Don't call AI bigoted

Don't call AI bigoted

Despite what some claim, Artificial Intelligence is not racist. Google built a system to detect hate speech or speech that exhibited questionable content. Following the rules given, it picked out a range of people with what some try to claim was a bias toward black people. Wrong. The AI simply followed the rules and a larger number of black people and some other minorities, as defined in the US, were found to be breaking those rules. It didn't matter to the machines that when one group says it, it isn't defined as hate speech by some; it simply followed the rules. People can ignore or pretend not to see rules, but machines don't work that way. What the exercise actually found was that speech by some groups is ignored while the same thing said by others isn't. As the saying goes, don't ask the question if you're not prepared to hear the answer.

- Sometimes things get turned around. A light shone through the clouds of Twitter, the platform used primarily to harass people, with the #WaPoDeathNotices response to The Washington Post's bizarre headline after the recent death of the Isis Leader. People from all sides of the world and political landscapes submitted often hilarious parodies of the paper's headline, causing the editorial staff to make a later change. Hilarity is not typically associated with Twitter. In another unexpected twist, the Australian government is suing Google for misleading its customers and alleging the technology giant broke consumer law by misleading Android users about how their location data was collected and used. I expect to see more of this from other places in the coming months.

- Google's new Pixel 4 phone range is available. The 4XL 6.3 inch screen model peaks at US$999 (30,200 baht), putting it well under the other major brands' top prices, but without the top-end memory specs. Now for the bad news. Pixel 4 users can unlock their smartphones with their faces even if they have their eyes closed. This means someone could activate your phone if you're sleeping or, worse, dead. It also opens up the way for some pranksters. It is also the only biometric system supported by the Pixel (no, there is no longer a fingerprint reader). As an aside, the display comes from Samsung. By comparison, other systems -- eg, the one Apple uses -- require the subject's eyes to be open. If you happen to sleep that way, then there is no solution for you.

- I still see it from time to time, typically on government systems: "XXXXXX system will only run on Microsoft Internet Explorer." At work I need to use three different browsers just to be able to do everything I need to. Enter a recent update to the Australian Border Force's Cargo System, or ABF's ICS. Governments love acronyms. It started with a Windows 10 update. This required some users to fire up an older version of IE to access the system -- or, in government-speak: "A change in behaviour of the protocol establishing the security of the connection with ICS is causing authentication failures." Ironically, Microsoft told users to move off IE sometime back or use another browser. But in this case, if you try the message, what's shown is "Integrated Cargo System (ICS) only supports Internet Explorer on Windows at this time". Currently, about 6% of the world's users still use IE, so I'm not sure why the Border Force is still locked into it, but it is not alone.

- Amazon suffered a DDoS attack recently. This is an attack where large numbers of external sources flood the target with a wave of messages. In this case, it took down a large number of Amazon-supported websites. According to Catchpoint, Amazon was slow to react. The attack was not aimed directly at Amazon Web Services but an associated service, the S3 Simple Storage Service. The flow-on affect was what caused the problems. It took quite a few hours before Amazon recovered and services resumed, highlighting that even the biggest cloud providers can be affected.

- The top app on Android recently? Your Phone by Microsoft. No, that isn't a typo. At the time of writing, Microsoft has the No.1 spot on Android. It allows phone users to connect their phone to their Windows 10 PC to share photos, text messages and notifications. If you want to check this out, you will need a Microsoft account.

- Some final bits. Amazon has turned off its final Oracle database, moving mostly to open-source products like PostgreSQL. According to a recent report, Huawei has made record profits after being curtailed by the US. Up 8.7% net profit over the same period last year, they have expanded in phone, PC, tablet, wearables and smart audio product sales. That said, Huawei has admitted that US sanctions are hurting its phone business. The issue is an alternative to the Google software suite, as they have no alternative solution ready to go. The real question is if the US will remove all restrictions in the near future as trade negotiations progress.

James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at

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