State of the Art: How Google Photos Became a Perfect Jukebox for Our Memories
Google Photos, introduced in 2015, has become one of the most emotionally resonant pieces of technology today. It is also shaping our narratives along the way.
The first time Google Photos made me cry, it was with a sucker punch.
Google’s computers can recognize faces, even as they age over time. Photos also seems to understand the tone and emotional valence of human interaction, things like smiles, giggles, frowns, tantrums, dances of joy and even snippets of dialogue like “happy birthday!” or “good job!” The resulting montage, synced to a swelling Hollywood score, mixed obvious highlights — birthdays, school plays — with dozens of ordinary moments of childhood bliss.
This is what I mean about a sucker punch: Who expects software to make them cry? Images on Instagram and Snapchat may move you regularly, but Google Photos is not social media; it is personal media, a service begun three years ago primarily as a database to house our growing collections of private snaps — and a service run mostly by machines, not by other humans posting and Liking stuff.
With its heavy focus on artificially intelligent curation, Google Photos suggests the dawning of a new age of personalized robot historian. The trillions of images we are all snapping will become the raw material for algorithms that will curate memories and construct narratives about our most intimate human experiences. In the future, the robots will know everything about us — and they will tell our stories.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before fretting about the sci-fi tomorrow, it’s worth marveling at the basic utility of Google Photos today. Tech companies have been trying to create ways to manage digital photos ever since we began ditching film. Most efforts have failed; the better our portable cameras get, the more photos we take, and the more photos we take, the less able we all are to make sense of the stash.
“With the invention of the smartphone, there was nothing that humans did, absolutely nothing, that they didn’t also make an image of,” said Martin Hand, a sociologist at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and the author of “Ubiquitous Photography,” an academic inquiry into the blessed problem of too many photos. “But that brought about its own problems — it started to get overwhelming.”
More than a decade ago, the tech world hit on one partial solution to picture overload: Make images social. Through services like Flickr, then Facebook and Instagram, we tried to curate our images by getting others to do it for us. The best photos of you were the ones that were ranked highly in your social feed; the worst were the ones you didn’t post.
But social media created another set of problems — there was a fear-of-missing out, a sense of performative anxiety, loneliness and an erosion of privacy. “There was a sense in which because everything was public, young people had to constantly curate the idea of themselves in public,” said Mr. Hand.
Its reimagined service would do three things: Offer nearly limitless storage for your photos essentially free (you can pay more to have your images stored in higher-resolution sizes). It put them in the cloud, so they could be accessed anywhere. And, crucially, Photos would lean on Google’s famed A.I. to address what it saw as the key problem of the smartphone era — the fact that we all take photos but rarely look at them.
“We noticed that you would never relive or reminisce about any of these moments,” said Anil Sabharwal, the Google vice president who led the team that built Photos, and still runs it. “You would go on this beautiful vacation, you’d take hundreds of beautiful photos, years would pass, and you would never look at any of them.”
When it started in 2015, Google Photos brought immediate relief. For instance, face recognition made sharing pictures automatic. Now, when I take a photo of my kids, Google recognizes them and shares those photos with my wife; her photos are shared with me. Incredibly, instantly, without thinking, we each have a complete collection of the children’s photos, and any anxiety about keeping them secure has vanished.
Then there are Google’s daily prompts to reminisce. It’s difficult to overstate how good Google’s machines are at mining your collection to find new stuff to awe you. In one series, called Then and Now, it will find pictures of the same person, or groups of people, in similar poses at two different time periods: Your children on the first day of school this year versus last year, or you in front of the Empire State Building 10 years ago and today.
I worry, given all this, about how A.I.-curated memories are shaping our narratives about ourselves. I think of Samara and children like her: how she will one day watch videos like the one Google produced of her, and she will come to certain conclusions about her childhood only because a for-profit, ad-supported tech company’s machines made choices about what sort of scenes to show and what to hide.
At the moment, there is no calamity here: Google Photos’ videos are sunny and bright. But if history is about who tells your story, Photos pushes us into a new realm.
The machines, now, are increasingly making sense of our human world — shaping our reality in the deepest way possible, and like cameras themselves, they’re inescapable.
November 14, 2018
Sources: New York Times
ritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes. </p><p>For now, Qualcomm believes the ban is already in force, but all models of iPhone remain available to purchase in China. By next week, the ban could be irrelevant, but that doesn't mean it will be removed immediately. As part of the reconsideration request, Apple offered to pay a "counter security" of roughly $87 million to get the ban lifted.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>
ritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes. </p><p>To prevent the musician from coming face to face with her stalkers, Swift's team employed a somewhat controversial solution during her May 18 Rose Bowl show: facial-recognition technology.</p><p>"Despite the obvious privacy concerns—for starters, who owns those pictures of concertgoers and how long can they be kept on file?—the use of facial-recognition technology is on the rise at stadiums and arenas," the report notes.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>
net that's evaporating, possibly holding clues into the discovery of rocky "super-Earths."</p><p>Researchers at the University of Geneva Switzerland found the exoplanet GJ 3470b, which showed signs of losing hydrogen in its atmosphere, causing it to shrink.</p><p>The study is part of exploration into "hot Neptunes," planets that are the size of Neptune, sit very close to their star, and have atmospheres as hot at 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit, says NASA.</p><p>Finding a "hot Neptune" is rare because they sit so close to their star and tend to evaporate more quickly. In the case of GJ 3470b, scientists classify it as a "warmer" Neptune because it sits farther away from its star. </p><p>The exoplanet discovered by astronauts is losing its atmosphere at a rate 100 times faster than a previous "warmer" Neptune planet discovered a few years before, according to a study published Thursday in the journal "Astronomy & Astrophysics."</p><p>The planet sits 3.7 million miles from its star. For comparison, Earth is 92.9 million miles from the sun.</p><p>"This is the first time that a planet has been observed to lose its atmosphere so quickly that it can impact its evolution," said lead author Vincent Bourrier, a researcher in the Astronomy Department of the Faculty of Science at the University of Geneva, in a statement.</p><p>Researchers say these "hot Neptune" planets shrink in size and morph into "Super Earths," versions of our planet that are massive and more rocky. Just last month, a Super Earth was found orbiting a nearby star.</p>
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grocery delivery company announced.</p><p>The move comes a little over a year after Amazon acquired Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. Amazon has its own delivery service called AmazonFresh.</p><p>Whole Foods and Instacart began working together in 2014. Two years later, they signed a deal for Instacart to become the chain's exclusive delivery carrier.</p><p>Instacart currently employs 1,415 couriers, which it calls "in-store shoppers," across 76 Whole Foods locations.</p><p>About 75 percent of the employees will be transferred to other locations, Instacart Founder and CEO Apoorva Mehta said in a statement. However, the remaining 25 percent — about 350 — will be laid off and will receive three-month separation packages as well as tenure-based compensation.</p><p>Instacart will begin winding down its operations at Whole Foods on Feb. 10 and exit the marketplace in the succeeding months, the company said.</p><p>"For our in-store Whole Foods shoppers who are personally impacted by this news, we’re deeply committed to being transparent about what this means for you and plan to share any updates with you as they become available," Mehta said.</p>
nished Google on Friday for disclosing the identity of a man charged with killing a female British backpacker, highlighting the tension that arises when local courts order the suppression of information that can be easily found online.</p><p>Google executives from the United States and Britain are set to travel to New Zealand to meet with Andrew Little, the justice minister, on Tuesday. Mr. Little is demanding that the company change its algorithms to ensure that material published outside New Zealand that violates local court suppression orders is not visible in the country.</p><p>The man’s name has been suppressed in New Zealand under a legal provision often invoked by defendants in the country that is meant to guarantee fair trials, and it was not released by local reporters.</p><p>But several British media outlets published it, and on Thursday Google included the man’s name in the subject line of an email sent to people in New Zealand who subscribe to a service that local topics that trending online.</p><p>“When we receive valid court orders, including suppression orders, we review and respond appropriately,” the statement said, adding that Google respected New Zealand’s laws.</p><p>Mr. Little, the justice minister, said he took “with a grain of salt” the suggestion that Google did not know, or would expect to be told, about suppression orders in the case.</p><p>“They’re going to have to change their algorithm, because it’s not right that they think they can get away with undermining fair trial rights,” he said.</p><p>Lokman Tsui, a professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and a former Google employee, said it was a “scary standard” to say Google “should have known” about a suppression order in New Zealand.</p><p>“If that applies, that means they would have to actively monitor every court case going on in the world, looking for names and pre-emptively taking them down,” he said.</p><p>Mr. Little said he also planned to contact British publications that published the man’s name, adding that they could only have gotten it from reporters in New Zealand who found it in court filings in Auckland.</p><p>“I don’t have any legal pressure to put on them,” he said, adding that he did have “moral pressure, which I will be applying as hard and as fast as I can.”</p><p>“I don’t accept their arrogance and their conceit in saying that it’s nothing to do with them and New Zealand’s laws are New Zealand’s laws,” he added.</p><p>It was not clear whether the email about trending topics that breached the suppression order originated at the company’s operations in New Zealand or in another country, and whether it fell within New Zealand’s legal jurisdiction.</p><p>A spokesman, Taj Meadows, did not address where the email originated, but said it had been received by fewere than a few hundred people.</p><p>Mr. Little rejected the idea that the internet’s existence had rendered name suppression orders irrelevant.</p><p>He said he planned to ask the Google executives whether there was a problem with the company’s algorithms that allowed suppressed information to be distributed widely, and, if so, whether Google would take action to fix it.</p><p>If not, Mr. Little said he would consider a campaign that “might take years” to persuade other countries to agree to a treaty stating “that orders issued in one country can be enforced in another.”</p><p>“That way, publishers and republishers like Google don’t have the excuse that they’re not responsible, the law can’t be enforced, and they don’t even have to worry about it,” he said.</p><p>Professor Tsui, the former Google employee, said such an approach was not feasible.</p><p>“That solution would cause so many other problems that we really wouldn’t want to go there,” he said.</p>
d the spectacle was eye-opening. It underscored, to me, how Silicon Valley and Washington exist in their bubbles without really understanding each other. Lawmakers seemed like out-of-touch old people with little grasp of how technology works and where the real risks lie. Mr. Pichai came across as evasive and unwilling to acknowledge the legitimate concerns about Google’s business practices.</p><p>At holiday parties and informal discussions in Washington, the conversation often turned to big tech and privacy. There seemed to be a growing wariness among lawmakers, regulators and aides about data collection and the unrelenting push by companies to gather more information about us.</p><p>While many expressed concern about the bigness of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, there wasn’t a consensus on how to deal with them. A federal privacy law with real teeth seemed uncertain, and not many folks expected antitrust regulation even in the face of European action.</p><p>All the while, tech companies continue to sell the message that they are job creators and engines of economic growth.</p><p>■ An argument often made against antitrust action is that the technology industry is dynamic, and that today’s dominant predator can become tomorrow’s prey. Nokia once dominated mobile phones but lost its standing to Samsung and Apple in the smartphone era.</p><p>■ It’s rare for a bail hearing to make international news, but this was no ordinary arrest.</p><p>Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the tech behemoth Huawei and a daughter of the company’s founder, was arrested Dec. 1 at the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia, for extradition to the United States.</p><p>The American and Canadian authorities claim Ms. Meng circumvented trade sanctions against Iran, using a Huawei subsidiary. The arrest of a prominent executive at one of China’s biggest tech companies, with close ties to the government, complicates the Trump administration’s negotiations to end a trade war with China.</p>
land over ways to limit global warming, the industries and machines powering our modern world keep spewing their pollution into the air and water.</p><p> The fossil fuels extracted from beneath the earth's crust — coal, oil and gas — are transformed into the carbon dioxide that is now heating the earth faster than scientists had expected even a few years ago.</p><p> The devastating wildfires, droughts, floods and hurricanes of recent months and years are intensifying the urgency of the two-week conference in Katowice, which is due to end Friday.</p><p> But not far from the conference center, plumes of smoke rise from Europe's largest lignite, or brown coal, power plant, in the central Polish town of Belchatow. Of the 50 most polluted cities in the European Union, 36 are in Poland.</p><p> Elsewhere, from the U.S. to Japan and China, the coal plants, oil refineries and other installations needed to power factories and heat homes are playing their role in a warming earth.</p><p> The negotiators at the international talks are also discussing financial support to poor countries, which are bearing the brunt of drought and flooding, which translate often into agricultural disaster and famine and are a factor behind greater migration.</p><p> The challenge of reducing emissions is made more difficult by the growing demand in the developing world for fuel as people there also seek to achieve the benefits and comforts of the industrialized world.</p><p> In Africa and Asia, which have become dumping grounds for the rich world's waste, it is now common to see poor people scavenging for scraps of paper and other recyclable materials at garbage dumps, competing sometimes with crows or storks.</p><p> Fumes from cars are also playing their role in poisoning the air in many cities, from Jakarta and Katmandu to Moscow to Brussels.</p><p> Environmentalists in Katowice are warning that time is running out to prevent ecological disaster, a message also being taken up by artists.</p><p> In London, 24 large blocks of glacial ice from the waters surrounding Greenland have been placed in front of the Tate Modern and six at other city locations. Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson hopes his installation, called "Ice Watch" and launched Tuesday to coincide with the climate conference in Katowice, will impact people emotionally and inspire urgent public action.</p><p> The installation will be on show until the ice melts.</p>
:</p><p> German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said Friday that "if we let entire stretches of this planet become uninhabitable then it will trigger gigantic costs."</p><p> Trump said in an interview Thursday with Fox News that if he had remained in the Paris accord "we would be paying trillions of dollars, trillions of dollars for nothing, and I wouldn't do that."</p><p> The Paris accord requires countries to reduce their emissions, something scientists say will involve a wholesale shift in their economies. Rich countries have also committed themselves to providing financial support to poor nations to tackle global warming.</p><p> Negotiators at the U.N. climate meeting in Poland are gathering to discuss the first comprehensive draft agreement to emerge after almost two weeks of talks.</p><p> Ministers and senior officials from almost 200 countries were due to hold further meetings Friday before convening in plenary in the afternoon to address remaining differences.</p><p> Among the key pitfalls to emerge overnight was the question of how to establish a functioning international market in carbon credits and whether some countries should get money for damage already caused by climate change.</p><p> The meeting is meant to finalize the rulebook for the 2015 Paris climate agreement, provide assurances to poor nations on financial support for tackling global warming, and send a message that countries are committed to stepping up their efforts in the coming years.</p>
thering to discuss the first comprehensive draft agreement to emerge after almost two weeks of talks.</p><p> Ministers and senior officials from almost 200 countries were due to hold further meetings Friday before convening in plenary in the afternoon to address remaining differences.</p><p> The meeting is meant to finalize the rulebook for the 2015 Paris climate agreement, provide assurances to poor nations on financial support for tackling global warming, and send a message that countries are committed to stepping up their efforts in the coming years.</p>