The Peer-Assessed Edition Sunday, July 28, 2019

Siri Recordings Are Heard And Reviewed By Apple Contractors, by Benjamin Mayo

The iOS Security white paper says Siri voice recordings are saved for six months with an ‘anonymous’ identifier that can group recordings from the same person together, and then the recordings are kept for at least another two years without the associated identifier. It says the saved audio is “for use by Apple in improving and developing Siri” with “ongoing improvement and quality assurance”. What it does not say explicitly is that these recordings are reviewed and assessed by humans.

If you give it a second of thought, then of course these clips have to be peer-assessed. To improve software to be more human-like, you need humans to label the training data sets and check sample outputs. However, this indirection may not be immediately obvious to people who don’t understand have a firm grasp of how machine learning works. The onus should not be on the customer to know, or to guess. The paragraph should say it explicitly; something like ‘anonymised recordings are reviewed by Apple employees for ongoing improvement and quality assurance of the Siri service’.

On Switching From iPad To Chromebook In School, by Fraser Speirs

When I look at the world now, I see deep and real collaboration happening across the network. We are starting to see the end of people emailing documents back and forth. Synchronous and asynchronous collaboration with people across the internet is a serious technical and social skill that seems very important to me these days.

I feel that Apple has not grasped this issue correctly. There are only two ‘productivity clouds’ in the game: GSuite and Office 365. In 2010, we chose our computers and ran the software that came on our computers. In 2019, I think that we choose our productivity cloud and get the computer that best works with that cloud. Apple simply has not and is not competing in this space and is therefore at the mercy of forces it does not control.


15-inch MacBook Pro Mini-review: How Much Does Apple’s Fastest Laptop Offer?, by Samuel Axon, Ars Technica

In other words, it's a MacBook Pro as we've known it for a few years now. But it's a MacBook Pro with blistering-fast workstation graphics and CPU cores-aplenty. It's a very attractive machine if you—or perhaps more likely, your employer—have at least $3,500 to spend and you want something highly portable and powerful at the same time for certain kinds of work.

Is that a recommendation? I think so. But it's a recommendation to an ever-smaller group of people, and Apple seems to be cool with that. At least with this spec, the "Pro" moniker is a lot harder to dispute.

Kensington Thunderbolt 3 Nano Dock Review, by James Garriss, The Gadgeteer

The full name for this dock is the Kensington SD2400T Thunderbolt 3 Dual 4k Nano Dock with Power Delivery. That’s a mouthful, but that’s because this little gadget packs a lot of capability into a small space. It allows a laptop to have all the ports of a desktop when back in the dorm room or at the office.


Everybody Hates The Key Card. Will Your Phone Replace It?, by Karen Schwartz, New York Times

Technology that allows hotel guests to use their phones as room keys is expanding, taking aim at those environmentally unfriendly plastic cards.

Seeing Through Silicon Valley’s Shameless ‘Disruption’, by Robert Carnevale, Wired

The proper response to this Silicon Valley disruption is to build up our social defenses. Car services on call? Build up our subways and buses. Cram hotel rooms within residential buildings? Encourage hotels and hostels of different sizes and in different neighborhoods. Install AI-empowered computers in classrooms? Add more teachers, librarians, and counselors, and invest in public education. Food delivery on call? Encourage healthy food options, and legislate to eliminate “food deserts.” You get the drift.

Because the truth is that having so much of life occur at the front door, as opposed to on the town square or the market street, is simply sad. Pathetic even. Who but a small minority would want to organize life around a siege mentality?