Android's New Voice Search And The Power Of Sympathetic Magic

Posted: Dec 14 2010, 2:07pm CST | by , in News | Android


Android's New Voice Search and the Power of Sympathetic Magic
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Google wants to Steal Your Voice

Many cultures in human history - some of which survive today- practice what is known as sympathetic magic. This refers to the idea that something which was once part of a person (like their hair or lipoed back fat) can be used to dominate or harm that person with the proper hex. This is why some people react so violently to attempts to take their picture. Your image is as much a part of you as your blood or nail clippings.

Oddly enough, those of us in the tech-rich nations are far more vulnerable to "sympathetic magic" than any 'primitive' peoples. Your blood might not really be useful in a voodoo ritual, but it can sure as hell tie you to a crime scene. Photographs don't steal your soul, but people sure as hell get angry when you use their image without permission.

Your voice is as much a part of "you" as your image. Which is why most of you probably found Google's new personal voice search announcement slightly creepy, even if you couldn't nail down why.

The Basics: your Android phone will now recognize your individual voice when you use the voice search feature. It will take notes on your own vocal peculiarities and specialize itself to understand exactly what you are saying. This data is actually saved to your Google account, which means it will be able to sync up with multiple gadgets and follow you across devices.

You can toggle personalized search on or off in your Google Dashboard. That doesn't reduce the weird feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about handing my voice over to a giant international corporation.

On a purely rational level, I can't think of a good reason not to. Google puts a lot of money into privacy. If they ever DID use your voice for something nefarious, the fall-out would be unimaginable. And the benefits of this feature are staggering. Voice input cannot move forward as a technology without SOMETHING like this.

We all have different vocal ticks and peculiarities, not to mention regional accents and speech impediments and about a billion other factors. Personalized recognition is the only future voice input can have.

But it is also adding one more thing to the giant, towering pile o' personal data that Google has on you. It won't be too long before they'll have everything they need to replace most of the US with robot duplicates programmed to mimic our personalities. Our tipsters say they'll all run Android 5.0: Soylent Green.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/5" rel="author">Robert Evans</a>
The excitement about new smartphones, tablets and anything mobile drive Robert to unearth the latest rumors and developments in this fast moving space. He adopted 4G as soon as it become available and knows where the mobile market is going.
Robert can be contacted directly at




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