Thursday, May 23, 2019

Bad Assistant

Siri's voice is sexist, or something:
"Because the speech of most voice assistants is female, it sends a signal that women are obliging, docile and eager-to-please helpers, available at the touch of a button or with a blunt voice command like 'hey' or 'OK,'" the study also noted. "The assistant holds no power of agency beyond what the commander asks of it. It honors commands and responds to queries regardless of their tone or hostility. In many communities, this reinforces commonly held gender biases that women are subservient and tolerant of poor treatment."

Sexual harassment

The study also said the "subservience of digital voice assistants becomes especially concerning when these machines — anthropomorphized as female by technology companies — give deflecting, lackluster or apologetic responses to verbal sexual harassment," noting that a writer for Microsoft's Cortana assistant said "a good chunk of the volume of early-on inquiries" ask about the assistant's sex life.

In addition, companies like Apple and Amazon with overwhelmingly male engineering teams have created AI systems that "cause their feminized digital assistants to greet verbal abuse with catch-me-if-you-can flirtation," the study said.
But aren't assistants supposed to do what you tell them, not the other way around?

Gold Star Time

When you become too good to compete:
The University of St. Thomas — called a Division III "powerhouse" — is getting kicked out of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference seemingly because its teams are too dominant, ESPN reported.

"The MIAC Presidents' Council cites athletic competitive parity in the conference as a primary concern," the league said in a statement, according to ESPN. "St. Thomas will begin a multi-year transition immediately and meanwhile is eligible to compete as a full member of the MIAC through the end of spring 2021."

St. Thomas, a private school in Saint Paul, Minnesota, was told the league would disband if the school remained a member, the outlet added, citing school officials.

ESPN said St. Thomas has won six MIAC football titles since 2010 and reached the title game in 2012 and 2015. But the outlet also said the school's overall athletic program has been on a winning streak, with St. Thomas finishing 10th nationally in the Learfield Directors' Cup standings for Division III schools, which grades athletic programs' success.
Shades of Harrison Bergeron...

Dumbing Upward

The developed world may be facing an IQ deficit:
if IQ scores are really dropping, that could not only mean 15 more seasons of the Kardashians, but also the potential end of progress on all these other fronts, ultimately leading to fewer scientific breakthroughs, stagnant economies and a general dimming of our collective future.

As yet, the United States hasn’t hit this IQ wall — despite what you may be tempted to surmise from the current state of the political debate. But don’t rush to celebrate American exceptionalism: If IQs are dropping in other advanced countries but not here, maybe that means we’re not really an advanced country (too much poverty, too little social support).

Or — just as troubling — if we are keeping up with the Joneses (or Johanssons and Jacques) in terms of national development, that means we are likely to experience similarly plummeting IQs in the near future. At which point, the U.S. will face the same dangers of intellectual and economic stagnation.
And that's just in Washington...

The Oldest Trip

Sometimes you just leave stuff lying around:
“There was like a residue … a crust or a crystalline residue on it,” said Curtis.

He sprayed a cleaning solvent on it and started to push the dissolving crystal with his finger as he attempted to dislodge the residue and clean the area.

About 45 minutes later, Curtis began to feel a little strange. He described it as a weird, tingling sensation. He discovered this was the feeling of the beginnings of an LSD experience or trip.

The sensation lasted roughly nine hours.

Three individual chemical tests identified the substance as LSD. A well-known LSD researcher and expert who asked to remain anonymous told KPIX that LSD can remain potent for decades if kept in a cool, dark place.
Literally haunted by the Sixties?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Together Forever?

Should you be able to take your friend with you?
In Virginia, with few exceptions, burying animal remains with human remains in the same cemetery plot is against the law.

"It’s not legal to put a dog’s cremated remains - or any animal - in a casket and bury them,” according to Larry Spiaggi, president of the Virginia Funeral Director’s Association and owner of Morrissett Funeral home.

There are few funeral directors in the country as “pet friendly” as Spiaggi. When you enter his establishment, you’ll be greeted by Peace, a chocolate lab that has free run of the place.

And while Peace is Larry’s personal pet, he’s also a highly trained and certified therapy dog that he keeps at the funeral home to help clients through their grief. He finds the practice of putting down an animal to be buried with its master as abhorrent. And he just won’t do it.

“I am licensed by the state of Virginia, so I have a license on the line with the Health Professionals Board,” he said. “So I can NOT do it.”
Your friend can go on...

Storm Zombies

The deadly fad of storm chasing:
Much of the problem stems from the sheer number of chasers on the road. Back in the 1970s and '80s, there were only a handful out there. Those that were were generally trained atmospheric scientists who understood the dynamics of what they were dealing with.

But the mid-2000s ushered in an era of do-it-yourself storm chasing - popular TV shows such as the Discovery Channel's "Storm Chasers" and the advent of smartphones spurred many to think "I can do this." And in many cases, they can. But in my opinion, they shouldn't.

It's easy to turn on the TV and see a severe weather risk area plastered on a map. Driving to it is simple. And nowadays, high-resolution computer models are made available to the public online. The sheer amount of information out there gives the tools of the trade to anybody. But that doesn't mean they know how to use it.

Storm behaviors change. Cell service drops out. And computer models are often shaky at best. Today's "home-grown" storm chasers may have what they need to get by 99 percent of the time. It's easy to know what to do when things go right. But it's only a matter of time before things go wrong.
Darwin will decide?

No Business Is Bad Business

A former host agrees:
Crawford took to Twitter to say, “I ALWAYS avoided political commentary during my 15 yrs w/ ESPN. 2 things shocked me. 1) So many of my colleagues couldn’t help themselves from weighing in on political matters. 2) That it took so long for a brilliant company like Disney to figure out it was horrible for business.”

Crawford, who first joined the network in 2003, made his comment in reply to a Daily Caller piece revealing ESPN chief Jimmy Pitaro’s efforts to eliminate the constant drumbeat of left-wing politics on the network.

“Without question, our data tells us our fans do not want us to cover politics. My job is to provide clarity. I really believe that some of our talent was confused on what was expected of them. If you fast-forward to today, I don’t believe they are confused,” Pitaro recently told the Los Angeles Times.
Save the confusion for a different network next time...