tv Washington Journal Judith Shulevitz CSPAN December 19, 2018 4:00am-4:32am EST
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joins us now from new york and she is a contributor for "of the atlantic " and explore the technology behind digital assistants. start by explaining what digital assistants are and how prevalent they are in society. guest: my piece was specifically about voice activated digital assistants. i was talking specifically about those canisters or hockey pucks or little devices we have in our homes that we used to help us cooker play music on or make calls on. those are the first items that we are bringing into our homes that are voice-activated, and in the piece, i go further and talk about the future of these, and we will beginning more and more and they will move into the internet of things. we will be talking to our
refrigerators, our cars, and all these things will be talking to us. we are inis about how the first stages of bringing these things into our homes. host: who is most likely to be buying these things right now? how are they using them? basically, people who tend to be first adopters of technology are the first of buy, but quite a few young families are buying them. my own daughter-in-law bought one and she is a two and a half year old at home. i said why did you do that, just that it allows me to play music without having to open up my computer, because when i open it, my son things i'm going to play a movie. it allows parents to do things about having a screen.
to keepho want screenings out of their houses are surprisingly the wide demographic buying these. host: do you own one? guest: i own two. i like my google assistant, just going to put in a plug. in part, because he is a chipper male voice that makes me smile. andle knows a lot of things has a slightly better and more intelligent user interface then alexa. i use it to find out the weather and get answers to questions, but i keep it turned off a lot. researching this piece made me paranoid. have thealready internet at our fingertips on our smartphones and we can download any thousands of apps. is this technology that much of a leap forward? guest: right now, no. toadd what are called skills
your digital assistant, you have to go to your phone and download things. so, no, but that will change. what i argue in my piece is that the switch from eyes and fingers to ears and voice is a qualitative difference. the reason is the voice is different from the eyes. when you hear of voice, you voice, i mindhat and intelligence beyond what these devices currently have. you cannot help it. you are evolutionarily designed to do that. giving these devices voices gives them an upgrade. it causes us to see them is more than they actually are. one of the theses of my pieces is that the robots are here, they do not have bodies, but voices.
voices are more insidious and intimate than voices with bodies would be. host: and anderson headline today on this topic, consumer robots are dead, long live alexa. talking about the prevalence of these devices. we are having a conversation with judith shulevitz and if you want to join the conversation, if you are in the eastern or central time zone, (202) 748-8000, mountain or pacific time zones, (202) 748-8001. you know thattz, google and amazon are pushing these devices to last holiday season, they lost the money on some of the discounts. why are they doing that and where they seeing the technology going? industry observers speculate about that, we do not know.
they see them as loss leaders. they want to hook you to their these voices as moving to the internet of things -- your cars, your whatever it is, refrigerators, stoves, per will bepliances, they hooked into the google's ecosystem or apple ecosystem. whoever wins that market wins the war. that's where the money is going to be. host: before we get there, there are hurdles they need to overcome. start with the privacy hurdle. the stories of these devices recording conversations they were not supposed to be recording and sending them out to contact. how are they dealing with privacy? guest: they do not actually want
that to happen because they do not want you thinking about how much they are listening. alexa has to have some year is out there to hear, alexa, which turns it on. it is not streaming that what it here is to the cloud, it is staying on the device. once you start interacting with your device, it is streamed to the cloud. reputabled more companies give you ways to delete what is on the cloud. most people do not bother and it lives on the cloud for a long time. we do notanies say, sell that information to third parties. they do not need to, they are really big and can monetize it themselves. less reparable companies may start selling it to third parties. they are collecting data on what you are talking about, what you
are interested in, and as they collect data on you as you browse. it is the usual privacy invasion. the more it goes into different parts of our home, the more it is going to be listening to us. we have to be very careful about what we are giving up which we tend to not be. we just click on that, i agree button. on another level, the security on these devices is terrible. we have already had examples of people hacking into baby cams and collecting information on the movements of your baby which is scary. the companies are not sending these things out with any kind of security so the ways in which malfactors, bad actors could hack into our homes are terrifying. host: i want to let you chat with our callers. on. in florida, you are guest: good morning, america.
i have a question. i do not have alexa, i have a cell phone. notice whend i, i i call, we talk about issues. the other day and it is happened with other things, but the other day i was telling it is her it waslling really try in my house and no sooner did we get off the phone did an advertisement on my phone came up for lips. i had noticed the irony. i was just talking about this and then there was an advertisement. our phones listening to us like alexa? guest: that is a really good question and i've asked that and
they all say, no, that is ridiculous. the possibility is that it certainly is. as soon as you provide information to a company like that, that information can be sold instantaneously. it all happens algorithmically, so it is definitely possible that your phone is listening to you, sending information to the cloud, and that is being bought by third parties, advertising sellers who are marketing it. it is possible. i've not been able to confirm that it has happened. industry people roll their eyes so i do not know what to tell you. host: go ahead. something to think about before you bring all of these things into your home. these things are coming into your home whether you like it or not. they're going to be made with voice interactive devices and
they are going to become the industry standard and so the question is, how are we as a nation going to ask congress to regulate these things and to regulate the privacy. right now, it is the wild west. host: we want to listen to our viewers this morning in this segment. give us a call, (202) 748-8000 in eastern or central time zones, and (202) 748-8001 if you are in the mountainous pacific time zones. anotherhulevitz, category of youtube videos that we see in regard to these devices in wind they misinterpret something we ask them to do or something we say. they misinterpret something we asked them to do or something we say. tost: it is incredibly hard program a computer to have a conversation. it is something that people of and working on for 50 years. there been great leaps in natural language processing.
computers are getting ever better at understanding the context, but they make all kinds of bloopers. is most famous and viral one a two and a half-year-old trying "twinkle,xa to play star." little somehow, alexa interpreted that as various pornographic suggestions. the machine is suggesting sites, and the parent is going, no, n o, stop, stop. alexa can misunderstand things and i do not think that is alarming. what is alarming is when alexa starts to understand all too well. a third of my piece was devoted to artificial emotional intelligence. already, and that
is when a robot or computer can understand the emotional content of your voice far better humans can using machine learning and to big data. the understanding that these machines have two detected the voice will ber used to program emotion into the voice of the digital assistants, and then will have seemingly meaningful conversations with our devices. they will seem to understand us and that will be interesting. it will have a lot of power over us just like any active listener has power. host: up next, from indiana, good morning. caller: hello. you, ist calling to tell smoked since i've been a young
fellow and i still smoke today. that wantese people to bring religion into this thing as far as legalizing it, they got no room to talk about nothing. they need to keep religion out of it. host: we will stick to a discussion about digital assistants this morning since judith shulevitz is only with us for the next half hour. her piece and -- her piece in lantic, alexa is a humble servant, very soon she could be much more. joseph is next in massachusetts. caller: i think she is right on the ball. finally found one person who is standing up and analyzing these things. thank you very much. guest: thank you. host: how may people are ouryzing the impacts that interaction are having on not
only our technology but our emotional lives? aret: a lot of people analyzing the technology. the emotional components is really interesting and has not been well covered. it is a new field and people do not know about it. there is a good story behind its invention. there was a female engineering 20 years agomit realized and studying the neuroscience of decision-making to try to get computers to store data and a more intelligent and she was reading about the roles of the emotions in decision-making and she realized that computers needed emotions. she invented a field that could have been called emotional computing, but she did not want to be that woman in the m.i.t. engineering department, so she called it affective computing. that was 20 years ago. by now, there are companies all over the country that are using this ability to analyze emotion
in your voice, face, and the body language and use it for all sorts of purposes. medical uses, there are all of of psychological, psychotherapeutic applications of this, machines that can understand what is going on to -- with you, cars that can understand that you are agitated and distracted, so they can half drive themselves, they will not hand over the car to you if you distraught or drunk, so this is being used for good and a lot of ways. but it could be used for ill. the powers understand you better than you understand yourself is a lot of power. when they start using that power lusion ofm the il understanding into these devices that will be ubiquitous in your home, car, and office, that is
handing a lot of power over to robots. i do believe these are robots. i think we need to think about that. that is the piece that people are not thinking about, and i am proud of making that a big part of my piece. host: i want to talk about the power of us to be confused by whether we are talking to a robot or another person. this is a link that was included piecesof "the atlantic" about google duplex. a computer calling to make a hair appointment but sounding very human. listen to the conversation. guest: that was in my piece. >> hello, may i help you? >> hi, i am looking for something on may 3. >> sure, one second. >> mhmm. >> what time are you looking for around? >> at 12:00 p.m. >> we do not have a 12:00 p.m.
available. -- closest we have is one 1:15. >> do you have anything between 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.? >> depending on what service, what services you looking for? >> a woman's haircuts for now. >> we have a 10:00. >> 10:00 is fine. >> what is the first named? >> first name is lisa. >> perfect, i will see lisa. >> great, thanks. host: talked us through that technology a little bit and the concerns about it. guest: that is so great, the reason i like the uptalk, the way the women's voices go up at the end of the senses. and -- the end of the . -- sentences.
boo thata big boo google made. the industry went nuts because it betrays the trust that we want to have with our devices that they are going to acknowled ge that they are devices and not try to fake us out. basically, this is all out there already. google is going to use it in relatively benign ways, and lots of other companies and actors are not. snippet of your voice or a voice and make it sound like you, and have you say all kinds of things. not a human voice but i machine generated voice and to make it sound human and do a deep fake. that exists with facial technology individual technology. this is scary stuff because it is facing the line between real
voices and machine generated, and if you want to talk about "fake news", this takes it to a whole new level. another area in which congress ought to get involved, regulators ought to get involved, and start thinking about what we are willing to let people use and not use. how we are willing to let companies take us out. host: about 10 minutes left with judith shulevitz talking but her piece with "the atlantic." carl has been waiting in a new hampshire. good morning. caller: hello, how are you? host: doing well. caller: my comment is that i look at it and i tell educators that 20 years from now, we will be graduating kids out of the eighth grade, and that will be the end of high school, and then we will send them to computer school for a couple of years that they can learn how to push they got theirw
phone right there, they ask you any question, they can give you any answer they need -- it will be perfect. we will save a time of money and we will have these people and the teachers when i have to work very hard. what do you think? are, certainly -- artificial intelligence is being used and you would like to think that their own the people who program. education, i do believe, requires the human touch, but how that is going to be evolve as devices become more savvy is the question. those who can afford it get education from other humans and those who cannot hold in depth doing a vocational education by way of distance learning penned by way of these devices. i think there is some think
-- something to your dystopian vision, but i do not think it is going to happen in 20 years. ofo worry about the decline the humanities in favor of the computer science and engineering, but what you are talking about is not going to happen just yet. i really do not think you can robot yet.ren via host: adam is up next in washington dc. caller: you just took the words out of my mouth. when it comes to computers, everybody's biggest fear is that something matrix is going to happen, but aren't thses -- these computers only able to do what we tell them to do? ofwould take some type consciousness or drive, but these computers are only doing what programmers tell them to do
-- am i correct in that? thank you for the topic. [laughter] guest: that is the question. that is the whole question. they can only do what humans do, but highly trained humans can tell them to do all kinds of sophisticated things. they can program them without the rhythms that reflect their own biases, and there is a lot of discussion about sexism and racism in algorithms. google searches my response to your name -- respond to your name and decide it is a black or white to name and start serving you data or ads that make assumptions about that. even thoughhat there is human intelligence at the back end, computers can do a lot that is worrisome and it does once again need to be
regulated. far as the matrix goes, i do not actually believe this myself but there are people out in silicon valley who are awaiting what is called a singularity which is the moment when computers become so intelligent that we can no longer understand them and will simply be working for them. will be able to upload our consciousness and two machines and we want a longer need our bodies. this is two certain people in silicon valley, are -- this, to people in silicon valley, is a utopian vision. these are machines that we invented that we control, but if we want to control them, we have to have laws. we have to privacy laws and other kinds of regulations. i urge everyone watching this program to think about making this an issue that you actually vote on. host: joe waiting in
tennessee. caller: j, you are the best. one thing to keep in mind is that these devices are all manufactured in china. if you think that the chinese government does not want to listen in on what is going on here, you are in complete denial. the woman with -- that was just arrested, the ceo of huawei, she was accused of the manufacturing cell phones that are listening on on what you are doing and transmitting it to the cloud. g -- a database established in china just for this type of thing.
that is something to keep in mind and i will never have one in my house. and thanks. host: judith shulevitz? guest: i do not think that china has chips and everything. these things are manufactured all over the world at this point. i do think that we have been very lax and united states on cybersecurity. we have dropped the ball. senator mark warner has been aing around promoting cybersecurity doctrine in which carefullyo think more about what kind of technology and privacy we are going to allow into our homes, offices, and personal devices. think -- i do not see it as widespread as the caller, but we need to have policies that take this kind of
security risk into account. host: will is in charleston, west virginia. caller: i had a question. in west virginia, our state constitution calls for certain protections around things you check out from a library. do you see may the information collected by these devices bringing about similar legislation? guest: i hope so. i hope you are right. i had not thought about the connection with the privacy over what you check out from the library as being used as a model for what we could have in terms of cyber privacy, that is interesting. we can gain hope ownership over our personal information as they are doing and trying to do further in europe, for example. this should just simply be owned and sliced, diced, and sold by commercial entities and subject to subpoena
by the government. areink all of these things scenarios that we are beginning to understand and once again, we need to have at the minimum the intoty to choose to opt that we rather now only have the ability to opt out which tends to be very well hidden. we need to be emulating the europeans but the going even further, no question. host: the peace in the november issue of "the atlantic, alexa, ." uld we trust you
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