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The ethical reality of translation devices…

One of the things that Technology does at times creates ethical situations. For example, the pilot earbuds do automatic vocal and voice translation from one language to another. With Travis, it is a handheld device, clearly being used to translate. With Pilot, they are earbuds. They look like any other earbuds you see people using while walking, running, and communicating to work. They operate like any other earbuds except they also translate what people are saying. What seems to be an important function for people, is something that will begin to create an ethical issue going forward. You see, these earbuds look just like any other set of earbuds.

I know many people that speak a second language so that others can’t listen to that conversation. I know my wife and I would often speak in Spanish around the kids to reduce them overheating what we were saying. With Pilot Earbuds that privacy goes away. I haven’t tried them yet in a noisy or public environment. I’ve tried them on a conference call (they worked about 80%). The system does not have the same effect as the Travis Translator is, but it does more. You can also use the Pilot system to receive cell phone calls and to listen to music or TV shows. Due to a mistake I made, we had to replace a tire on my son’s car over the weekend. I wish I had taken the pilot earbuds.

I could have watched the Derby instead of HG TV, Tobacco Barn Builders.  I ended up playing games on my phone instead. The issue would be the reality7 of privacy of course. There was a conversation conducted by the person across from me in Spanish. I recognized the land gauge as is often the case; I phased out to not accidentally overhear. With Pilot, it would be translated for me, and that is an ethical dilemma. When is it right o hear what people not talking to you are saying? Never right, well except in emergencies and law enforcement, then it is not an ethical issue. But for me, wandering around at work, it could be considered an ethical issue. Not one that a lot of people are thinking about but one that may become a bigger deal!

  • Do you ever accidently listen when people are speaking another language?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Do you speak more than one language?

    • Yes
    • No

What do you think?

14 points

Written by DocAndersen

I am a long time blogger and technology poster.I focus on what is possible, but I also try to see what is coming. In recent years I have been focused on sharing the memories of my family, as part of my Family History Project.


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  1. if you’re speaking in public, you can have no expectation of privacy. just because you don’t think anyone in earshot speaks the language you’re using doesn’t mean they don’t understand you. it just means you’re profiling…

      • the NSA has the ability to track anything, but even if they’re using some type of automation to sort, they’re massively prone to false positives and such. whether or not that sort of thing is even remotely legal is another issue entirely…

        • I wonder sometimes about the reality of false positives. If they are in an acceptable range (say we have 100 analysts and get, say 80 false positives a day, I wouldn’t care. The reverse, of course, would be 100000 false positives and only 10 analysts. then i would probably care).

          • think about it, if they get something wrong about money laundering it isn’t such a big deal. if they get something wrong about an assassination, it could be a disaster

        • I suspect you’ll find they struggle more with terrorist problems. Although if you look globally, and then back to the US. Chatter around school shootings would appear to be the enforcement hole we have now.

        • So, I don’t often disagree with you Alex but I have to this time. If you total the last four school shootings, they are still 40 deaths below the one incidence in France with a truck. The reality of terrorism is that 20, 30 and more people are at risk.

          At some point in the US we have decided that the military cannot be deployed in the country. So Sri Lanka has a huge incident, and their response is deployed the military.

          Yes, School Shootings are horrific. But the reality of global terrorism is you have to consider what you are trading for.

        • A lot of people don’t.

          1. The intent of a school shooting is…
          (retribution for bullying, revenge for mistreatment)
          2. The difference between domestic terrorism and a school shooting is…
          (um, IMHO, nothing)

          Knowing how terrorism is perceived in the world right now, focusing that energy on school shootings might end them sooner.

          • that’s my point- for me to consider someone a terrorist, they need to have an ideology. they need to try and force it on others, and threaten retribution if their demands aren’t met by a deadline. finally, they must take credit for their actions and it is generally considered good form to pass the blame onto the establishment and to promise further attacks

            Kaczynski met all of those requirements, ergo I consider the unabomber to be a domestic terrorist. this is what differentiates an act of terror from random violence

            ideology, not methodology is my deciding factor

  2. It’s hard to ignore what is happening around you if you understand the language. I speak a few and I think what is hardest for me is when someone is learning sign language. It catches my attention and I have to literally turn away.

    I always assume someone is listening when I am speaking.

  3. I haven’t tried this gadget so I don’t have the first-hand experience on this. Privacy is one of the factors that would be affected by this new technology. Perhaps if there are sensitive things we need to discuss with, we should refrain from talking about those in public places.

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