There Is No "Off the Record" | WBEZ
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Note to Self

There Is No "Off the Record"

Come along with us... into the future. A place where there is a written record of everything you've said-- ever.  We're calling it the transcribed life, and our guide is Rose Eveleth, the host of the Flash Forward podcast. This week, Rose delves into the benefits and dangers of this not-so-distant future. 

The tech is coming. It's just a question of getting past the "sheep and goats" hurdle according to Steve Renals, professor of speech technology at the University of Edinburgh. Sheep and goats? It's a nerdy metaphor technologists in the field use.  Sheep are the voices the software can easily recognize. Goats are outliers. As the technology gets better, it'll hear us all as sheep.

Once the machines can consistently recognize-- and transcribe-- our speech patterns, things get tricky.  Sara Watson, technology critic and research fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, considers whether such technology could fundamentally change the way we communicate with each other.

Finally, we get a taste of the transcribed life with Heather Ratcliffe, who, because of a rare genetic disorder, wants a detailed log of her day to help her fill in gaps in her memory. Her experiment brings some unexpected results. 

As we consider the pros and cons of this technology, we want to hear from you, dear N2S listener. Does the transcribed life sound good to you? Or does this searchable record terrify you to your core? Tell us about it. Record a voice memo and email it to, or tell us in the comments section below, or send us a message on Twitter or Facebook.  

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