Will our next entertainer be an AI?

Recently the founders of Metaphysic used AI to create a live performance by Simon Cowell on America’s Got Talent signing. They used a special camera, a body double that has a great voice, and an AI model that was trained by examining footage of Cowell.

See the video here.

Although in this video, you can tell it isn’t quite right and that isn’t Cowell, it was convincing enough to be a semi-finalist in AGT. Their DeepFake Tom Cruise, on the other hand, is more convincing. If you look closely, you can see it probably isn’t Tom himself, but at first glance, many fans would be fooled.

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Metaphysic is using synthetic media to create these clips. They combine real-world objects with digital ones created with artificial intelligence. For the Tom Cruise videos, they spent 3 months analyzing a variety of clips of Tom Cruise from movies, interviews, and any other coverage. The videos are created with a body double with the AI-generated video of his face.

For entertainment purposes, this can open up some new opportunities, but it adds many ethical questions, not just in entertainment but in business, politics, the legal system, and the world at large. As AI becomes more developed, the images will be clearer and less distinguishable from real ones, and there are significant implications. Right now the technology is quite expensive to use and generate these types of images, but this will change as well.

To see the entire article on Metaphysic and a discussion of synthetic media, see this article by Bernard Marr.

Is TikTok recording every keystroke?

Last week, Felix Krause, a Viennese researcher, made news when he published that TikTok can record any user’s keystroke in certain situations. He found that TikTok inserts code into a 3rd party website when the user clicks on an external link. The code essentially acts as a keystroke logger.

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What does this mean? Personal information may be recorded if you click on a website from within TikTok and type any information. The keystrokes can be recorded even if you enter the information and do not press Submit. In an interview with Forbes, Krause says, “This is a non-trivial engineering task. This does not happen by mistake or randomly.”

Per Forbes, TikTok has confirmed the code exists. However, it denies that the data is being used. “Contrary to the report’s claims, we do not collect keystroke or text inputs through this JavaScript code — it is only used for debugging, troubleshooting, and performance monitoring.”

Krause confirmed he has only tested the iOS version of the app and not the Android version.

Does this mean that you should abandon TikTok? That is a personal choice. It is up to the user to understand the potential that exists and take the necessary precaution. Based on this information, extra care is needed when accessing third-party websites directly from TikTok.

To read more, see the article on Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardnieva/2022/08/18/tiktok-in-app-browser-research/?sh=3c8f356d7c55

New Timesaving App

Do you find yourself typing the same text again and again? Maybe you are constantly answering the same questions or responding to standard requests. No matter your job, you likely type several phrases several times over a given week.

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For me, I frequently copy and paste my signature line from one source to another. I also respond to inquiries about our Master of Accounting program. Another repetitive task is sending a link to students about how to make an appointment with me. For this, I recommend the new Windows and Mac-based app — aText.

I have entered these options into atext with a short code. When I type that code in any application, the full text is entered. For example, myname will print my entire name.

To download this app, go to https://trankynam.com/atext/

Change some standard snippets to your information and start adding your own. You can sync your options between multiple computers. Best yet, you can get quite a bit of functionality for free!

Is your vacuum keeping your data private?

Amazon recently purchased iRobot, the Roomba vacuum maker, to enhance their smart home suite of products. But what effect can this have on keeping your data private?

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So, what information is your vacuum collecting? Most models keep details online of your home’s floorplan. Those with cameras are capturing photos of your home and its contents. It can also give information about your lifestyle and your daily living patterns. According to iRobot, the following data is also collected:

  • Billing information
  • Mailing address
  • Social media accounts, if you signed up through one
  • Any data from other devices you’ve connected to, including your smartphone

Combining this data with Amazon’s already extensive database of personal profiles can give them greater access to personalized marketing information. Amazon may be able to target their ads even more than they already do. Does this mean I need to give up the convenience of a robot cleaning machine? No, but as a user, you need to know what data can be collected and adjust your privacy settings as needed.

From a 2017 New York Times article, “But the data, if shared, could also be a windfall for marketers, and the implications are easy to imagine. No armchair in your living room? You might see ads for armchairs next time you open Facebook. Did your Roomba detect signs of a baby? Advertisers might target you accordingly.”

For more information, see the article at: https://www.newsnationnow.com/morninginamerica/what-amazons-roomba-buy-could-mean-for-your-privacy/

Think your crypto is secure?

Nomad is the latest cryptocurrency trading firm to be hit with a significant theft of its crypto assets. Last week they announced a $190 million theft of their digital assets. Nomad is not alone. In a report by blockchain analytics firm, Chainalysis, over $1.7 billion of cryptocurrency was stolen this year through May.

Hand with image of bitcoin
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There is a false sense of security regarding safeguarding crypto assets as they reside on the blockchain, which has long been touted as secure. Although the blockchain is relatively secure, many software applications automate the trading of cryptocurrencies. These applications are the weak spot for many blockchain operations. This opens the door for hackers to steal large amounts of assets without leaving a trace.

For more on the Nomad theft, see the article at: https://www.reuters.com/technology/us-crypto-firm-nomad-hit-by-190-million-theft-2022-08-02/

Facial Recognition Bias

In a recent study at MIT, researchers evaluated facial analysis programs from major technology companies. The research shows major error rates when asked to evaluate women and people of color.

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The facial recognition software algorithms were built using neural networks, which look for patterns in a large set of training data. One technology firm boasts 97 percent accuracy in face-recognition software. However, the neural network was trained using a dataset that was 77 % male and 83% white.

MIT researchers evaluated a similar program and used a dataset that included a wider range of people based on gender and skin tones. In the three commercial software systems, error rates of 20.8, 34.5, and 34.7 percent were found for darker-skinned women. This is compared to the 3 percent claimed by one of the system developers.

For more information on these findings, go to: MIT article

What skills are your students missing?

The AICPA and NASBA recently surveyed 300 U.S. accounting programs to show what technical skills students need as they enter the profession and what they may be missing. The survey focuses on topics such as data analytics, IT audit, cybersecurity, etc.

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The survey was done as part of the CPA Evolution Initiative which is transforming the licensure model for the CPA. The survey showed that 64% of accounting programs are teaching analytics, but less than half cover cybersecurity.

To see the full report of what technical topics are covered in accounting curriculum, see the full report at: https://evolutionofcpa.org/Documents/Accounting%20Program%20Curriculum%20Gap%20Analysis%20Report%203.15.2021.pdf

Excel Videos

My Accounting Information Systems students are preparing to take the Microsoft Excel Expert certification exam in a few weeks. To help them review, I have created several videos that cover topics on the exam.

I am sharing the playlist of Excel videos with you, in hopes you find something useful. Some topics that are covered include: Vlookup, Match/Index, Pivot Tables and other functions.

I will keep adding to the playlist, so please check back.

Here is a link to YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLF_zs3YRWdbwUfIL0uLdVRno1ZyENCGVq

Otherwise, check out my other helpful Excel tips on my blog. https://iteachais.com/category/excel/

A New Look at Machine Learning

At the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, John Deere showcased how it is using Artificial Intelligence in its products. A large display of agricultural equipment is not what many attendees expect to find at the consumer electronics show, but a John Deere Sprayer was displayed prominently among the drones, games and other gadgets.

Listen to how Machine Learning is being used in agricultural equipment. https://www.investors.com/videos/ai-and-machine-learning-to-power-john-deeres-lineup-of-farm-equipment/

Blockchain in Accounting – Hype or not?

Not that long ago it seemed that blockchain was everywhere. The hype of blockchain as a cure-all was quite prevalent, including a commentary in the Wall Street Journal commenting how blockhain can end poverty. See article.

However, it seems that much of the hype has died for the moment as practitioners find ways to utilize blockchain when it makes the most sense, rather than implementing blockchain for the sake of using blockchain.

A recent podcast with the Journal of Accountancy discusses where the accounting industry is at this time for using blockchain. To view the article and associated podcast, go to: https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/podcast/blockchain-accounting.html

In my opinion, the use of blockchain was over hyped at first. Now that the dust has settled, accountants can find ways to use it to increase reliability of transactions and speed up some processing.