Just another normal week for machine learning ("AI") then
Should we be surprised that like the third story is about women wanting nothing to with the dumpster fires depicted in stories 1, 2, and 4?
A record label this week dropped an AI rapper after the biz was slammed for profiting from the virtual artist, said to be modeled on Black stereotypes. Capitol Music Group apologized for signing FN Meka this week, and cancelled a deal with Factory New, the creative agency behind the so-called "robot rapper." FN Meka has been …
We've been trying to get more women into IT for at least the last three decades. Its pretty damned obvious by now that most women want nothing to do with IT, and those that do are quite capable of working in IT without being patronised and without all of us being saddled with dross who cannot be sacked because noone wants to be the one to reduce the number of women in IT (they usually end up as team leaders who dont let their lack of knowledge interfere with their micromanaging of their team...)
There used to be far more women in IT >30 years ago and going back many years before that it was unremarkable. First place I worked it was close to parity but many started to leave as management became increasingly toxic. Being the stubborn type, I clung on for years until it eventually made me ill. :| I wouldn't recommend a job in IT to any other women; on the contrary, I'll continue telling them to avoid it as a career until it cleans up its act but it seems like it's going to be a long wait.
I've worked for terrible bosses of both sexes: being an atrocious manager definitely seems to be a true example of equal opportunities (likewise, being a good manager). There is a bit of an epidemic of bad managers in IT though. A notable example I've mentioned previously occurred during the Greasy Bob years at DEC where the number of managers exploded as the overall headcount was slashed and I'd overhear them bragging that they didn't need to know shit about IT because their leet management skills were so awesome. I suppose they were the same sort of awesome as their social skills. There's a college nearby that churns them out. I see them getting on the bus occasionally and the bad attitude is palpable.
The best manager I had was the one who flounced off because he wasn't being paid a big enough premium over "his" technical staff to demonstrate his worth. They didn't replace him for six months or so and we saw an unrivalled period of high productivity and morale. I was offered the job (God knows why) and I told them to bugger off. I've mixed feelings about that: doing whatever managers do seems like my idea of hell, but my refusal caused them to hire the manager from hell. I suppose it was a learning experience.
Also not sure what's with all the downvotes: my experience is what it is and I'm not about to say "oh yeah, I'll recommend it after all, then, in spite of everything". Although it's tempting to get all snarky about "mansplaining" etc I also found the often-blamed tech guys were rarely the problem (quite the opposite, usually: most people I worked with tended to be very professional and the fact that memories of a few problematic individuals still stand out after so many years indicates that they were actually pretty uncommon).
"There used to be far more women in IT >30 years ago and going back many years before that it was unremarkable. First place I worked it was close to parity but many started to leave as management became increasingly toxic."
Sadly that was also the experience of a woman friend of mine who worked in financial IT in the period you refer to.
Listening to her experience I also got the impression that the management was ineffective, focussed on presenteism rather than productivity, and disorganised and therefore inefficient.
How many women in the general population are interested in IT in the first place. That 22% could quite well be completely representative.
Where's all the scare storeis about the demand to get more men in nursing? There's on 3% last time I checked.
No, but I thought this was interesting...
"The numbers aren't great in academia either. Less than 14 percent of authors listed on ML papers are women, and only 18 percent of authors at top AI conferences are women. "
...bearing in mind that someone was complaining the other week that only 10% of CS undergraduates are female. It isn't academia where they are dropping out. I've seen similar figures for other STEM subjects over many years. It's teenagers who are making these life-changing decisions.
The STEM issue is self-feeding and has a lot to do with the very poor pay teachers receive
Poor pay means poor quality teachers, many of whom are there for the wrong reasons and many of whom bring their antipathy to STEM subjects with them
Someone who has an attitude of "Math is HARD" tends to turn out students who don't do well in math - why is that not a surprise? By the time they get to high school it's already too late to undo a lot of the damage
If you can't get a real job, you teach. If you can't teach, you teach teachers.
It's self-feeding. Why on earth would competent people who know what they're talking about go into teaching when they can get much more rewarding careers and lives anywhere else?
The main customer for this is going to be the scam call centres that India is riddled with. When 'Peter' from Microsoft calls to inform you that a virus has been found on your computer, the Indian accent often prevents proceedings going the way the caller desires and this is not for any racist reasons.
This software has only one purpose, to deceive, and I sincerely hope the backers lose out in a big way.
Sometimes it's a real call center - in India. If the accent is more legible after going through the gizmo. I do not have the best of hearing. I don't ask for English, though; I ask if they have anybody who speaks Midwest American English. This is, of course, when I make the call. Otherwise, I pick up then hang up for any call from an unknown name or place.
This software will confound my strategy for avoiding scam calls. If a caller has a "challenging" accent (that can include indian, glaswegian, American), I put the phone down. Same if the background noise is characteristic of a call centre.
If its important they'll find an alternative means of communication.
That's no help with calls I make to such as businesses when I need their services or support but in those circumstances the whole experience is far worse. "Press 1 for sales, 2 for..." etc to land in a queue of indeterminate length listening to "music" interrupted by "your call is important to us..." messages only to end up speaking to some clueless idiot whose only chance of employment is at a minimum wage call centre. In that case a difficult accent makes the situation still worse.
I wonder how it works when someone with an extreme Glasgow accent, challenging for a UK "normal" English speaker, gets put through to an Indian call centre,
What we need is another "rate the organisation" website. It comes down to a few questions, primarily "how long did it take to get the answer you needed (if at all)" . But could usefully add some more like : what was the communication medium (phone, email, social media etc); was an undertaking to respond later (call back, email etc) fulfilled; were you transferred to another person (how many times did you have to repeat the same question).
A few friends of mine worked in call centers for the Italian "market" (one of them was, for example, in tech support for HP for a while). All of them have actual four year university degrees in Italian, but, of course, they don't have native accents. It was not uncommon for call centers to have them pick false identities and they would be instructed to insist that they were Italian when challenged by the customer about it, or, if pressed really hard, to admit to not being Italian, but to lie that they were from some Eastern EU country (Slovakia, Romania) and never say that they were from Serbia. And here the friend who told me this made a remark: "They (Italians) say that 'extracomunitari' (term for people from outside of the EU) is not a slur, but that's not true, it is". So, I can imagine this having a legit use.
I find demands for diversity in a given area to be patronising. If there's direct discrimination, smash the hell out of it but simply jabbing fingers at statistics presumes that the incumbent majority group is representative of success, ergo the groups not represented in that area are failures. In other words, it presumes that minority/oppressed groups can only be successful when they, on average, perfectly mirror majority/oppressor groups.
Let individuals be individuals and forge their own course; that is real diversity worthy of celebration.
What we as a society need to provide is equality of *opportunity* which allows everyone to choose their path through life without hindrance to the best of their abilities. It is insane to believe that the same proportion of majority /minority groups will desire on average the same results as every other group (ie equality of *outcome*).
Treat people as individuals not as part of a group.
Fully agreed, but how do you actually gauge equality of opportunity? Equality of opportunity may exist on paper, in law, or in the noble words of company execs - but be undermined in practice by the (possibly subtle, even unconscious) prejudices of those tasked with providing the opportunities.
This has been demonstrated time and again, e.g., in studies which show that recruitment outcomes can be very different when the race/gender/etc. of the applicant is hidden from the recruiter.
I had to deal with a few support calls to actual bigger companies. When you call them for support their English accent is so atrocious I literally asked for someone else with a better English. The other way around is when they try to speak German, which they pronounce so bad that I BEG them to speak English. This makes the famous Baltimore Accent Test sound like clean British English from Tom Scott....
The problem is not necessarily with accent as it is with (very) poor language skills. Note that pronunciation is part of a language skill. But this is a symptom of the real problem.
The real problem are the companies trying to save a few cents and outsource the first (and second) line support to the cheapest available. This is done regardless quality. Only price is an issue. If you are wondering about the poor quality of support, then I suggest you start complaining to those who ordered the service before we all complain about the poor language skills of the person on the line.
Poor support is also a result of race to the bottom (pricing). The "it has to be cheap" has become so prevalent that it is almost impossible to get any decent quality support any more. Both in-house and outsourced are cut to the bone and even deeper.
Maybe we all should call the CEO, CTO and CFO for support. Do they speak without accent? Or does a Scottish, Irish or Welsh accent not count?
Well said. It's not the accent, it's the fact that you get what you pay for and those people are literally at subsistence level.
> "Since they are the client, it is important that we know how to adjust."
Any client of mine that shows the slightest disrespect to any employee of mine ceases to be a client of mine, no ifs no buts. Nobody has a right to be an arse.
Nobody has a right to be an arse.
I beg to differ...
Everybody has a right to be an arse.
However, nobody is under any obligation to listen or associate with an arse.
Unless the arse is an integral part of your own backside, in which case you may do yourself a favour and cut it off permanently
"Note that pronunciation is part of a language skill."
Well, yes and no (as the last paragraph of your post acknowledges). Those Indian call-centre workers are probably speaking perfectly-pronounced Indian English*, while my partner, who is a non-native (but very competent) English speaker struggles mightily with perfectly-pronounced Scottish English, as she is accustomed to the South-East England variety.
*As an academic, I was at one time vexed by emails from Indian academics/students expressing a "doubt" about my work - until I twigged that in Indian English this simply meant they were having difficulty understanding something, rather than insinuating I'd got it wrong.
The "I have a doubt" thing had me going for a while until I figured out it was just "I have a question". They also use words like revert in odd ways, and then go so far as inventing updation as a thing. Also, physical mannerisms like shaking the head for yes had me very confused at first.
Idiom is important. High quality companies educate and train their staff in the idom they need to provide support in
Cheap ones just fill seats with Bangalore graduates
As others have pointed out, it's part of the "race to the bottom" - and part of that is DISCOURAGING people from calling helpdesks in the first place
There's a mentality (particularly amongst American and British companies thanks to a bad infestation of MBAs who worship at the Temple of Rand(*)) that support is a cost centre. Done right it's a repeat sales tool
(*) Never mind that the goddess of neoliberalism was on social security when she died....
“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."
> The real problem are the companies trying to save a few cents
All is said.
Often the real problem is not that the person doesn't speak with your local accent, but rather that they work based on a fixed and extremely simplified decision tree, which obviously doesn't include your specific problem. In the end it doesn't really matter if you understand them, as they have little to tell you anyway. Did you switch it off and on again? Well sorry, we can't help you...
I didn't know him (hey, still German living in Germany here), so I had to go to da tube for this. And I have to day: I rather stick with Tom Scott. Better content, and better English!
Edit: Though I have to say: Cilit Band is an Henkel Brand, from Germany. Using chlorine based stuff OF COURSE WORKS. But wear think cleaning gloves. But there is something even better: Use the cheap toilet-limestone-dissolver stuff, has a higher chlorine content and works where BANG fails! Side effect: Don't get it on your clothes if you don't want white spots.
I notice that our work coffee machine descaler fluid is actually lactic acid-based. Lactic acid, it's in yoghurt, must be mild stuff, innit? Not a bit of it - it's pretty vicious. You definitely don't want to mix that with chloride-based products.
When I was a young lad, my father told me that during his college days, as a prank, he and his buddies would sneak a bucket of NI3 solution into the movies. They'd put sheets of paper into the bucket, which they'd drop onto the floor behind them as they walked the aisle toward the screen. During the movie, the sheets would dry and crystals would form. After the movie ended, people would get up to leave, walk back up the aisle, and step on the papers. Snap-bang-poppity-pop!
Annoying to other moviegoers, surely, but it didn't cause panic. These days, people probably would immediately assume something terrible was happening.
We made nitrogen triiodide and TNB (big brother of TNT) in the Sixth Form chemistry lab. It wasn't authorized; we were supposedly using the Lab to do homework. Our Chemistry teacher figured it out after we blasted a limb off a tree behind the sixth form common room and eyeballed what equipment and chemicals we had out of the unlockable cabinets ... Made a hell of a bang! :-)
We were given a "talking to" by the Chem teacher & the Sixth Form Headmaster. That was it. Our parents weren't even notified. Nor was the school's actual Headmaster.
These days, we'd probably be given life without for being potential terrorists.
 Toluene was hard to come by, even back then, but we had Benzene at hand ...
My memory could be over-egging the pudding, but I remember at school we did an experiment that involved generating chlorine and the atmosphere in the lab took on a greenish-yellow tinge*. We opened the windows and left the room. It affected the eyes and airways a bit, but no-one complained.
That was 'a while' ago. The lab technician would clean the benches with a rag soaked in benzene. Things are different now.
*I don't know at how many ppm chlorine becomes visible. It could be my memory colouring things in retrospect.
Hmmm. After a bit of spelunking, I reckon my memory is at serious fault. According to this document (WorkSafeBC: Chlorine Safe Work Practices (PDF)), for chlorine gas to be visible, it would need to be at a concentration of 1000 ppm in air, which, given the chart on page 3, would be a serious incident ("Fatal after a few breaths"), and I don't recall my classmates dropping like flies.
"Wasting the customers time has always been the cheapest option."
The plan is to get the person to make the choice of spending less time researching the answer before the company has to spend real money through have a human CSR assist them. The problem is that the company's are highing people that know nothing about the products being supported and have never used them. It's maddening to call a company with a very straight-forward technical question and have to spend 20 minutes with the 1st tier support person as they wind their way through "the script" before you can get to somebody that will answer your question in 2 minutes or less.
Given the success of Stock, Aitkin and Waterman, something like this will be very successful one day, although it will certainly have it's moments like "I'd rather Jack than Fleetwood Mac."....
Personally speaking, I don't think we'll ever see anything quite like William Gibson's Rei Toei, but in 1987, could we have predicted Kylie Minogue would have been drawing a huge crowd in Glastonbury in 2019? (Ok, I like Kylie, but then I like a lot of stuff ranging between Neu and DeadMau5, passing through They Might Be Giants, New Order and The Future Sound of London on the way., so I wouldn't use my tastes to predict anything...)
Oh God, I still remember the bloody awful I'd Rather Jack simply because of the incredibly lame lyrics. All because FM said something about the importance of live music and Pete Waterman took it personally and got all butthurt about it. I dunno, knowing Mick Fleetwood it probably was personal since he's a massive wind-up merchant but it was still a pretty lame response.
Unfortunately my local gym doesn't play Radio 3 over the sound system so I listen to types of music I would not choose.
What confuses me is whether those cancelling the AI version have ever listened to the real thing? I'll settle for "offensive" other words could be equally applicable.
Am I to understand that its get-out-of-jail card is that it's authentic?
Further, all AI avatar stuff is stereotyping something. Rutgers used AI to complete Beethoven's 10th symphony
Other AI pretends to be Mozart (and so on) I didn't see any demands for someone's head on a pike for that.
"Reminds me of this classic computerised gangsta rap from 20 years ago......
(Professor Hawking found it hilarious too)"
Good grief, mate. Warn us not to be having a drink when clicking that link.
The Professor never lost his sense of humor. I love the quips he drops in his lectures.
According to the white, middle-aged, middle-class stereotype, yes.
There is, and always has been rap that does not conform to the stereotype, from De La Soul in the late 80s through Kendrick Lamar, to contemporary UK rappers like Little Simz and Dave.
Sure, the bone-headed thuggish variety is still around (generally in the guise of "drill" these days), but current UK rap in particular is decidedly woke - that's "woke" in its original African-American slang meaning of "alert to social injustice".
Recently watched London rapper Dave performing an intense 20-minute reflection on love, death, and coming-of-age (backed by a string quartet) at the Reading Festival. The (mainly white, teenage) audience chanted along with every word.
"It is a direct insult to the Black community and our culture. An amalgamation of gross stereotypes, appropriative mannerisms that derive from Black artists, complete with slurs infused in lyrics"
One could say that about rap music in general.
Not sure about the arcana of sub-sub-genres of rap/metal hybrids, but anything south of Run DMC is probably best avoided (you might say the latter have a lot to answer for, but at least they did it with with a pinch of style, camp and humour).
"changing an English-speaking Indian accent into a neutral American voice, for example"
Which "neutral" would that be? America is an awfully big place, with a population from all over the world. And what are they planning on doing about syntax and inflection? Among other things ... who reading this hasn't talked to the dude named Betty from Microsoft?
> Which "neutral" would that be?
Oh, that is easy: If you watch US nationwide TV, especially news, HBO, CNN, many of those "late night with whoever" etc, you'll notice that the moderators rarely speak with any local accent. They do indeed speak a clear English. They are forced to when the target audience is the whole USA and not local.
When comparing to some shows targeted at more simple minded audience the difference is enormous.
PS: Same applies to movies from the US, you rarely hear a strong accent in better productions.
I used to enjoy calling IBM's X-series tech support, since they were just down the road in Atlanta. Every once in a while, the voice on the other end would have the same Southern twang as myself. It was a comfort to know I wasn't the only redneck from the boonies that had gone into IT for a career. But even those times when the tech was an obvious New Yorker, they were still easier to understand than any call to Dell or HP (although they often had trouble understanding what I was saying...)
Indian call center employees already adopt American names, accents and make small talk as if they're local. They go to classes to learn this stuff. It doesn't quite work but its probably at least as good as the AI.
We're standing on a precipice with call centers, anyway. If you're familiar with Alexa then you'll have noticed that her grasp of the English language and understanding of what you're talking about is far superior to the typical Indian 'droid working from a script. I don't know why Amazon hasn't unleashed her (or her siblings) onto the public but I'm eternally grateful that it hasn't happened. Yet. (Alexa is also multi-lingual; I believe there's even a Hindi speaking variant.)Revenge!!!!!)
People in the US are mostly familiar with call centers as scam boiler rooms. There's been some changes recently to the phone systems mandated by the FCC which have cut dramatically the volume of Spam calls. This may reduce employment opportunities in India -- no longer will "Agent Brown of the Social Security Administration" be waiting to deal with your case for just a handful of Apple gift cards. The phone's quiet. these days.
>>There's been some changes recently to the phone systems mandated by the FCC which have cut dramatically the volume of Spam calls.
And yet, that's what I woke to this morning. Improved I can agree with, but like only adding half as much sewage to my coffee, it's still not acceptable.
" There's been some changes recently to the phone systems mandated by the FCC"
It had a lot more to do with fraudulent call routing information being injected into the system and the terminating telcos NOT getting their fees tor connecting the calls
Ripping off the customers is one thing. Ripping off the telcos is crossing the line way too far
I've also noticed a fall-off in these calls in the UK though hadn't thought anything of it as there are occasional lulls; but it got so bad (i.e. several a day, every day, and I'm the nervous type who jumps when the phone ring) that we usually had to keep the landline unplugged. We haven't needed to do that in a few months. When I complained about it I just got the "lol we can't do that lol btw screw you" speech you always get from telcos which was eye-rollingly feeble and I would've rather they'd been honest and said they couldn't be bothered because it didn't affect them. Until presumably it did at which point they suddenly discovered it is actually possible after all.
It's also interesting how many callers ask for the previous owner... who hasn't lived here in 20 years. Because that's when she died. She'd be over 110 years old now but that doesn't put the scammers off (even if they don't have her exact d.o.b, we're aware that her details were leaked from a fairly stereotypical-of-the-older-demographic that she signed up for back in the '90s).
"Some Americans are racist and the moment they find out the agent is not one of them, they mockingly tell the agent to speak in English."
"Racist"? No, you are a race-baiting, "woke" idiot. Your incompetence in English is the issue, and you are an obstruction put in place deliberately by your obnoxious, cheapskate employer that spews customer-service platitudes.
The software will not fool anyone. Even if it replaced each of your words, you would still sound like you have a screw loose.