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Amazon’s Alexa is testing out crowdsourcing

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How did that work out at Wikipedia?

● Here’s an example of the overall problem: Wikipedia’s own co-founder Larry Sanger has described an article on the intelligent design controversy as “appallingly biased” (8 December 2017). Sanger is not a partisan of design in nature. The problem he identifies is created by the fact that fierce partisans of naturalism and Darwinism are far more likely to be the “crowd” from which the information is “sourced” and to keep others out.

As just one example, when paleontologist, Gunter Bechly announced that he doubted Darwinism, he was disappeared from Wikipedia, despite continuing to work in the field and classify fossils. So if, for example, you need to understand a controversy over ID at the local school board in more depth, Wikipedia would not be a good choice, despite claims about the value of crowdsourcing.

The obvious problem with crowdsourcing is anonymity and the lack of accountability that goes with it. Individually sourced information is different: If a politician seeking re-election informs you that her opponent’s policies spell disaster, you will naturally consider the source. The car salesman’s new wheels pitch, the realtor’s market assessment, the vet’s advice, the bishop’s letter read from the pulpit, are all clearly sourced and evaluated as such. And all these sources are accountable. We implicitly factor in our experiences with each of these sources in determining our level of assent.

By contrast, crowdsourced information from Alexa on contentious issues could be based ultimately on the internet’s public landfill

.Denyse O’Leary, “Ask Alexa (and an anonymous crowd answers)” at Mind Matters News

Further reading: Alexa really does NOT understand us. In a recent test, only 35 percent of the responses to simple questions were judged adequate.

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2 Replies to “Amazon’s Alexa is testing out crowdsourcing

  1. 1
    vmahuna says:

    I was amazed a decade or so back when I was trying to write a novel set in ancient Greece that the Wikipedia stuff on “Macedonia” (Alexander the Great was Macedonian, not Greek) was all over the place because there were several different “countries” that each insisted they were the ONLY REAL Macedonia. And using some of the hotly contested boundaries, Alex and his dad, Phillip, were Albanians or Romanians or something. I think Wikipedia had a public notice that ALL edits to the page were shut down. So different paragraphs on the page contradicted each other.
    So this kind of thing happens all the time. I mean, the guys in Rome declared the Greek Orthodox Catholics to be heretics over 1 or 2 words in the “Apostles’ Creed”. See also the definitive “Witch Trial” in Monty Python’s “Holy Grail”.

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    News, my local mobile phone company has an Alexa unit in store. It is a running joke that I will go up to it and ask questions it cannot answer. BTW, why is it we so willingly put in place an open mike that is obviously recording what we say? KF

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