As Halloween approaches, the eerie and creepy seem to be present around every corner. But in the tech world, the eerie and creepy are at play every day.
From very basic apps that we use every day to deep diving technology that learns, there are a lot of things out there that, when you stop and think about what they’re doing, might just give you the heebie jeebies.
Seeing through a different lens.
Apps like Snapchat have given even the most basic user the ability to alter appearances with the swipe of a finger. We can now, literally, see through rose-colored glasses or give another person puppy-dog eyes. While entertaining, it also goes to show how a seemingly simple app has the ability to alter how the world sees us. In less than 5 seconds, I can go from sweatshirt-wearing mom to a cartoon, a vampire or a mullet-sporting man. If an app that a child can master has the capabilities of doing this, imagine what a more advanced one could do – such as making …
Is the “person” you’re listening to or chatting with human? Seems like an odd question. What else would she be – E.T.-look-a-like? Furry loveable Alien Life Form? Probably not. But she could be a digital human. Used for anything from simulated news anchors to online virtual assistants, these digital humans are interacting with us more than we probably realize. Check out how one company is using them to talk to potential renters.
Wasn’t Burt Reynolds the best Bond?
Wish you could have seen what it would have been like to have someone else play your favorite character? Now you can. Enter Digital fakes. With digital fakes, also known as deepfakes, artificial intelligence learns what a source face looks like in order to replace a person in an existing image or video with someone else’s likeness. Politicians and other leaders are often the subjects of deepfakes, which is a little disconcerting. How do you know if the person you’re supporting actually said what you think he did? Grab some popcorn, curl up with Bruno and check out how the stars of some pretty famous movies could easily be replaced.
Isn’t it nice to be recognized?
We all thought it was really cool the first time we were able to look at our phone and it knew us. And it still is a nice convenience, but research has shown the technology can be fooled. And with facial recognition used everywhere from unlocking your iPhone to airport surveillance, how long before you’re on the Most Wanted list because your tween is mad you didn’t let her go to that party and she puts your face on the local bank robber “just for fun”?
The walls might not have ears, but does the picture frame?
How many of us have latched on to the convenience of an in-home “smart” device? Google Homes, Amazon Echoes and Apple HomePods have become so ubiquitous that even Fluffy knows how to operate them. And with them came the theories that they are always listening. True? Who knows? But it is suspicious that Google knows to pop up Ming Garden’s menu when I aimlessly say aloud, “I could really go for some orange chicken”. And how does Facebook know that I’m in the market for a new blender before I’ve even admitted breaking ours to my husband (but did swear about it loudly near my phone)?
Appliances that were once silent that now raise their voices.
Remember back when our washing machines just hummed quietly in the basement? When our refrigerators didn’t tell us we were out of milk? I’m not sure about you, but this feels like just a step away from the Decepticon toaster we all chuckled over. If my freezer tells me step away from the ice cream, it might just become a casualty of creepy technology.
Doorbells that open the door to bad guys.
The ability to have our phone alert us if baby Jane wakes is a comfort for many. And doorbell cameras we can monitor on our phones certainly have given us some good laughs when we watch would-be thieves get covered in glitter by the fake packages we left for them to steal. But those things also come with backdoors used by hackers to gain entrance to our lives. Who else could be watching your baby?
Programs that tell me what to think.
Autocorrect fails have been making the world laugh for years now, but correcting word spelling has been taken a step further with platforms utilizing autocomplete. While at first blush this concept might seem useful, it does bring to question whether or not we are being told how to think. For instance, when I type, “How are” into an email in Gmail, it wants to auto-populate it with, “How are you?” Sure, this seems innocuous enough, but I had been about to type, “How are you and your family handling Great Aunt Edna coming to live with you?” Yes, it’s easier just to hit Tab and let Google finish it, and sure, the difference isn’t huge, but by letting Gmail auto-populate my sentence, I’ve de-personalized my message. By just accepting the recommendation, I’ve made a subconscious choice that the recipient of this email isn’t important enough for me to choose my own words. If we just start accepting suggestions, who (or what) is really doing the talking?