I am a tech junkie and all for using technology to improve our lives, but there is a dark side to all this tech invasion in our lives. Watching the movie “Snowden” or even the Netflix series “The Dark Mirror” can give you chills about how invasive & controlling all this tech in our lives could be without us even realizing it. Usually, I am really excited at the idea of trying out a new electronic gadget, but when my friend gifted me a Google Home mini, I wasn’t really thrilled! I mean sometimes I feel we are just getting handicapped with all this technology around us. It seems even more suspicious that companies like Amazon & Google are encouraging us to put a listening device in every room of our house. The spying nature of these devices first came to light last year when a Portland, Oregan (USA) resident, who had installed Amazon Echo devices & smart bulbs in every room of her house believing tech giant’s claims of not invading her privacy. But her personal space was violated when Alexa acting on its own recorded a personal conversation & randomly sent it to one of the people in their contact list. When contacted, Amazon shrugged this off as an extremely rare occurrence of device self-activation & promised to take steps to make this event even less likely in the future.
A rare malfunction or a very smart AI algorithm working on its own – a red flag has been raised. Every time I pass by these devices in my home, those lights on the speaker make me nervous enough to unplug the device. What most of the people using these devices don’t realize is that Alexa, Siri & Google Assistance all keep a recording of everything they hear to help train their Artificial Intelligence. Bloomberg reported recently that Amazon actually employs thousands of workers in places like the U.S, Costa Rica & Romania to listen to hundreds of audio clips every single day. Amazon clarifies that this is to help improve Alexa’s human speech recognition for added efficiency & that users can opt out of Amazon using their voice recordings privacy settings section of the Alexa App.
According to VentureBeat, Amazon has developed a new self-teaching AI is 3% more accurate than the conventional algorithm at detecting human emotions in their commands. Amazon claims that the emotionally savvy Artificial Intelligence will be in a much better position to understand humanity’s needs. The encouraging improvement in results points towards an emotionally intelligent & empathetic smart assistance in the not too distant future. Or should I say you will be targeted efficiently with Ads for things you might or might not need.
Bloomberg is now reporting that Amazon is going one step further by developing a wearable & voice-activated device that can not only react to your voice but can read the underlying emotions to act accordingly. Not many details are available on when the wearable gadget is going to be available for commercial use. According to internal documents it is a team effort between people who developed Amazon’s Fire Phone, Echo smart speaker, and Alexa. And while this is a clever way to anticipate the user’s needs, how accurate the interpretation of voice commands is something that remains to be seen if the project reaches fruition.
I believe the ever-increasing over-dependence on smart machines has subdued the human element in our daily lives. These smart home devices are great data gathering machines making you a target for companies who want to sell their products to you. You are giving up your privacy & personal space for convenience that these electronic spies provide. I am not ready to make that trade-off… not yet at least. What about you?