuse are inherent in Government, and I don't mean one party or the other.  Both.

In today's Washington Post is an OpEd by Mr Ajit Pai, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, titled "The government wants to study ‘social pollution’ on Twitter".  It is about a Government Study being done by Indiana University, named, with a node to Steven Colbert, Truthy.

… and its purported aim is to detect what they deem “social pollution” and to study what they call “social epidemics,” including how memes — ideas that spread throughout pop culture — propagate. What types of social pollution are they targeting? “Political smears,” so-called “astroturfing” and other forms of “misinformation.”
Here is Mr Pai's pitch:
Truthy’s entire premise is false. In the United States, the government has no business entering the marketplace of ideas to establish an arbiter of what is false, misleading or a political smear. Nor should the government be involved in any effort to squint for and squelch what is deemed to be “subversive propaganda.” Instead, the merits of a viewpoint should be determined by the public through robust debate. I had thought we had learned these lessons long ago.
And, he is correct.  No business.

And, this is why seats at the FCC are divided up by political party, and on the local License Commission and Election Commission.  Diversity of thinking and interest.  Not perfect, but a fair approximation.

Regards  —  Cliff


Craig H said...

I was with you (partially, but more on that later) right up until the "local" part. First of all, speaking both locally and bluntly, we lack effective balance between our two parties which ostensibly contorts whatever system of "fairness" we might try to manage between them. However, and second of all, and more importantly observing the plurality of our electorate is aligned with neither of our major parties here, at whatever point we reserve seats of power on our various government boards for only those who are members of "the party", we smudge a line we otherwise like to draw between ourselves and other less-democratic regimes. (e.g. Mainland China...) Something isn't quite right about that, either.

Pursuit of true diversity of thinking and interest necessitates better accommodation than we have, to this point, achieved. For one salient example, and back to the bookmark up top, we have a "Commission on Presidential Debates" in this country, formed by the two most powerful parties, Democrat and Republican, to reserve for themselves the first, last, and every word in between during presidential elections. This is so wrong that it defies belief that we as a people have stood for it. I respect that it achieves some semblance of a balance of power between those two parties, but it effectively disenfranchises every single one of us via it's constraint against any and everyone who would stand for election not a member of one of those two (semi-criminal in this sense) political rackets.

C R Krieger said...

I worry about the alternative.  If we go like Europe with 2+n number of parties, we could end up like Italy, which had 61 different governments between 1946 and 1994.  In contrast, including assassinations and impeachment threats, we had 15 Presidencies, including re-elections.

In Lowell, how do we know if we have diversity?

Regards  —  Cliff

Craig H said...

Our representative democracy differs from the Italian parliamentary one in important ways that make the comparison disingenuous if not meaningless. First of all, regardless of party, We The People elect (via our electors) the President--not the politicos in Congress. Second of all, observing the astounding lack of legislative productivity between our perennially-opposed D and R machines, it's hard to imagine a 2+n form of government any different in terms of potential output.

Our system is more brilliantly designed and resilient to multiple viewpoints than our intellectually bifurcated major party politicians would otherwise have us to believe. The only interests who stand to lose by voiding the Commission on Presidential Debates are the D and the R ones.

Win/win for the people.

C R Krieger said...

Regarding the Commission on Presidential Debates, I agree it should be abolished.

Regarding ensuring diversity on local Boards and Commissions—diversity of experience and diversity of outlook and diversity of understanding how Government works best, the D and R designations are the best we have at this time.  Of all those registered "Unenrolled" (or as California would call them, "Declines to State"), how many are Democrats in hiding and how many are Republicans in hiding?

Regards  —  Cliff

Craig H said...

Your paranoia for Democrat subterfuge (or is it your generous admission of potential Republican?) is viewed, from the vantage point of an unenrolled voter, as self-serving to an unseemly degree. You're calling out (in advance) the unfortunate consequence of unchecked (corrupt) political power, and predicting the rise of a party/machine apparatus that will corrupt our system were a second party/machine not previously be in place to oppose it. I might suggest that opposition parties naturally arise out of such a situation, and that we're looking at the problem backwards if we are starting by trying to entrench a two-party system as if the power of the second party wouldn't spring simply from its absence.

The problem, simply put, is corruption. Your political view is that corruption is best pursued by arranging for two and only two matched entities for balance, and then rely on each of them to be the check to the other. In contrast, I might suggest investigation of our Constitution as a potential source to discover checks of first resort.

Racketeering is illegal. The laws should apply no less to politicians as to anyone else. Why wouldn't you want to be able to arrest and convict guilty political opponents, as opposed to wrestling with them endlessly without resolution?


C R Krieger said...

Oh, I would rather, but I don't see that happening.  My previous belief in the professionalism of the US DOJ and the Mass Attorney General has been shaken by the likes of General Eric Holder, Local Federal Attorney Carmen Ortiz and Mass Attorney General Martha Coakley.  I thought her treatment of Treasurer and Receiver-General of Massachusetts Tim Cahill was inappropriate and demeaning of her office.

Regards  —  Cliff

Craig H said...

To paraphrase Mencken, we get the government we deserve, good and hard.

My observation, all party bashing aside, is that none of this works as well as when conscientious individuals of all backgrounds and opinions engage at our most local levels, and drive that power on up, as opposed to suffer corrupt power being driven down. I can't do much about Eric Holder's bizarre schizophrenia (supporting civil rights, be they gays to marry, or what have you, while simultaneously suppressing civil liberties, like freedom from government assassination without due process) but I can invest my time and energies into local municipal boards and such--except, ironically, I can't, because I choose on principle to fall outside the designated two-party litmus test for city service in all too many cases.

Maybe my service is not of the quality deserved, but I fear that someone's out there may be, but we will never gain the benefit to know.

That's a shame.