Posted by: ellenpayne2012 | June 3, 2013

If I ran the zoo

“I’ll bring back a Gusset, a Gherkin, a Gasket

And also a Gootch from the wilds of Nantasket.

And eight Persian Princesses will carry the basket,

But what their names are, I don’t know so I don’t ask it.”

With apologies to Dr. Seuss, in this age of unlimited data, I sometimes wonder whose running this zoo — even as I marvel at it. “Oh the places you’ll go,” he promised.

In this Sunday’s New York Times, Jenn Wortham talks about a family shouting match her sister and mother got into, not with each other, but with the IPhone’s navigation system. My friends forbade me from talking to Siri recently because of the vitriol I direct at her when she mishears me.  

Work is underway at the MIT Media Lab, says Wortham, on software that recognizes human emotions through patterns of speech and tone of voice to determine qualities like arrogance or annoyance. If big brother is watching each click already, imagine how invasive it will be when it’s reading our emotions.

This of course brings up enormous ethical and privacy concerns, which we need to navigate. So in the words of Dr. Seuss, “Your off to Great Places! You’re off and away! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”


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