Of Two Minds

I read Ethan Marcotte’s article about Google’s recently announced service / product called Duplex. In it, he lays out the following argument:

Frankly, this technology was designed to deceive humans. That’s not a value judgment, mind: the aim of the product is to act as human-sounding as possible. What’s more, the demos above are impressive because Duplex specifically withholds the fact that it’s not human. The net effect is, for better and for worse, a form of deception. Duplex was elegantly, intentionally designed to deceive. (And given that reality’s on shaky ground as it is, I don’t think this is the most responsible goal.)

I’m of two completely separate minds on this. One the one hand, I completely agree with the doubters thinking. Let’s not mince words here, Google, given its history, stands to be viewed upon with a hefty bit of skepticism when it comes to doing what’s “right”. But let’s say that’s not it. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say Google has every good intention in this particular space. What about others? What about the malicious folk out there? What about the people who are out there to scheme and cheat and rip people off? Isn’t Google giving them, right out of the gate, a tool to aid in their shenanigans?

This ultimately comes back to the old adage of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. I don’t know that we’ve held technology to that standard enough recently. A perfect example of this is the creation and, more importantly, the use of self-driving cars when the tech is not absolutely rock-solid.

Having said all of that, I was reading a tweet last night from someone whose name I have known for a while, but didn’t know a particular fact about. This gentleman stutters. Like me. He viewed this in a completely different light. His idea was that the Duplex “product” could be used in a very nice and productive way by people who have speech disabilities. Like he and I do. It was eye-opening. I think I even re-tweeted it with “Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, etc.”

Because I can completely see his point. I HATE talking on the phone. It makes me anxious, nervous, and scared. I get over it, and conquer it, but it’s an every-single-situation kind of thing. What if I didn’t have to do that but 40% of the time I do it now? That would help me. Would I like to be 60% less anxious? You’re damn right I would be.

The well-being of global society is still winning in my head, and I will go on record as thinking this might not be the best thing. But it’s not as much of a slam dunk as I would have originally thought.


The Current Software Industry

This is where we are. Totally and utterly ridiculous expectations and perspectives. Brilliantly pointed out in the tweet above.

Believe it or not, software is worth something. It’s disturbing that we’ve let the value of it slide as far as we have.

Our Unifying Force

A couple of weeks ago, the trailer for the latest Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi, was released. Several co-workers gathered in our conference room and watched it multiple times on the Surface Hub.

It was a shared experience between lovers of this movie saga. We dissected the meanings behind the dialogue, commented on the music, spoke about how awesome December was going to be when the movie is actually released. It was fun. It was enjoyable. Like I said, a shared experience.

But when I got home, I realized that this unifying experience was not limited to our conference room. Twitter was alive with the buzz of the trailer. People from every walk of life: Geeks, Politicians, Sports Writers, Tech CEOs, Software developers, Literary Writers. The whole gamut was represented in the “audience” of Star Wars fans.

It occurred to me at that moment, that Star Wars is THE unifying force (pun *not* intended) in our current climate. With so much divisiveness present in our collective society, this one movie franchise seems to have the power to bring us all together.

I wonder if George Lucas ever dreamt that would be the case way back when this story was forming in his mind.

Editorial Note: Despite the tragedies that are the prequels, he should be very, very proud.

Apple doesn’t understand photography

Apple doesn’t understand photography

Apart from that Apple still thinks we use photography as we did it 30 years ago: we go on a trip, take a bunch of photo’s then struggle with how to show our friends these photos when we get back from our trip.

Well, I’ve got news for you Apple; that’s maybe 1% of photography, and not really an issue most of us deal with.

What is the problem that needs fixing? It is that photography is changing. I showed my girlfriend some tiny text on the back of a credit card. Without hesitating she pulled out her camera, took a photo, and then zoomed in on the photo to read the text.

I can’t say that I disagree with van Santen on this point. All of my pictures are not of trips or specific people alone. If you look at my Camera Roll, you will certainly see a collection of photos I’ve taken of my kids, my family, and my friends. But you will also find pictures of work whiteboards, screenshots of clever tweets from Twitter, UI example screenshots, pictures of receipts, and so on, and so on.

Not just photos...

Not just photos…

I love the idea of classification at the image level. Apple does it with selfies (a recent addition), but that’s a bit of a cheat because it’s based on the camera being used. I’m interested to see how (or if) their new AI processing can help auto-classify some of these pictures (think receipts for a start).

I was bicycling along the canals with my teenage daughter when she spotted a ‘missing cat’ poster. She pulled out her phone, took a photo of the poster without looking twice, and put the phone back into her pocket. I said ‘That’s pretty smart’ and she replied; ‘Well how else are we going to remember all that information if we ever find that cat?’

What if the system could know that the image was an informational poster? And take that information and convert that image into a note and create an entry in the built-in Notes app? That’s intelligence. That’s allowing the data and the image to work together to implement the intent of the original picture.

Looking forward to see what happens in this space…

Late Night Truths

The more I listen to singer/songwriter Matt Nathanson, the more I like him. I don’t mean just his music, which I like very much already. Twitter has opened the door for artists like Matt to share their personal thoughts as well as their music with fans and followers alike.

This past February 18th, Matt was up late (California time) and tweeting. Here are his series of tweets (unedited in all its Twitter shorthand glory):

I’m not sure how people turn off the world. lately, for me, it just feels like a faucet that’s been left on.

we get so much information. so many voices. screaming their opinion. being an actual expert on something has so little currency.

it’s so hard to get humans to focus on real problems. because no one feels empowered. why is it so hard to love ourselves?

we are capable of so much greatness. but we spend so much of our time squandering our energy on fear-based, useless hate.

90% of people know just enough about things like race and government. and the environment. to be paralyzed. and no one listens.

i mean… we have a presidential candidate who posted a photo of a fucking gun on his socials and wrote ‘america’

the only way to get your message heard through the din is blunt force trauma.

and we are so polarized and hopeless as a country, that NO ONE HEARS ANYONE.

garbage in / garbage out. this is just a fact. where is the nutrition coming from in this culture? we need voices of fucking kindness.

and empathy. on REAL issues. not just photos of fucking cats.

we have to see the bigoted, racist, sexist parts of ourselves. and be honest about them. in order to evolve past them. we have to LISTEN

to other people’s experiences. and shut our fucking mouths. (this coming from the king of privilege over here.. straight, white, and male.)

it is our job to be optimists. it is our job to be kind. it is our job to live our life without hurting ourselves or others.

it is our job to clear space for the voices of those without voices. it is our job to listen to those we don’t understand.

it is our job to treat these fundamental problems at their roots. not beat them over the head with a sledgehammer and think they will die.

most of the stuff we fear and guard against, as individuals, NEVER ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO US. what a colossal waste of energy.

I love what Matt is saying here. I love how he’s saying it. The raw emotion.
Just like his music, his words prove to be powerful as well.

Live Your Dreams

2015/01/img_7272.pngRaise your hand if you live by your fears.

Come on.
Raise those hands.
Raise your hands.
Both of them.

I know mine are raised. Fear is everywhere. Am I raising my children right? Am I being a good husband? Father? Co-worker? Friend? Son? Person?

Is this what I want to do with my life? How I want to live it? How I want to leave my mark on the world, my kids, my family, everyone around me?

And those are just the existential kind of fears. What about the small, run-of-the-mill fears? Did I remember to turn the oven off? Did I lock the door? Did I forget something the kids were supposed to have signed?

It seems overly easy these days to get bogged down in fears. Big fears. Small fears.

(Be careful, I might start to sound like Dr. Seuss here in a minute…)

I think this is why dreams exist. To give us a break from that fear. Give us something to look forward to. Some hope. Of a better…


Maybe what we’re all doing here is searching for our own something.

Keep searching. You’ll find it. And when you do, don’t ever, ever let go of it.