Rachel Connolly

16 April 2021

Funny Voice Videos

A certain style of comedy video has become prominent on social media over the past year. A young actor plays a generic, bumbling or morally compromised (although usually affable-seeming) posh person with a connection to a topical event. The videos are described by the actors and their fans as ‘satirical’, although the target of the satire is often unclear, and the performers appear to punch down (or at least sideways) as often as up. The acting is deliberately hammy, derivative and reliant on stereotypes, and the humour seems to come primarily from the theatrical emphasis placed on the fact that a person is making a joke. I’ve come to think of them as ‘funny voice videos’.

Read more about Funny Voice Videos

28 January 2020

Scraping Faces

The Metropolitan Police has announced it is going to use Live Facial Recognition (LFR) in London. The controversial technique involves officers sitting in a public place and filming the people who walk past. Their faces are automatically compared to pictures in a database of wanted criminals and the police are alerted if there is a match. A few days earlier, the New York Times reported that a company called ClearView AI has developed a facial recognition tool that allows law enforcement agencies in the US to match images or video footage with photos from the internet.

Read more about Scraping Faces

7 June 2019

Ghosts in the Network

Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute have published a study projecting ‘the future accumulation of profiles belonging to deceased Facebook users’. Carl Öhman and David Watson used the social network’s ‘audience insights’ data, which businesses use to target their adverts, to find out how many ‘monthly active users’ of different ages there are across the world, and combined this with life expectancy data to create their models. If Facebook continues to grow at its current rate, by 2100 it will host the accounts of 4.9 billion dead people.

Read more about Ghosts in the Network

15 April 2019

Fire Underwater

Earlier this year, researchers announced a new Artificial Intelligence system, GPT-2, that can finish people’s sentences. The resulting text is relatively coherent but, as the researchers note, far from perfect. Word repetition is one problem; describing the impossible (such as a fire underwater) is another; and sentences are prone to strange topic changes.

Read more about Fire Underwater