Collaborating Authors


Content Moderation Case Study: Chatroulette Leverages New AI To Combat Unwanted Nudity (2020)


Summary: Chatroulette rose to fame shortly after its creation in late 2009. The platform offered a new take on video chat, pairing users with other random users with each spin of the virtual wheel. The novelty of the experience soon wore off when it became apparent Chatroulette was host to a large assortment of pranksters and exhibitionists. Users hoping to luck into some scintillating video chat were instead greeted with exposed penises and other body parts. This especially unsavory aspect of the service was assumed to be its legacy -- one that would see it resigned to the junkheap of failed social platforms.

Thomson Reuters to stress AI, machine learning in a post-pandemic world


NEW YORK (Reuters) - Thomson Reuters Corp will streamline technology, close offices and rely more on machines to prepare for a post-pandemic world, the news and information group said on Tuesday, as it reported higher sales and operating profit. The Toronto-headquartered company will spend $500 million to $600 million over two years to burnish its technology credentials, investing in AI and machine learning to get data faster to professional customers increasingly working from home during the coronavirus crisis. Thomson Reuters' New York- and Toronto-listed shares each gained more than 8%. It aims to cut annual operating expenses by $600 million through eliminating duplicate functions, modernizing and consolidating technology, as well as through attrition and shrinking its real estate footprint. Layoffs are not a focus of the cost cuts and there are no current plans to divest assets as part of this plan, the company said.

Battling the Weaponizing of AI


"I don't use Facebook anymore," she said. I was leading a usability session for the design of a new mobile app when she stunned me with that statement. It was a few years back, when I was a design research lead at IDEO and we were working on a service design project for a telecommunications company. The design concept we were showing her had a simultaneously innocuous and yet ubiquitous feature -- the ability to log in using Facebook. But the young woman, older than 20, less than 40, balked at that feature and went on to tell me why she didn't trust the social network any more. This session was, of course, in the aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election. An election in which a man who many regarded as a television spectacle at best and grandiose charlatan at worst had just been elected to our highest office. Though now in 2020, our democracy remains intact.

David Lynch's Industrious Pandemic

The New Yorker

On January 20th, while the world's attention was focussed on the Inauguration, David Lynch quietly turned seventy-five. He spent the day the way he's spent almost every day since the pandemic began: sheltered in his Los Angeles home, engaged with self-prescribed daily routines. "If you have a habit pattern," Lynch told me, over Zoom, "the more conscious part of your mind can concentrate on your work, and you can get ideas and do those things, and the rest sort of takes care of itself in the background." It sounded practical and wholesome, until Lynch related an example: a "famous criminal case" that he'd heard about, involving a man who hacked up his parents with an axe. The mother was killed in the act, but, Lynch said, "the father didn't die right away. He was wounded terribly, in the head, but, in the morning, when it was his time normally to wake up, covered in blood he got out of bed--he didn't even notice that his wife was dead right next to him--he just woke up and made his way down to do his habitual program. . . . Fixed breakfast, but he spilled his cereal all over the place. He made coffee, he made a mess of everything, but he knew the habits, he knew the routine. He went to get his paper, like he does every morning, and he came in with the paper and just bled out, right there in the foyer, and that was the end of him."

'Mythic Quest' brings post-pandemic hilarity in the first Season 2 trailer from Apple TV


In a bit of great news for fans of video games, comedy, and video game comedy, Mythic Quest is coming back on May 7. The first season introduced us to the creators of Mythic Quest, an in-universe MMORPG (think World of Warcraft) overseen by a narcissistic creative director in Ian Grimm (Rob McElhenney). The dysfunctional behind the scenes hilarity that fueled every episode of the premiere season often stood in welcome contrast to the show's real emotive heart, which led to one of 2020's best 30 minutes of television as well as a superb quarantine special. This first look at Season 2 hints at the changed dynamic that's likely to steer a big portion of the season's storytelling. As Season 1 ended, Ian agreed to share creative oversight of MQ with Poppy Li (Charlotte Nicdao). the game's talented lead engineer. This trailer kicks off with two sitting side-by-side as they brainstorm the first key ideas for their game's upcoming next expansion pack.

The Strangeness of Our Animal Bonds

The New Yorker

Last spring, I started boiling two eggs for breakfast every morning--one for me, and one for the crows. A mated pair patrolled the rooftops around my Berlin apartment building; I'd begun luring them to my balcony with peanuts and other snacks. They loved not only eggs but also mealworms, cat food, cashews, chicken hearts, stale bread, cheese, and chunks of lamb fat; they barely touched liver, walnuts, vegetables, and dried fruit. In Germany, we were under a COVID-19 lockdown. But the birds were free.

5 annoying Alexa and Amazon Echo settings you can change

FOX News

Amazon announced that their voice assistant Alexa can now sign business agreements with health providers under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. Third-party health developers can meet the rules that govern how sensitive health information is shared, and major health providers and companies have launched a number of voice programs to help users manage chronic conditions. If you have an Amazon Echo at home, you need to dive into the privacy settings. There are a few important things to lockdown. Don't forget to turn off voice purchasing if you never use that feature, or at least set up a PIN.

Inside the mind of Jeff Bezos

The Guardian

The first thing I ever bought on Amazon was an edutainment DVD for babies. I don't recall making the purchase, but the data is unequivocal on this point: on 14 November 2004, I bought Baby Einstein: Baby Noah – Animal Expedition for the sum of £7.85. My nearest guess is that I got it as a Christmas present for my nephew, who would at that point have been one year old, and at the very peak of his interest in finger-puppet animals who cavort to xylophone arrangements of Beethoven. This was swiftly followed by three more DVD purchases I have no memory of making. Strangely, I bought nothing at all from Amazon the following year, and then, in 2006, I embarked on a PhD and started ramping up my acquisition of the sort of books that were not easily to be found in brick-and-mortar establishments. Everything ever published by the American novelist Nicholson Baker. I know these things because I recently spent a desultory morning clicking through all 16 years of my Amazon purchase history. Seeing all those hundreds of items bought and delivered, many of them long since forgotten, was a vaguely melancholy experience. I experienced an estranged recognition, as if reading an avant-garde biography of myself, ghost-written by an algorithm. From the bare facts of the things I once bought, I began to reconstruct where I was in life, and what I was doing at the time, and what I was (or wanted to be) interested in. And yet an essential mystery endured.

'Users' is a fascinating meditation on life and parenting in the digital age


One of the earliest images in Natalia Almada's virtuoso documentary Users is of an infant, tightly wrapped and strapped to a Snoo smart crib, robotically being rocked to sleep to the sound of manufactured white noise. By recreating many of the sensations of being in the womb, the Snoo has become a popular gadget for new parents who need help tucking their little ones in. In many ways, it's the pinnacle of a smart gadget: Developed by Dr. Harvey Karp, with product design by the renowned Yves Behar, the Snoo solves a problem that parents have faced for millennia. But what do we lose if a robot can automatically soothe a crying baby, effectively replacing a nurturing parent. That's the question at the heart of Users, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this week.