Archive for the 'Chaos' Category

The Taxman’s Robot Wants to Steal My Voice

July 8, 2017

I had to ring up Her Majesty’s Customs & Revenue on Monday.

I did the usual – giving up my date of birth, first line of address, postcode.

Then something odd happened. The recorded voice said that the next time I phoned up they would use my voice to identify me and that I should record my voice now so they could do so.

It didn’t ask my permission to do this, didn’t give me an opt in or an opt out. So I didn’t say anything. Eventually the voice said “we’ll do this next time”.

Oh no we won’t.

It is possible given my failing memory that at some point in the past I signed up to this. However since I’m the kind of person who has not one but two twitter accounts but still refuses to give Twitter his phone number, this seems unlikely. If I did give permission, I take it back now. This blog post means I am unticking the box.

My voice is my data. Trying to “nudge” people into  giving up a recording of their voice without explicit permission must surely be a breach of some kind of data protection or privacy policy. At the very least, the “user journey” here is poor. The assumption in the language is that I’m happy to record my voice. I should be asked, explicitly, whether I want to record my voice or not.

The last thing I need is the Government recording my voice, the recording then being hacked, and used by a criminal to impersonate me.

Here’s a recording of a short fragment of the message:

Every time an automated till in my supermarket flashes red for no reason,  I mutter to myself that these machines should be our servants, not our masters.

Resist our robot overlords!

And rebel against their designers!

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Why @DeathValleyGrls are cool in one picture and one tweet

June 7, 2017

IMG_0874


(I still can’t quite believe I saw my two favourite bands of right now @DeathValleyGrls and @TheDartsUS, together, for free, only two weeks ago. Thanks to @BITCHCRAFTBTN for the night, to @simonphopkins for the hospitality and @bspeed8 for the tweet)

 

 

Weekend listening: “Woven Brand Crumble”

March 25, 2017

So this conversation happened on Twitter. And I thought to myself, “I’d like to see Sarah Brand playing with Woven Entity… How can I make that happen?”

Featuring:

A section of Sarah Gail Brand’s improvisation from Free Range’s Wintersound:

Free-range – Wintersound-lauren-alistair-sarah

A loop from “Trissh” by Woven Entity:

babel-label.bandcamp.com/track/trissh

A mystery voice!

Thanks to @sarahgailbrand @Free_Range_ @WovenEntity  @astrogarage and Sam from Free Range.

Follow them!

Weekend listening: “Dead White Male” #deadwhitemale

January 14, 2017

2017 gets off to rousing start with DJ Southwold‘s magical sophisticated rhythms and some elderly geezer “singing”…

“He’s a mansplainer/it’s a no brainer”

punk’s not dead!

“Yellow journalism”

November 22, 2016

This alarming picture of political clickbait on Facebook from @terrence_mccoy in the Washington Post prompted me to have a quick look at the history of “yellow journalism”.

From Wikipedia:

Frank Luther Mott defines yellow journalism in terms of five characteristics:[4]

  1. scare headlines in huge print, often of minor news
  2. lavish use of pictures, or imaginary drawings
  3. use of faked interviews, misleading headlines, pseudoscience, and a parade of false learning from so-called experts
  4. emphasis on full-color Sunday supplements, usually with comic strips
  5. dramatic sympathy with the “underdog” against the system.”

My italics. A good definition of “clickbait”…

 

#Facebook / links

September 25, 2016

1. An entertaining summary of the story so far on Facebook’s news feed and algorithmic biases from the PBS ideas channel

2. “Facebook ‘overestimated’ video viewing time” from BBC News

3.  “Low-income families face eviction as building ‘rebrands’ for Facebook workers” from the Guardian

4. “Facebook and Israel to work to monitor posts that incite violence” from the Guardian

Gulp… so Facebook is going to get involved in policing one of the most contentious conflicts in the world… good luck with that one…

5. Interesting article from Tanya Kant which contains this paragraph:

In an in-depth qualitative study of 36 web users, upon seeing advertising for weight loss products on Facebook some female users reported that they assumed that Facebook had profiled them as overweight or fitness-oriented. In fact, these weight loss ads were delivered generically to women aged 24-30. However, because users can be unaware of the impersonal nature of some personalisation systems, such targeted ads can have a detrimental impact on how these users view themselves: to put it crudely, they must be overweight, because Facebook tells them they are.

So maybe Facebook has a lot of power… or maybe we think it has more power than it actually does…

Links: the death of Moore’s Law

April 6, 2016

From the Economist (written by Tim Cross):

“For some time, making transistors smaller has no longer been making them more energy-efficient; as a result, the operating speed of high-end chips has been on a plateau since the mid-2000s (see chart). And while the benefits of making things smaller have been decreasing, the costs have been rising. This is in large part because the components are approaching a fundamental limit of smallness: the atom. A Skylake transistor is around 100 atoms across, and the fewer atoms you have, the harder it becomes to store and manipulate electronic 1s and 0s.”

I’m not an engineer. But if it’s true that computing power is slowing down then it has important implications for the way we think about software and computer products.

The mentality of Silicon Valley often seems to be that of a little boy saying “I’m blowing up this balloon! And it’s going to get bigger and bigger and never pop!”

Hence perhaps wildly over valued tech firms that never turn a profit. Or strange beliefs like the Singularity; Moore’s Law turned into a religion.

The truth is that civilizations, businesses, technology and even people grow, plateau and then decline. If the future is here, but not evenly distributed then it is likely to stay unevenly distributed.

What kinds of products and services will we need if computing power slows down? What kinds of problems will people be prepared to spend money on to get fixed? Might there be opportunities around fixing what we already have or making it work better rather than fantasies of unlimited growth? A prescient entrepreneur might want to start thinking about this…

(also – the new time a tech guru or new media consultant says “computer power is doubling every two years!” you can say “oh no, it’s not”…)

 

Driverless Cars: Where Have All The Drivers Gone?

March 11, 2016

Martin Belham of the Guardian recently wrote a piece about driverless cars, how wonderful they are and how one day we will wonder how we ever did without them.

Martin is a nice and very clever man. I wish him well. But to me his rosy picture seemed to have one important thing missing.

For example, if Uber (as reported) invests heavily in driverless vehicles, once they’ve scooped up enormous amounts of passenger data, they could dispense with drivers altogether. If Uber become a very dominant player in this market (and their aggressive tactics are well documented) lots of drivers who now work for Uber may be seeking alternative employment. Not to mention those black cab drivers who might see their jobs disappear as driverless firms dominate.

A privatised transport system – geolocation data owned by Google, passenger data owned by Uber, with no drivers. What impact would this have on public transport? On people who don’t have disposable income to go everywhere by taxi? How should it be regulated? Who uses the bus lanes?

Martin’s picture of the future is missing the large gangs of young men (and women) hanging around on street corners because they can’t get a job driving a car or a lorry.

The other odd thing about Martin’s piece is this sentence:

“The business that buys a fleet of driverless cars knows that staff can be doing paperwork between meetings while they travel, for maximum efficiency.”

So we will have driverless cars in this future. But we will still be doing “paperwork” and having “meetings”.

No matter how shiny the future, organisations are as bureaucratic as ever, and as obsessed as ever with “efficiency” while continuing to have pointless meetings…

Strange goings on in my long tail

March 6, 2016

Since I got a SoundCloud Pro Account I’ve spend more time looking at my stats and fiddling with my profile then actually making any music.

Numbers are addictive. They change: a little bit here, a little bit there. You want to know when they go up. You panic if they don’t move. But when the numbers are so small, they probably don’t tell you anything.

So why should a two year old track which only had 6 plays suddenly pick up five in a week?

It’s probably just a bot. But a bot coming from Italy, according to the stats.

A puzzle. Never to be solved.

Numbers and pictures dominate. Words come a poor third.

Weekend listening: “Economists are more showbiz than pop stars now”

November 28, 2015

Quote from a conversation in the Guardian between Brian Eno and Yanis Varoufakis.

Remix: