Unmute Presents Friday Finds: “Tech Tussles: The CAPTCHA Conundrum and the Robot Vandalism Dilemma”

In this episode, we delve into two different issues that arise with the advancement of technology. First, we discuss the limitations and decreasing effectiveness of CAPTCHAs. Lynn Schneider, the host, highlights that as AI technology becomes more sophisticated, CAPTCHAs are easier to bypass, making them less secure. However, she mentions that companies like Google and Microsoft are working on making CAPTCHAs more accessible and efficient. They are developing potential solutions to address this issue, which we explore in detail.

Moving on to our second topic, we discuss the increasing cases of vandalism against delivery robots. These robots, used by various delivery services, have become targets for theft, acts of protest against automation taking over jobs, and simply acts of vandalism. Lynn emphasizes the significant cost of repairing or replacing these sophisticated machines due to vandalism. To counter this issue, some companies are considering deterrents such as adding cameras to capture photo evidence of vandals, alarms to alert authorities, and even arming the robots for self-defense. We delve into the legal and ethical implications of arming these defenseless robots, sparking a thoughtful discussion.

It is fascinating to witness the complexities that arise between humans and automation as technology advances. The challenges discussed in this episode raise important questions about our relationship with technology and how we navigate these complexities moving forward. As the episode concludes, Lynn expresses uncertainty about the definitive solution to the issue of vandalism on these machines. Although arming them might be an option, she mentions that the robots already have cameras to capture images of vandals, potentially leading to legal consequences for those who vandalize them.

Thanking the audience for their support and feedback, Lynn wraps up this week’s Friday Finds. She encourages listeners to share their thoughts and provides an email address, feedback@unmute.show, for any feedback. With a warm farewell and wishes for a great weekend and week ahead, Lynn signs off, promising to return with more intriguing topics next week.

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Read transcript


00:05.770 –> 18:00.738
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Friday Finds for August 25, 2023. I’m Lynn Schneider, and I thank you so much for joining me this week. So, as you, I’m sure know, there are lots of back to school sales and activities around starting the new school year. And I’m sure that many of you can. When you think about your own school experience, you might have been somebody who was economically disadvantaged or for some other reason, you just didn’t have the cool jeans or the cool book bag or whatever it was that was popular in the day. And you might have felt left out or bullied or Ostracized since you didn’t have what the cool kids had, so to speak. It’s unfortunate that kids of today are struggling with the same issues lately. This is particularly the case around cell phones. So according to an article in a publication called Phonearena.com Teens, at least American teens believe that Android phones are for their parents or for old people only. And this is despite the fact that, according to the Wall Street Journal, android phones are often in many ways better than iPhones. They can tend to have better battery life. They can tend to be, of course, less expensive, but they also can have features that, for example, better cameras. According to this article, right now, iOS leads in the United States 57% to 42%, which really isn’t that much of a big difference when you think about it. But the unfortunate effect of this is that Android users, kids with Android phones, but not just kids, adults as well, tend to be Ostracized for having an Android phone. They tend to be sort of made fun of. And this is particularly sort of accentuated by what they call the green bubble phenomenon or the green bubble effect. Now, this is where apparently, visually, in messages, Android users will stand out. They will have a green bubble surrounding their name. And I’m not sure of this visually, but apparently this is making some people who have Android phones feel sort of picked on or singled out by people. And they’re often made fun of because a lot of people see Android phones as budget phones or they’re just not the cool phones. Right now, 87% of American teens currently own an iPhone, and according to surveys, they plan to stick with the iPhone when they need to upgrade. So once their phone becomes outdated or whatever, they do plan to purchase another iPhone. Interestingly enough, this seems to be a US. Phenomenon in the rest of the world. It turns out that Android actually leads like 71% to iPhone’s 28%. And this is not particularly surprising considering that Android phones do tend to be less expensive. There is more of a variety of Android phones people like to side load. Many people like to have that freedom to sort of modify the phone the way they want to for their own particular purposes. And of course, if you’re an iPhone user, you know that you’re sort of maybe stuck in the ecosystem, right, with all of your Apple devices being interoperable and being able to work together in a nice synergy. So one of the articles I saw, it was in a publication called Android Authority, and they talked about how right now the iPhone has such a lead in the United States. But that actually changes that are being forced on Apple and Google by the European Union might open up this market a little more because there has been a lot of pressure on Apple by the EU to open its sort of walled garden up. So we see. Now, the next iPhone that comes out, the 15, is going to have USBC charging, and there are going to be some rules about message interoperability. But the interesting thing is that I was talking to my sister and she was saying that even in the adult world right now, android users are sort of Ostracized or disrespected, I guess you could say. She was saying how everyone in her office had an iPhone except for one person, and they were just teasing this person, just kidding with them. But of course, if you’re a kid, that kind of thing can be socially very difficult. And so the iPhone is the current status symbol. And this is something to, I guess, to consider. And I’m not really sure what the solution is here. The iPhone is not going to be affordable to everyone. It just isn’t. And Android phones are a lot more affordable. And I’m not sure if I were a parent, I’m not so sure I would give my kid an iPhone until I knew they were super responsible because they’re expensive and you know how kids are, they’re always dropping and losing them and getting them wet or whatever. So, yeah, this is very unfortunate, actually. I love the iPhone, but I would hate to think that people using other phones would be thought less of. And it’s my opinion, and I have said this before, probably on this program, that blind folks particularly, should always have the goal of having other options. Right now, we are fortunate. Apple seems to be dedicated to accessibility, but a management change at Apple could change all of that, right? We’ve seen this before, where a company has seemed to know dedicated to accessibility, and then their priorities change. And that’s just an unfortunate thing for us. So I think that we don’t want to get stuck in a certain ecosystem without having options. And so right now, it is sad that kids are finding themselves belittled or made fun of because they don’t have the iPhone, because it is an expensive phone and not everyone can afford it. Are you a robot? Can you prove that you are a human? If you’ve been on the Internet for any length of time and you’ve come up against CAPTCHAs, this is not the first time you’ve been asked that question. Of course, CAPTCHAs were used as a security feature for websites to identify that a user is not a bot. And of course, bots are a huge problem nowadays and CAPTCHAs have been sort of the way that websites have dealt with this. But of course, they bedevil blind and visually impaired and deafblind folks and they are an accessibility barrier. We do have services that have helped us deal with capsAS and to a certain degree we have sort of learned to live with them. But again, they are still a barrier and they are just ridiculously annoying if you ask me. But it turns out that CAPTCHAs are universally annoying. And that is why companies like Google with Google Chrome and Microsoft with Edge are starting to implement some workarounds, some ways that people can deal with CAPTCHAs more efficiently, more accessibly. So, according to this article from Mashable, CAPTCHAs are really not as effective as they used to be because things like AI are becoming so sophisticated that they can get around these CAPTCHAs. In fact, I want to say it was Chat GPT, but it actually had someone. It was able to ask a Task Rabbit representative to solve a captcha by claiming that it was visually impaired. And so it sort of tricked the human into actually solving this captcha. So again, there are just a lot of reasons why the whole captcha system, its days, might be numbered. So these web browsers are right now, I guess, in their beta state, they are implementing things like what they call auto verify or anti abuse. And this would be found in the settings. And basically what they do is if you’ve ever solved a captcha on a website in the past, somehow you have proved that you are a human. I’m not exactly sure how this works and the article didn’t get into it, but gosh, anything we can do to deal with this captcha issue, I think is something to celebrate. So if you’re like me and you couldn’t solve the captcha, it must be proof positive that you are indeed a robot and not a human. But according to an article from a website called Interestingengineering.com, if you are a robot, you might just want to watch out because these days people are causing harm to defenseless robots out there just doing their job, doing their work, delivering things to humans. And I found out about this from a video on a YouTube channel from a creator by the name of Steve Leto. L-E-H-T-O. He’s an attorney. And I love this channel because he goes into some interesting legal conundrums and things that are happening in the legal system. He always comes up with some really OD things. And this one really caught my attention. So more and more these robots are being deployed by delivery services, package delivery services, meal delivery services, and landscaping, lots of different applications where these robots, these autonomous robots, are being used. And what they’re finding, the companies that make these robots, is that people are actually robbing these robots. They’re forcefully opening them and toppling them and just vandalizing them. And the video talks about three different ways to sort of think about this. First of all, people might just want to steal what the robot is carrying. So if it’s food or a package, it just might be people just want to steal that. Another is that people just there are some people who hate robots. They don’t like the fact that robots are poised to take jobs. It might just be the uncanny valley reaction to seeing something walking down the street that is not human. And then there are just people that like to vandalize things just because they can. And there are lots of startups right now, startup ventures, that want to use fleets of autonomous robots for tasks like delivery, for example. But unfortunately, vandalism can be quite costly. These robots are pretty sophisticated machines, and when they are vandalized or destroyed, they have to be replaced. So the question that Steve Leto brought up is they’re defenseless? Could they be armed? And of course, no, they couldn’t. But on some of the robots, on the one that he mentioned in his video, one of the robots has twelve cameras that can capture and send photographs, photo evidence to the cloud or to whoever makes the robot. The robot makers right now are trying to compensate businesses and customers for the theft or for the loss of their meal or whatever. But some of the robots have alarms on them so that if they are vandalized, they can at least signal that something is going wrong. But it’s sort of amazing that we’re dealing with this particular issue. The robots, if they are messed with by people, if they are interfered with by people, they are programmed to try to maneuver around people. They’re also trained or programmed to politely ask people to move. So obviously it’s going to be interesting to see as we have more of these autonomous machines that are delivering and things like that. There are people that just have a visceral reaction against them for whatever reason. They don’t like robots. But then there are people that just want to steal from them, so they get toppled and kicked and abused. So I don’t know what the solution is. I don’t know how you can stop that from happening if you can’t arm these machines in some way. But anybody thinking of vandalizing these machines might want to remember that they do have cameras on them and they will snap a photo of you before you destroy it. So you might end up being hauled into court somehow or another for destroying a robot. Yes, we do live in interesting times, that is for sure. And with that being said, we’re going to wrap up Friday finds for this week, but I really do appreciate you all subscribing listening, sharing and reviewing. And of course, we love your feedback. If you would like to drop us a note, you can send it to feedback at unmute show. That’s feedback at unmute show. Thanks again for listening, everyone. I hope you have a great weekend and a great week ahead. And see you again next week. Bye.