YouTube: Threat Level Orange

“Michelle Obama was of course afraid of getting heckled,” I joked while giving a commencement address to graduates at a local high school. But when my words pass through the computer servers at Google, I am put on record as having said, “Michelle Obama supports Israel.”

I have known for some time that YouTube videos are processed through speech recognition software. Google doesn’t try to hide this. But what is surprising is the way the software is biased toward identification of threats. Later in the speech I say, “no wonder I can’t see anything,” and the computer returns, “no american city.” When I say, "approach to self-actualization" the computer returns, "approach to sell actual invasion." The words ‘threats,’ ‘republican,’ and ‘Germany’ also show up in Google’s translation, as do the phrases, “dark colored men” and “we’re going to do this in Israel.”

Check out the video here, and be sure closed-captioning is turned on.

On a creepy scale of one to ten, what are we talkin’ here?


Waldorf Commencement Address

I was honored to give the commencement address to the Santa Fe Waldorf School's 2013 graduating class. The full text of my speech is here.