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Posts Tagged ‘voice

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A person with ALS needed to have his voice box removed. But before that happened, he recorded his voice so that computing devices would help him speak.

He recorded 3000 stock phrases and many of his own favourites so that he could artificially create new speech and call up original recordings. One of his choice phrases (at the 12min 57sec mark) was:

A little knowledge may be a dangerous thing, but it’s not half as bad as a lot of ignorance. 

I agree, and there is more than one way to interpret that statement.

The common way is to cite an example like nuclear fission. When that was discovered, it unlocked a massive potential that was as useful for energy production as it was for weapons of mass destruction. That knowledge was indeed dangerous.

Another way of interpreting the sentence starts with focusing on “little knowledge”. It could mean not enough, e.g., little knowledge of how the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines were developed and how they work. Such knowledge can become the basis of conspiracy theories and pseudoscience, e.g., microchips in vaccines and learning styles, respectively.

We do not have to be experts at everything. We simply cannot. But there is such a state as having too little knowledge. In this state, we fill in the void with our own experiences, biases, and cultural cues. For example, much understanding of AI seems to come from movies made for entertainment and these AI want to dominate or destroy human life.

With enough knowledge from credible and reliable sources, we might understand the opposite. For example, the person whose voice is partly powered by AI is roboticist, Dr Peter B Scott-Morgan. In his 1984 publication, he declared (17min 25sec mark): 

If the path of enhanced human is followed, then it will be possible for mankind and robot to remain on the same evolutionary branch rather than humanity watch the robots split away. In this way, mankind will one day be able to replace its all too vulnerable bodies with more permanent mechanisms and use the supercomputers as intelligence amplifiers.

This philosophy of AI as partner instead of rival flies in the face of popular culture. It stems from deep knowledge and critical practice in the field of AI and robotics. It is nowhere as glamorous or attention-grabbing as dystopian Hollywood fare.

Dr Scott-Morgan’s bit of deep knowledge is worth more than money-spinning loads of ignorance. It offers a hopeful and productive way forward.


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The second episode of the YouTube Original series on artificial intelligence (AI) focused on how it might compensate for human disease or conditions .

One example was how speech recognition, live transcription, and machine learning helped a hearing-impaired scientist communicate. The AI was trained to recognise voice and transcribe his words on his phone screen.

Distinguishing usage of words like “there”, “their”, and “they’re” required machine learning of large datasets of words and sentences so that the AI learnt grammar and syntax. But while such an AI might recognise the way most people speak, the scientist had a strong accent and he had to retrain it to recognise the way he spoke.

Recognising different accents is one thing, recognising speech by individuals afflicted with Lou Gehrig’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is another. The nerve cells of people with ALS degenerate over time and this slurs their speech. Samples of speech from people with ALS combined with machine learning might allow them to communicate with others and remote control devices.

Another human condition is diabetic retinopathy — blindness brought on by diabetes. This problem is particularly acute in India because there are not enough eye doctors to screen patients. AI could be trained to read retinal scans to detect early cases of this condition. To do this, doctors grade initial scans on five levels and AI learns to recognise and grade new scans.

This episode took care not to paint only a rosy picture. AI needs to learn and it makes mistakes. The video illustrated this when Google engineers tested phone-based AI on the speech patterns of a person with ALS.

Some cynics might say that the YouTube video is an elaborate advertisement for Google’s growing prowess in AI. But I say that there is more than enough negativity about AI and much of it is based on fiction and ignorance. We need to look forward with responsible, helpful, and powerful possibilities.

You can never be too old to find your voice.


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Stephen Colbert recently interviewed Madeleine Albright on his show. According to Albright, she only found her voice at age 55.

The survivors of the Parkland shooting and Malala Yousafzai found their voices before they turned 18.

Age is not the barrier or criteria for fixing your voice. Your cause, purpose, and passion are.

 
As much as I dislike Facebook (FB) for how it operates and what it stands for, I laugh at the call to #deletefacebook.

Not everyone can afford to. Not everyone should. For example, your FB profile might be the simplest way to stay connected with others socially and/or professionally. You may also need to verify your identify with sites like AirBnB using FB.

When we use FB, we trade some privacy and personal data for connection and convenience. The problems lie in how FB uses (or abuses) our data and how much we choose to share.

We cannot control the former because FB’s processes are not transparent and it is not tightly regulated. For example, it took more digging only after the Cambridge Analytica scandal for us to learn that FB monitors our Messenger conversations and archived user videos after they deleted them.

Instead the onus is on us to manage what and how much we share. That is a bigger problem than FB policies and practices. Why? First consider the “rule of threes”.

The “rule of threes” is that a person can survive for about three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Many find their voice and shape their identities on FB. Depending on how much they rely on it, FB might be their air, water, or food.

This is also why I think most programmes that claim to “detox” you from FB or any other social media platform are nonsense. Unless you are addicted, there is no need for a detox.

The more we realise that social media is a modern necessity and not a luxurious option, the clearer our thinking, and the better our approaches to managing it. Each of us needs to find a healthy balance.

As for me, I only use FB like a passport. FB was cool and cute in its younger days, like a tiger cub. Now older, larger, and more powerful, it has grown into its natural instincts — it is no longer your pet or friend or under your control. FB no longer appreciates what you feed it; it sees you as a complete meal.

So I place a barrier between FB and me. I still am associated with FB, but I can say that I mostly own my FB identity. It does not own me.

I appreciate a good read from any source. It does not take much for such a read to help me see applications in education.

One such read was an investigative piece by the Washington Post (WaPo) broke a story that resulted in the resignation of a character in US politics.

The WaPo reinforces the important role the press plays in the current US political climate. It does not govern and it does not make laws, and it cannot uphold or police those laws. But the press can dive into research and report what it finds.

A good paper is not cynical, but critical. Its reporters and editors are not unprofessional, but hold themselves to high standards of journalistic integrity.
 

 
The same could be said about educators who are critical of schooling practices that are only rooted in the past, ignorant of today, and blind to the future.

The passions of these agents should not be based on unfounded bias, but on experience, rigorous research, and reflective practice. Like a watchdog, they are a check and measure because they monitor and they alert when they sense danger.

These critics are not whiners or complainers. They are a dissenting voice that does not deny that some things are good. However, they recognise that things could be better and they are willing to point those out.

It is important to listen to what our learners have to say. Unfortunately, for some teachers this is rhetoric and they pay lip service to that statement.

Fortunately, some students take matters into their own hands and create messages for all to hear.

The latest one was This Is Genius.


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It might have been inspired by another one in 2013 from across the pond.


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The next video is not a spoken word performance like the first two, but it is no less important.


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The girl probably had help writing the speech. There is nothing wrong with that since political leaders have speech writers.

The girl’s ideas were not entirely new or uniquely her own. There is nothing wrong with that since all of us reuse and recycle the work of others all the time.

The girl had the confidence and courage to stand up for a cause. There is something wrong with us if we judge that cynically or lack the same courage to do the same.

The girl was barely taller than the lectern she stood behind. But she had a view that few adults had. Are we listening to her? Are we listening to our students?

 
As a keynote speaker, I might be concerned about various things. Sometimes the organizers take care of them, sometimes not. Those that do understand the pressures of being a keynote speaker and relieve some burdens.

But there is one basic thing organizers cannot control. The health of the speaker.

Thanks to a throat infection, I am starting to lose my voice a few days before I am due to deliver my keynote address at the inaugural International Congress on e-Learning in the Philippines.

A similar thing happened to me last year at a day-long workshop I conducted for a client. My voice reduced to barely a squeak and I wore a microphone and waist-mounted speakers to amplify the mouse in my throat.

I can only hope that this is not the start of a flu and will seek medication to get rid of that rodest.

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The lines between email and other forms of communication are blurring.

Google has added voice and video to Gmail. It has also enabled RSS feeds to be translated into the (popular) language of your choice.

See Google Press release.


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