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This Robot Has A Cocktail Party Problem. It's Maybe Not What You Think.

I have some bad news about the robots.

Grunge Robot

Grunge Robot

When you have something to say, and you don’t want the robots catching wind of it, you do what any sensible person would do: You gather together some loud-mouthed friends, pour a few cocktails, turn up the music, and drown your subversive (to robots!) chatter in a sea of drunken conversation. It’s your only move.

You take these precautions because you understand: By talking in a noisy, cocktail party-type setting, you will confound the robots. All those voices, and everyone talking at once, all the intermingling blah-blah-blah, there’s just no way a robot could tune out the competing, overlapping sounds and focus in on one speaker. Right? Right?

WRONG.

Well, okay, not quite entirely wrong...not yet. But soon, people. Soon. The robots, you see, are working on solving what scientists refer to as the "Cocktail Party Problem.”

And solving the Cocktail Party Problem is all about speech separation, an impressive skill that we humans totally take for granted. Distinguishing individual voices comes so naturally to us, we never think about it; we just do it. And that annoys the robots. Presumably.

Circles Robot

Circles Robot

For robots, it's a tough nut to crack. But they're proving up to the task. Scientific American reveals the writing on the wall: “New algorithms finally enable machines to tune in to the right speaker, sometimes even better than humans can,” thus spelling our doom.

Yes, our doom. Because one thing is clear: Once the robots solve the Cocktail Party Problem, you can be sure they are not going to like what we’ve been saying about them. Drunk, insecure robots that are incapable of understanding tone, nuance, and irony? Sounds like trouble.

The inane jibber-jabber that's fueled by delicious whiskey and gin-based cocktails will offer us no solice, and even less protection, from the all-hearing, all-knowing robots. Nothing to do now, I suppose, except sit in this corner, sipping my Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, until they come for us.

Pangalactic Gargleblaster

Photo by Linda

 

[Chalk scratchings of inebriated robots by Carl Hanson]

About Carl Hanson

Carl will eat that. Share with him @CarlNo9 on Twitter.