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Amazon’s Alexa is digitally raising the dead

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“I am haunted.”

This is one of the several reactions on social media to Amazon.com Inc’s Alexa digital assistant impersonating a grandmother reading an excerpt from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

During a company presentation on Wednesday, Alexa chief scientist Rohit Prasad attempted to demonstrate the digital assistant’s humanlike demeanour, Bloomberg reported.

Prasad stated that he was surprised by the companionable relationship users developed with Alexa and wanted to investigate this further. Human characteristics such as “empathy and affect” are essential for establishing trust with others, he said.

In the ongoing pandemic, when so many of us have lost someone we love, while AI cannot take away the pain of loss, it can certainly make their memories last, he said.

According to the presentation, Amazon is pitching the service as a tool for digitally raising the dead. In a subsequent interview on the sidelines of Amazon’s re: MARS technology conference in Las Vegas, Prasad clarified that the service was not primarily intended to simulate the voice of dead people.

“It’s not about people who are no longer with you,” he explained. “But it’s about your grandmother; if you want your child to hear grandma’s voice, you can do so if she is unavailable. That is something I would like.”

The creep factor dominated the discussion as the presentation spread across the internet. However, more serious concerns emerged. One was the possibility of using the technology to create deepfakes, which would involve using a legitimate recording to mimic people saying something they hadn’t actually said.

Siwei Lyu, a computer science and engineering professor at the University of Buffalo whose research focuses on deepfakes and digital media forensics, expressed concern about the development.

“There are certainly benefits to Amazon’s voice conversion technologies, but we should be aware of potential misuses,” he said. “For example, a predator can pose as a family member or a friend over the phone to entice unsuspecting victims, and a forged audio recording of a high-level executive commenting on her company’s financial situation could send the stock market haywire.”

While Amazon did not specify when the new Alexa feature would be available, similar technology could make such mischief much easier in the future. Amazon had learned to simulate a voice based on less than a minute of that person’s speech, according to Prasad. Previously, doing so required hours in a studio.

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Moody’s says the IMF programme will increase Pakistan’s foreign financing.

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Moody’s, a reputable international rating agency, has stated that Pakistan’s chances of acquiring funding will increase as a result of the recent agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which offers dependable sources for that purpose from both friendly countries and international financial institutions.

According to a recent Moody’s analysis on Pakistan’s economy, social unrest and tensions could result from Pakistan’s ongoing inflation. The country’s economic reforms may be hampered by increased taxes and potential changes to the energy tariff, it continued.

Moody’s, on the other hand, agrees that the coalition government headed by Shehbaz Sharif of the PML-N is in danger of failing to secure an election mandate, which may potentially undermine the successful and long-lasting execution of economic reforms.

The government’s capacity to proceed with economic changes may be hampered by societal unrest and poor governance, according to Moody’s.

In order to appease the IMF by fulfilling a prerequisite for authorising a rescue package, the government raised the basic tariff on electricity, which coincided with the most recent increase in fuel prices announced on Monday. This report was released by Moody’s.

Food costs have increased in the nation, where the vast majority is experiencing an unprecedented crisis due to the high cost of living, following the government’s earlier presentation of a budget that included a large increase in income tax for the salaried classes and the implementation of GST on commodities like milk.

The most recent comments were made following Islamabad’s achievement of a staff-level agreement for a $7 billion contract that spans 37 months and is contingent upon final approval by the IMF Executive Board.

It states that Pakistan will need foreign financing totaling about $21 billion in 2024–2025 and $23 billion in 2025–2026, meaning that the country’s present $9.4 billion in reserves won’t be sufficient to cover its needs.

Therefore, according to Moody’s, Pakistan is in an alarming position with regard to its external debt, and the next three to five years will be extremely difficult for the formulation and implementation of policies.

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Base Of bilateral relations: China And Pakistan Reiterate Their Support For CPEC

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China-Pakistan economic corridor is a major project of the Belt and Road Initiative, and both countries have reiterated their commitment to it. It remains a fundamental aspect of their bilateral relations.

Vice Chairman Zhao Chenxin of the National Development and Reform Commission of China and Minister Ahsan Iqbal of Planning and Development met in Beijing, where Ahsan Iqbal made this assurance.

The summit made clear how committed China and Pakistan are to advancing their strategic cooperative partnership in all weather conditions.

The focus of the discussion was on how the CPEC was going, with both parties reviewing project development and discussing how the agreement made at the leadership level will lead to the launch of an enhanced version of the CPEC.

In order to improve trade, connectivity, and socioeconomic growth in the area, they emphasised the need of CPEC projects.

The Ml-I Project, the KKH realignment, and the Sukkur-Hyderabad motorway—the last remaining segment of the Karachi-Peshawar motorway network—were all to be expedited.

Expanding the partnership’s horizons to include technology, innovation, education, connectivity, and renewable energy sources was another topic of discussion.

Specifically in the special economic zones being built under the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation (CPEX), Vice Chairman NDRC emphasised the possibility of China investing more in Pakistan.

In addition to expressing confidence in the ongoing success of the two nations’ collaboration, Zhao Chenxin reiterated China’s support for Pakistan’s development aspirations.

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Pakistani government raises petrol prices

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A recent announcement states that the price of petrol has increased by Rs 9.99 per litre, to Rs 275.60 per litre.

The cost of high-speed diesel has also increased significantly, rising by Rs 6.18 a litre. Diesel is now priced at Rs 283.63 a litre.

Furthermore, kerosene now costs Rs 0.83 more per gallon.

The cost of products and services is predicted to rise in response to the increase in petroleum prices, further taxing household budgets and jeopardizing the stability of the economy.

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