Author Archives: Esha Chakraborty

Mischievous AI judges your taste in music

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Do you want to know how terrible your taste in music is to end an already terrible year? Look no further than the “How Bad Is Your Spotify” project on, that will ridicule your taste in music, in a good way of course.

If you’re a Spotify user you probably got your Spotify Wrapped earlier this month which nicely summed up your music taste for this year. The Pudding’s new AI tool is nothing like that. Besides analyzing your listening history, it interacts with the user in a playful manner.

The app uses artificial intelligence which was trained by by Matt Daniels and Mike Lacher for The Pudding.

Once users visit the website they are asked to grant access to their Spotify to let the “sophisticated A.I” judge their “bad taste in music”.

The bot explains that it has “been trained on a corpus of over two million indicators of objectively good music, including Pitchfork reviews, record store recommendations, and subreddits you’ve never heard of,” when you click on “how do you know what’s good?”

The quiz takes users through a series of amusing questions making you feel like you’re chatting with a passive-aggressive snarky friend. It said things such as: “lol… omg… okay hold up… Do you really listen to [artist name]…?”

After the A.I is done mocking your musical taste with its questions, it analyses your answers and tells you how “bad” your Spotify is.

The AI bot gives a rundown of tracks the users listen to “too much,” artists they listen to “to an uncomfortable extent,” rates how “basic” your musical taste is and highlights the decade you’re “stuck” in.

Mike Lacher, one of the brains behind the witty bot says,”We wanted to make something similar to Spotify Wrapped, but instead of celebrating your music, it would insult it. For us personally, we knew that the stuff we stream privately is often embarrassing, so we thought it would be funny to make a bot that would look through all that stuff and judge you. We wanted it to feel like a judgemental friend, or a snobby record store clerk.”

Many, after using the app, went on social media to share their results. One twitter user commented “the accuracy of the how bad is your Spotify thing is terrifying.” Another user said “I tried the “how bad is your Spotify playlist” AI and I am too embarrassed to share the results…”

It’s all fun and games but it’s important to realize that artificial intelligence and the music industry are incredibly linked together.  The fact that they can store an incredible amount of information for comparison and analyze human taste on a platform like Spotify can open a new era for the music industry.

Go check out “How bad is your Spotify?” on !


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A.I Bias: Is Google doing more harm than good?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

How is Google tackling the negative impact of algorithmic bias? Considering Google’s recent upheavals, it seems as though Google is trying to conceal AI bias and ethical concerns.

What Google's Firing of Researcher Timnit Gebru Means for AI Ethics

Timnit Gebru, a well-respected leader in AI bias and ethics research unexpectedly left Google earlier this month. Gebru says she was fired via email over the publication of a research paper because it “didn’t meet the bar for publication”. However, Google states that Gebru resigned voluntarily. More than 5,300 people, including over 2,200 Google employees, have now signed an open letter protesting Google’s treatment of Gebru and demanding that the company explain itself.

The research paper Gebru coauthored criticized large language models, the kind used in Google’s sprawling search engine. The paper argued such language models could hurt marginalized communities. The conflict over the publication of this research paper is what caused Gebru’s takeoff.

Gebru and her co-authors explain in the paper how there’s a lot wrong with large language models. For the most part, because they are trained on huge bodies of existing text, and the systems are inclined to absorb a lot of existing human bias, predominantly about race and gender. The paper states that the large models take in so much data which makes it awfully difficult to audit and test; hence some of this bias may go undetected.

The paper additionally highlighted the adverse environmental impact as the training and running of such huge language models on electricity-craving servers leaves a significant amount of carbon footprint. It noted that BERT, Google’s own language model, produced approximately 1,438 pounds of carbon dioxide, around the same amount of a round-trip flight from New York to San Francisco.

Moreover, The authors argue that efforts to build systems that might actually “understand” language and learn more efficiently, in the way humans do are robbed by spending resources on building ever so large language models.

The reason behind why Google might have been especially upset with Gebru and her co-authors scrutinizing the ethics of large language models is on the grounds that, Google has a considerable amount of resources invested in this piece of technology.

Google has its own large language model, called BERT that it has used to help power search results in several languages including English. BERT is also used by other companies to assemble their own language processing software.

BERT is optimized to run on Google’s own specialized A.I computer processors. It is exclusively accessible to clients of its cloud computing service. If a company is looking into training and running one of its own language models, it will require a lot of cloud computing time. Hence, companies are more inclined to use Google’s BERT. BERT is a key feature of Google’s business, generating about $26.3 billion in revenue. According to Kjell Carlsson, a technology analyst, the market for such large language models is “poised to explode”.

This market opportunity is exactly what Gebru and her coauthors are criticizing and condemning Google’s profit maximization aim over ethical and humanitarian concerns.

Google has struggled with being called out for negative bias in artificial intelligence in the past as well. In 2016, Google was heavily faulted for racial bias when users noticed that when they searched “three white teenagers” the results were stock photos of Caucasian cheerful adolescents. When searched “three black teenagers” the algorithm offered an array of mug shots. The same search, with “Asian” substituted for “white,” resulted in various  links to pornography. Google also came under fire in July 2015 when its photo app autonomously labeled a pair of black friends as Gorillas. These are only a few instances out of several. And not just results, the predicted results are no less misleading and harmful.  Such bias must be curtailed as it reinforces (untrue) negative stereotypes and harms POC communities.

In the end, it is unfortunate that Google (including other giant tech corporations) still faces the challenge of eliminating negative bias in artificial intelligence. At a Google conference in 2017, the company’s then head of artificial intelligence said we don’t need to worry about killer robots; instead, we need to worry about bias.

 The current lead of Google AI, Jeff  Dean said in 2017, “when an algorithm is fed a large collection of text, it will teach itself to recognize words which are commonly put together. You might learn, for example, an unfortunate connotation, which is that doctor is more associated with the word ‘he’ than ‘she’, and nurse is more associated with the word ‘she’ than ‘he’. But you’d also learn that surgeon is associated with scalpel and that carpenter is associated with hammer. So a lot of the strength of these algorithms is that they can learn these kinds of patterns and correlations”.

The task, says Jeff Dean, is to work out which biases you want an algorithm to pick up on, and it is the science behind this that his team, and many in the AI field, are trying to navigate.

“It’s a bit hard to say that we’re going to come up with a perfect version of unbiased algorithms.”


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Amazon launches Amazon Pharmacy

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Amazon announced this week, its huge move into the pharmacy business; it sent shockwaves through the industry. Is the tech giant going to take the heath care world by storm or break it?

Amazon Pharmacy is here with big savings on your prescriptions

Amazon recently launched Amazon Pharmacy, its online and mobile prescription medication ordering and fulfillment services. The service lets users buy medications, order refills online and have it delivered to their doorsteps, in a couple of days. Amazon Pharmacy will allow customers to complete pharmacy transactions on their desktop or through the Amazon’s mobile app.

Investors have misdiagnosed Amazon's push into the pharmacy business -  MarketWatch

Now, the world’s largest online retailer run by the world’s richest man is getting even further into the U.S. healthcare market by offering to send prescription drugs to its customers’ doors. In announcing the new venture on Nov. 17, Amazon said in a statement that customers can purchase prescription medications with or without insurance.

Customers will be able to create a secure pharmacy profile to add their insurance information, manage prescriptions, and choose payment options before checking out, Amazon explained in a statement.

Prime members receive unlimited, free two-day delivery on orders from Amazon Pharmacy included with their membership, the company added. Additionally, it announced a program for Amazon Prime members that let them buy medications at a discount when paying for them without insurance. The program, available at the Amazon Pharmacy and 50,000 pharmacies across the USA, can save Prime members 80 percent off generic drugs and 40 percent off brand name medications.

A number of self-service options are also available at Amazon’s pharmacy, as well as 24/7 phone access to “friendly and knowledgeable” pharmacists to answer questions about medications.

Doctors can send prescriptions directly to Amazon Pharmacy, currently available in the US only, or patients can request a transfer from their existing retailer.

Amazon has been quietly building out its pharmacy offering for several years after ramping up internal discussions in 2017 and buying PillPack in 2018. Amazon paid $753m two years ago to acquire Pillpack, which will continue to run its own business. However, Amazon will leverage its pharmacy software fulfillment centers, and relationships with health plans.

Amazon kicks off PillPack marketing campaign with email to Prime users |  MobiHealthNews

When Amazon acquired online pharmacy Pillpack in 2018, they said health data would remain separate and distinct from that on its retail site and no information would be shared with advertisers without permission.

But, many are afraid of the ‘data problem’. If you’re an Amazon user your data is used by the company for marketing and advertising purposes. Many believe Amazon can now track your conditions, your medications, and when you last had them filled, And use predatory methods of advertising. Plus, many believe that Amazon is slowly becoming a monopoly and may take over this industry. CVS, Walgreens, and other huge pharmaceutical companies’ stocks already plummeted since the announcement of Amazon Pharmacy.

However, a lot of people see the introduction of Amazon Pharmacy as a big win, especially in a pandemic. Individuals do not have to wait in lines in public for their prescriptions; instead, they can stay home and order safely. Moreover, the discounts Amazon is offering on generics (up to 80%) to people with or without insurance are incredibly attractive.

Forrester analyst Arielle Trzcinski, in her research notes on the Amazon announcement, sees a number of benefits for consumers in the new pharmacy offering.

The ability to track your order is a nice added feature than many PBMs (pharmacy benefit manager) and pharmacy experiences do not provide, she wrote. Visibility across the supply chain will provide greater comfort to consumers who may be fearful of delays or the risk of medications getting lost in the mail.

Arielle Trzcinski, Forrester analyst

Although Amazon Pharmacy service is only available across the states at the moment, it is expected to be available worldwide in good time. As the need for pharmaceuticals is everywhere; it’s a global opportunity.


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