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On Speak and Spell, weather conditions, and what to expect when computers don't have human fact-checkers
A company by the quirkily ambitious yet intentionally retro-inspired name of "Super Hi-Fi" is trying to do something entirely anti-historical. In place of living human beings delivering news, weather, and traffic, Super Hi-Fi offers "an AI-powered weather service" delivered "with natural-sounding AI voices".
■ Much of modern life is already touched by synthetic voices. Siri, Alexa, and "Hey Google" all talk to us from a fabricated digital domain. Before them, GPS devices told people where to drive, the Emergency Alert System delivered warnings through "Paul", and the Speak and Spell challenged kids to get their letters in the right order.
■ From that perspective, maybe fully-synthetic artificial-intelligence weather forecasts are nothing more than the obvious natural progression of technology. Large radio station owners certainly have been trying to bring their human headcounts as close as possible to zero, and automating weather forecasts gives them the option to deliver the "currents" without having anybody in the studio.
■ But we can be absolutely sure that AI-produced weather forecasts are going to lead to some spectacular bloopers. Automated weather tools, while highly reliable, occasionally encounter data drops, unreliable observations, and midstream technical issues.
■ A human being can anticipate errors and hack a plausible workaround. But it can be guaranteed that a computer trying to do the same will, at least once in a while, come up with something fantastically inappropriate. When you take humans entirely out of the decision-making chain, those will be the inevitable consequences.