DateFriday 25 August 2006

The deaf, the Deaf and the hearing

An update: baby3 is doing well with his cochlear implant. He turns to his name; when outside if he hears the sound of an aircraft going by, he stops before he can see it and scans the skies, then makes the ‘airplane’ sign. He likes toys that only makes noise (rather than which also have lights to indicate when you’ve pressed something). He says “Mo” for ‘more’, and “Ma” for his mum, sometimes even “ma-ma”.

It’s a lot of progress for a child to make having been pretty much without hearing for his first 17 months; even now he’s only had “access to sound” (as it’s called) for 6 to 8 weeks.

Which is why it’s sort of depressing, though not surprising, to get comments like John’s. (And here’s John’s blog.) We didn’t take the decision to put baby3 through major surgery lightly. Nor did the support team; they really did evaluate whether he wouldn’t be better off with hearing aids very carefully. In the end, it’s truly about whether we think his life will be better with access to sound – we can even call it ‘hearing’ – or without. Profoundly deaf people are more prone to depression; but John is promulgating a point of view that, while valid, still strikes me as Luddite. baby3 has sign language; he uses it, we use it, but it’s not sufficient communication for us or him, because we don’t have the years it would take to learn it sufficiently to say what we need to say to him. We have two other children, and jobs, and lives to lead.

That’s not to say that the CI is the path of least resistance, to fit our domestic needs. It’s our choice of best future – for him. And every parent makes those choices, consciously (where should we live?) or unconsciously (what do you do when your child misbehaves?).

It’s equally uplifting though to see comments like Ivan’s, (and here’s Ivan’s blog) who has just received a CI. He gives an interesting insight; we only wish that baby3 could express more of what he’s going through, so we could help him more.

(BTW, one other point, people: if you post a comment and it doesn’t appear, it has been spam-trapped, almost certainly because the post you commented on is getting cobwebby. You should be getting a captcha to fill in, as a last chance to prove you’re a human, not a spambot. If you don’t, then try turning on Javascript or turning off popup blockers (no ads on my site) – then you’ll get the frame with the captcha to fill in. Entering the same comment won’t have any effect – it’ll get spam-trapped too.)

Computers that write news: imagine the paper of the future.. written by Google

At the Johnson King blog, Andrew Chatterton writes:

The recent news of a US business information outfit replacing some of the tasks done by its journalists with computers will undoubtedly send shock waves across newsrooms throughout the country. Financial journalists are first in the ‘firing line’ as new software can turn around an earnings story within 0.3 seconds of a company making its results public!

This will surely be a threat to all journalists, not just financial hacks. As software intelligence increases, it’s feasible that any type of press release could be turned into an article before you can say ‘copy and paste’.

Indeed could we see chief executives briefing some sophisticated software and a laptop over lunch at Claridges? Newsrooms filled only with PCs and one techy to see to the needs of these next generation journalists? Or maybe even software that has the ability to scan blogs and automatically turn them into news stories? One for Charles Arthur to ponder on perhaps…

Well, having been passed the baton.. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this, and that I did at the talk to Fullrun recently. It’s already trivial to imagine a computer-generated newspaper. Get Google News, capture the most common headlines, create a summary story from the stories that appear most often, categorised by politics/sport/science/technology/medicine/celebrities/wouldyoubelieveit!/heartwarming/reviews.

You could even generate different versions by twiddling the knobs – more celebs, less politics gives you the downmarket version, and so on. Then print it.

To be honest, the first time I saw Metro (the daily morning freesheet in London, though also in other UK cities, having come here like the Vikings from Scandinavia), I thought it was computer-generated, or at least computer-chosen. That was a couple of years ago; since then it’s got a little more personality, but not so much you’d spot it. And I think it would be tough to say what its political stance was, though its parentage (Associated Newspaper, ergo a sibling of the Daily Mail) does show up from time to time – such as today’s splash (front-page lead), headlined “Shoplifters to be spared jail”, which is factually incorrect as it’s reporting a recommendation that shoplifters not be sent to jail.

Two things, though. Obviously, you don’t want the Google Newspaper to be on the web. Else it would index itself, which would lead to recursion. Second, if it was successful, it would have no journalists, yet rely on journalism. A paradox, of sorts, though the existence of the Press Association means that such things as local papers with national reporting has solved that one for decades.

The Google Newspaper: is it evitable?