You may think this is advertising, but you are wrong.
I already have one so I'm just here for the cute kid and his dad enjoying life.
I work with children and I'm used to a barrage of questions from the inane to the stupendous. It's so easy to shrug off the 47th "But why?", but it can actually be interesting to at least try to answer - "We breath because we need Oxygen... because we convert glucose…"
Eventually you inevitably end up at the metaphysical or epistemological - "because if truth wasn't…"
The mind of a child is (and ought be) infinitely inquisitive!
*besides factual questions and even in that case, I still ask them to guess first
The other part of me thinks kids have a lot to learn, and asking why is a good way to get there.
Indeed, there's a reason why it has become an accepted and well-used tool in the management toolbox. It's something we shouldn't stop doing as adults.
Encouraging children to ask why is not only the most kind thing you can do for them, but also the rest of the world.
Except the idea that sending personal data outside the home should be done intuitively, transparently, and with a sense of innocence?
Already I don't expect to be anonymous in any public location. Given a public enough lifestyle and enough acquaintances, the likelihood of someone recognizing you anywhere on the globe or in a random pub is non-negligible.
Open-Source TtS works ok (though inferior), but StT does not really exist.
The device and the service are fixed parts of the incantation (as heard), but the artist's name is not. This is the logical conclusion of that.
I suspect it's not about wanting to hear music as it is about exercising power. (As someone else commented here https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14375928)
Touche. I would absolutely do that.
For example, I recently changed Alexa's awake word to be "computer" (one of 4 allowable options) and I say it with a commanding Picardesque voice. I enjoy doing that. But sometimes I wonder if the joy is coming from the TNG nostalgia or from a sense of power.
I have also wondered about the consequence of adding "please" to the awake word (that isn't an option yet). Given the complexity of the human mind it is not obvious. Perhaps it is human nature to desire exertion of authority. Better to have the authority gratuitously exerted on a piece of electronics than on the family pet.
edit: Picardesque may be obscure so I added a TNG reference.
Children quickly learn the difference between speaking to an inanimate object, and speaking to someone in person.
Pretty much everyone who is 10 or older has learned to be assholes on the internet without having something like a Home/Echo at home.
Why am I spontaneously thinking "Trojan Horse?"
it's amazing how some fundamentals of the human condition don't change even over thousands of years
No, I didn't like The Diamond Age either.
My older kids have already started going to Google and using search-by-voice to find things that me and their mom have either forbade or just to get answers that they didn't find adequate. I saved the auto-recorded MP3s of every query from when my daughter snuck away with my phone and said, "OK Google, show me scary goblins", after we declined to show her scarier ones. This was cute, but unless it's your first day on the internet, you know that children asking Google to show them scary things is a potentially upsetting situation.
My son ran over and asked "how do you turn a Wii U console off and on again" after he didn't like my response of "You have to ask a grown-up to hold down the button on the console for 4 seconds" (this one wasn't bad of course, he was just frustrated that he couldn't reach the console on the shelf and was seeking alternate solutions, but it demonstrates the point that children are learning to seek truth from the machines).
Perhaps more concerning is the disclosure inherent in a child's questioning. Suppose your family adheres to an illegal religious or political tenet. You teach this to your children in hushed tones where no one is listening. One day, they innocently approach the $MEGACORP_LISTENING_DEVICE and say "Alexa, why doesn't Daddy believe that the Great Leader is a smart man?"
Next day, Mommy and Daddy go bye-bye and the children go off to be re-educated.
That is absolutely a plausible scenario. All of us on HN already know that the tech is there for that. The government needs only to wait for the population to be hostile enough against those who oppose the Great Leader to accept it.
I intermittently work on education content to better develop a rough quantitative feel for physical size. Lots of searches mentioning "millimeters". And Google Images starts showing me pictures of guns. And bullets. Lots of guns. Even on unrelated searches. Then I work on something else for a while, and they slowly all go away. Not much liking guns, it's a disincentive to work on the topic. And while I like the concept of encouraging kids to use google searches to get rough sizes for the objects they deal with, and "OBJECT millimeters" (or "micrometers", etc) works... Google's behavior gives me pause.
> Yeah, there's definitely a sinister component to accepting a device from $MEGACORP into your home and allowing it free reign to indoctrinate and teach your child.
Yeah. "Is human evolution real?" "Is climate change real?" :) I just searched for "how old is the earth", and while the embedded answer is 4By, the top link is "A handbook for students, parents, and teachers countering the latest arguments for evolution". Can you think of any approach to answering such questions, even personalized, that won't be thought a problem?
In an alternate timeline, there's an NSF science education wiki to point to, but oh well.
You might seed the environment with cans of different sugar content https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzsORE0ae10&t=69 , potentially helping with several common misconceptions ("heavy sinks", "metal sinks", "hollow floats"). Perhaps small plastic bottles with pennies. Pennies are also good for sinking boats. As a collaborative follow-up to the cans, perhaps a layered drink https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVsMmCb3Cdw , or hand-mixed sugar water in those floating/sinking small plastic bottles.
Other random fun density videos: Bubbles on CO2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drBjDy96iNI&t=30 and Al boats on SF6 gas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckaJs_u2U_A . I've been exploring a "teach size down to atoms, then nucleons up to bulk materials", for early-primary. Thus the links.
I guess it'd just be a continuation of a trend, where the effect is already in full effect with slightly older kids, who can read. Today's 14 yro probably learned most of what they know about puberty, college, sex, race or drugs from "google" anyway. They used to learn things adults avoid telling kids from eachother, now it's google.
Maybe it's no big deal if they start as soon as they can talk. Strange though.
Take this community, you will find the ones that are good at what they do aren't just good, because of access to information, but because of the kind of mentors that have been around them or they have run into in life.
That's really the missing piece in today's internet. Despite all this information access it's still hit or miss that a kid or an adult will find the right mentor.
There's more to it.
I'm interested in multi-scale interdisciplinary story telling for science education. Sort of, sit down on the floor with a graybeard, who has fascinating stories about engineering and the world. And videos and interactives and questions. And you "pick up" all sorts of understanding and skills. Rather than the usual incoherent memorize and regurgitate.
So say you're today writing a web page with embedded videos. When showing the page in person, you can see what's of interest to the viewer; when something is getting boring; what is understood and what's confusing. You can respond to questions, address misconceptions, point to related content, and suggest different paths through the material. But what about when the page is viewed normally? Youtube-like "related links" are very limited. You can, at long last, do speech recognition, on some browsers. But dialog systems? Not ripe. Something as simple as "if they ask about those ripples, show them this other video" still isn't easy enough. "[R]espond in a meaningful way"? That could be breathtaking.
Someone did an art project. You go, and watch an interesting video. But why is it interesting? Under the covers, it's like an old "choose your own adventure" game, assembling a narrative out of parts. And it uses eye tracking to detect what you're interested in. Do you like character A? Then we'll emphasize A.
There's old advice, that since history is all connected, you should approach it from whatever interests you. Textiles, architecture, materials, food, games, environment, governance, whatever. It's all tied together, so start pulling the thread anywhere. Science and engineering are also very very richly interwoven. Or should be. We just teach it so very wretchedly.
And then there's AR/VR coming.
And for the "but irreplaceable humans!" arguments, there's work on collaborative human/crowd/computer composite agents. Like http://hdl.handle.net/1802/29594 .
So yeah. The next decade could be awesome.
Hannu Rajaniemi (science fiction author) tried to go further, and attempted to create an "interactive" narrative that actually used some brain activity sensors to see what imagery you most responded to: http://neurofiction.net/
Apr 1, 2020 - Scary Zombie Game introduced "scared as you want to be"(tm), using real-time emotive feedback to adjust game art and story to achieve the desired levels, types, and temporal profiles of scare. The "won't startle a baby bunny" profile developed a camp cult following. Valve reports no player has ever completed the "continuously mounting dread with Poisson spikes of terror" profile.
With eye tracking perhaps widespread in the 2018 generation of HMDs, it seems an area likely to get increasing attention.
Why are we handing massive advertising corporations the keys to our children's minds?
Kid: OK Google, Could Jesus microwave a burrito so hot that he himself could not eat it?
Google Home: ? ?? ???
Google Home: Segmentation fault (core dumped)
Kid: OK Google, Please initiate bug bounty payout.
Imagine growing up and finding out that your parents took away your ability to decide whether or not you want corporations to have a permanent record of your entire life?
A device that records you and sends the data to a corporation! In 1984 people were freakin' forced to have one. In 2017 people WANT to have one.
Sorry for this short rant, but I just struggle with understanding what's wrong with people these days.
I have an Echo and I mainly use it to set timers and check the weather. If that, plus a few questions about "How tall is the Eiffel Tower?" constitute a huge cache of data on me, I'm honestly fairly relaxed about it.
Compared to the vast number of tracking pixels, cookie sync firings and God knows what else that happens if I happen to load up a web browser without a VPN & ad blocker, it's really small beer. Not to mention the location tracking that happens by default and is mandated by law in every smartphone.
Also, the 1984 comparisons just don't bear fruit. We're not living in a violent, single-party totalitarian regime. We're just not. If anyone is really relevant to this, it's Weber and his concerns over the rise of unaccountable and powerful bureaucracies and social alienation.
Our tendency to pattern match will only ever pick out what someone predicted correctly, it often overlooks what a thinker got wrong and Orwell was wrong about a lot of things in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. Much of what he gets right relies on things like conflating the power of the state with the power of corporations, and equating businesses tendency to employ euphemism with the complete evisceration of language.
That's not to say that we shouldn't be mindful of privacy concerns and what we are allowing into our lives, but 1984 is a pretty blunt and emotionally charged instrument for critiquing something like Google Home.
I just don't see the big deal.
One particularly interesting example of this Kyllo v United States, where the use of infrared cameras to find grow lights inside a home was ruled a search (and thus needed a warrant) because infrared cameras were not common so the general public did not in practice see infrared emissions as "available to the public". The opinion of the court, however, did point out that their decision would be defunct when infrared cameras became generally available and used by the public. At that point the public would no longer expect infrared emissions to be private. (Presumably this expectation might create a market for e.g. ir-blocking paint? If that's even possible?)
Installing microphones that regularly send data to unknown 3rd parties normalizes the expectation that spoken word in the home is no longer private. When perceptions change, so will warrant requirements.
> We're not living in a violent, single-party totalitarian regime.
If that's you're criteria for when to act, you are always going to be too late to do anything. Some of us prefer the idea of detecting problems early - hopefully before the become violent.
Your argument is different to, and stronger than the parent's though. The parent's argument was not that we were on the thin end of a wedge to a totalitarian state, but that in some senses we had already passed that point because there was a voluntary element to it.
Still though, IR cameras by their nature are always-on and always transmitting data. They'd be pretty useless if they weren't! That's not the case for Google Home or any of the solutions currently on the market. Google Home also no-more violates this condition than say, a set top TV box that sends data on my TV viewing back to a central server.
If the public expects that a home might be recording their speech and sending it to a 3rd party - and thus theoretically has the opportunity to not speak or employ some sort of defense being recorded - then then Kyllo v United States suggests 4th Amendment protection no longer applies.
Just look at how many people here on HN already claim to no longer expect privacy.
> voluntary element
That's my point - your choice to voluntarily normalize surveillance impacts my 4th Amendment protections.
In the case of near-IR night vision CCTV cameras in common use, yes. The case of Kyllo v. United States specifically involved very expensive long-wavelength thermal imagers that are not typically used in civilian CCTV applications . Furthermore, federal agents specifically pointed a mobile camera at the house to see temperature changes behind the walls, which differs from a static always-on installation.
 There are fixed thermal surveillance imagers (see http://www.flir.com/surveillance/display/?id=64664 for FLIR's latest), but they're typically used for military installation security. Unlike NIR cameras they require no external illumination, and are tuned to detect the black-body radiation naturally emitted by warm-blooded things.
> Law enforcement must have a valid and legal warrant
Kyllo v United States established a bright line test that the need for a warrant specifically depends on if the technology used is commonly available to and used by the general public.
At some point it is impossible to know the list of possible words you cannot speak and the public will simply start assuming that they may be recorded anyway. When that perception changes, so will legal doctrines.
You can own every single smarthome device in existence today and quite rightly assume that you are not being passively recorded. These concerns amount to overblown FUD.
... But we could be one day, and some people are. The transition to cloud listening devices in every house and the transition to totalitarianism each only need to happen once. The thing Orwell missed was that these devices could be made useful enough to consumers for that transition to be first.
If a person is concerned with the practical security implications of Amazon's Echo or Google's Home, I expect they should be terrified of the potential vectors for misuses that their mobile phone allows.
The future state of government regulation and the ability for those in power to use the digital tracks I've left do concern me, but I've found it very difficult to decide how to combat it without fully disconnecting and moving off-grid. There are ways to mask and obfuscate certain parts of that record, to be sure (Tor, proxies, not using Echo or Home, no connected devices, etc.) but I like the benefits that technology brings to me life and I don't really want to move into a remote, signal-free location to live a spartan life.
I don't think Orwell imagined that universal surveillance would happen due to consumer demand rather than imposition by the totalitarian state.
What 1984 didn't depict or foresee was that the same technology that can be used by corporations and governments to monitor citizens can be (and is) just as easily used by citizens to monitor the actions of the governments and corporations, and hold them to account.
To quote John O'Farrell of Andreessen Horowitz :
“So, Orwell was partly right. The state uses ever more advanced surveillance technology to watch us, and our own ever-greater use of personal technology makes it possible. On the other hand, technology has fundamentally destroyed the state’s ability to control our access to information, and exposed its bureaucracy to unprecedented scrutiny. This may be the death of privacy, but perhaps it’s also the death of secrecy and impunity. In that respect, fortunately, Orwell was wrong. Thanks to technology, Big Brother may be watching us, but we’re watching him too.”
Whether or not society is overall healthier in this state than it was before the technology emerged, I'm undecided, but the powers of surveillance do seem rather more balanced than the dystopian view suggests.
I don't think we can revert the trend, but maybe at least try and redirect the stream to a solution that is concerned with privacy.
The same goes for the Whatsapp dilemma.
I can see some people not wanting this for themselves, but why care if I have one?
I wouldn't compare that to Google Home (or Alexa or whatever).
1) The current solutions are plain stupid. They impress me about the same way that speech recognition to type a letter in the early 2000s impressed me. Some things work. Most don't.
2) The current solutions are backed by corporations and (as someone that really dislikes all things Apple) among these three only Apple might be considered somewhat trustworthy (they aren't a shop that tries to sell you every product this planet has to offer nor are they the biggest and scariest advertisement company).
I like the Star Trek visions. I'd also like a replicator and a holo deck, but won't argue that a 3d printer and Google Cardboard are kinda there yet.
(Obviously it doesn't make sense to complain about YOU liking these products. I assume the GP feels just cornered by the inexplicable mass appeal/success of these products)
Other people not caring about privacy equals governments not caring, equals big brother for everyone, like it or not.
If government is the Leviathan, this undirected but quite strict framing of our choices is Cthulhu.
Huxley always seemed to have a better handle than Orwell did on what makes people tick.
Walk down to a local AA meeting and see people who at some point willingly made a decision and who are now, unfortunately controlled by it. This will always exist.
You are using the internet, you already have a big brother that can see everything you do.
Google at least show you what it have on you. It's a far bigger problem that governments don't.
As predicted by Brave New world.
If someone finds their home device to be "more than a dumb box" and doesn't want to remove it from their life, you're at an impasse. No one granted you the authority to just decide where everyone else gets to draw their own personal line.
It has nowhere near 24/7 uptime.
Also, I don't carry the phone around with me everywhere.
I'd argue that those (should not) transmit audio data to any random company, but then I've never understood what Google Now/Google Assist or whatever it's called nor what Siri is about..
On one hand, it is fundamental human nature (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_New_World#Comparisons_wi...).
On the other hand, it is a trade off. Your post to HN can be mined, aggregated in a similar manner. Even a level before that, your access to the internet can be mined, aggregated and a profile built of you by your ISP. You are voluntarily cooperating with that are you not?
I personally think there is an age where people decide; everything that existed before now is useful and nice, and everything new is evil. Kind of a technological puberty.
Drop the handset on the recently inspected switch, the mic ain't connected to nothin'.
Please please please don't let this be crushed out of him.