Live for the day – AlexaSTOP! E016

Alexa Stop podcast

In this episode of Alexa STOP!, Rob and Jim welcome back Pete Trainor, bestselling author, behavioural designer, technologist, mens mental health campaigner and co-founder of Us Ai in London. From a robot that can find Wally, to discussing what legacies could look like in the future, this episode takes us on a journey from tech for almost no reason at all, to tech that can support us both in our health, and in our fragility.


Who’s the Wally?

If you ever found Where’s Wally particularly challenging, you can now rest assured that an artificially intelligent robot hand can find him for you. The robot was trained using images from Google Image Search, and made possible by Google’s Cloud AutoML. Fair play to its creator, but it’s a bit of a killjoy.

Meanwhile in Japan, a man married a hologram; cyber celebrity Hatsune Miku. Although not legally recognised, Akihiko Kondo married the three-dimensional laser image as she ‘made him happy’. As we encounter more digital interactions over face to face ones, we’re increasingly relating to devices in a human way. Still, it’s quite a leap and not the most conventional marriage!


From the Hype Curve

2019 will see the start of DIY biohacking. Gartner predicts “Five Emerging Technology Trends That Will Blur the Lines Between Human and Machine”.

Apparently we will see the start of transhumanism over the next decade. Enabled by several technologies, including biochips, this emerging technology is moving rapidly through the Hype Cycle.

There are great use cases for this technology. For example, the common question of when you’re safe to drive the next day after a night out. One quick look at an app on your phone, connected to technology that is monitoring your blood-alcohol levels, could quickly inform you. Early detection of disease could save many lives, especially those diseases that are difficult to treat once the physical symptoms are visible. How many hours of NHS time could be saved if people could self diagnose simple illness, and seek a pharmacy instead?


Good ol’ human error

Whilst transhumanism could tell us a lot, in real time, about the current state of our health, there are current methods of applying this technology through things like 23andMe. As accurate as these genetic testing kits are, there’s always room for human error, mistakes, or general lack of common sense.

A woman in America lost her password to access her 23andMe results back in November. Whilst she could have requested another password, she opted to buy another kit. Upon completing the second one, and successfully remembering her password, to her amazement the results showed she had a twin sister!

Turns out that long-lost twin sister (after giving her a fake name, and after an attempt to find her), was indeed herself, from the previous test that she locked herself out of.


What does a legacy look like in this era of technology?

Guest Pete Trainor is the Co-Founder of Us Ai, the UK’s leading AI and business consultancy. Whilst they do interesting work for clients, they also support corporate social responsibility projects too.

One of those projects involved helping a young man, James, leave a legacy for his nephew. To do this Pete captured hours and hours of audio of James’ thoughts and memories, via speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. They used these recordings to create a ‘corpus’ (knowledge from which a machine can learn) which Pete then passed into the algorithm he normally uses to create chatbots.

Whilst at a tech event, James saw a 3ft robot called Bo. He saw Bo as an opportunity to house the algorithmic bot of himself.

‘He was saying, “I would like my nephew to be able to interact with the robot and then think, oh this is what James would have been like,”’ says Andrei Danescu, one of Bo’s creators.

Pete worked on the bot until it was good enough for James to have a conversation with it (slightly meta having a conversation with your algorithmic self). The plan was to unveil Bo at a health-tech event, but unfortunately James become too unwell.

James sadly passed away in April 2018. Upon his passing, his family found he’d taken 500GB of photos with a camera that had been specially designed for him on The Big Life Fix, including photographs of the boxer David Haye and the actor Tom Holland. Whilst these photographs painted a picture of this young man’s life, and perspective of the world, what he captured with Pete and Us Ai is phenomenal, and poses very real challenges as to how we might share our consciousness in the future. You can read more about this story here.

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