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I'm reminded of an old Doonesbury comic.  Mega-rich rock star Jimmy Thudpucker decides to take up stamp collecting.  He calls the local coin and stamp shop and says something like, "Hi, it's me again.  Would you send over a full set for Bolivia?  Yeah, thanks!"  His wife approaches and asks how its going.  "That was fun.  I'll do Brazil tomorrow!"

If the app gets people introduced to birding, great, but I have a concern.  To me, birding is about more than adding names to a life list.  If people become dependent on visual images as identification tools, they'll be missing out on many of the other aspects of bird identification, and missing much of what I think makes birding an enjoyable lifelong hobby.  They may not pay attention to a bird's environment, behaviors, seasonal movements, field marks, or the other factors that would help them identify a bird when they don't have a camera or an app.  They may not even learn to look for these factors.  That's harmless, I guess,  but they'll also likely not develop an appreciation for the birds themselves or an understanding of the role they play in the environment.

It's one thing to 'collect' stamps, it's another to understand the stamps you're collecting.

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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Well said, Charlie. You've made several points that I would have said myself. I find myself guilty to a degree about wanting to get a photo first for ID purposes, then watching its behavior, movements, etc. As far as the technology changing the way people bird, that's been happening already, especially for the past 40-50 years. Look what the earlier birders had to work with. Most of the time a bird had to be killed to get to see it up close! Now with affordable cameras with telephoto lens we can get an extremely close-up shot with great detail.

I don't really think the advanced technology in itself is going to change the fact that people who love birding will continue to do so in a fulfilling way. And, I also think it can bring more people into birding that wouldn't have been drawn into it before. Look at how many people now who get a photo of a bird with their cell phone will post it here for ID. If they hadn't had the technology to get the photo, I think most of them would have just said, "Hmmmmm, cute bird! Wonder what it was? Oh, well........." Several new members on here started just that way, by posting a photo for ID. When we can give them an ID, tell them something about the bird they saw, and maybe even recommend a good field guide for them, it may spark their interest enough to begin actually looking for birds. 

I can see where having a way to get a "quick" ID without interacting with people might keep a few out of the loop here, but I think overall it is not going to be detrimental to birding as we know it. And besides, look at how many young birders we have here!! And they started with much more advanced technology than we (us old-timers) did! 😁 

Edited by Bird Brain
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Charlie fears like yours are not unusual, and in fact are pretty typical of what we hear whenever a new technology is introduced. When automobiles started replacing horses, I am sure people said "how will we connect with the outdoors if everyone is stuck inside these steel boxes?" And in a way they were in correct, cars did disconnect us from nature. But they they also opened us up to traveling huge distances to visit nature is places we may never have seen. So there is always a tradeoff. Bird Brain I like your reaction, its wise and shows insights.

The funny thing is you can't stop technology. You can personally resist it, and many people do. But it marches ahead because humans love change, advancement, being different, pushing boundaries. As I said in my linked message, I'm not going to try and convince anyone that iBird Photo Sleuth is better or worse than experts at identifying birds. But I do think its very easy for advanced birders to get into a man vs machine thought pattern and that is really a waste of time.

What we are seeing with our customers of Sleuth, and pretty much what I expected, is that Photo Sleuth is introducing a large group of beginners to birding, people who may not have had the confidence to jump in or even known what birding was. It's not unlike what iBird Pro accomplished" have people who never opened a field guide falling in love with birds. You have kids who are withdrawn with autism falling in love with bird songs. 

These are only the early embryonic days of Machine Learning and AI, and given the extraordinary results we are seeing with Sleuth, it's easy to extrapolate that its just going to get better and better.

I would be much more concerned about how AI is creeping in other parts of our life than an app that helps beginners be better birders. To this end if you want to have your mind blown I suggest you watch the interview between Joe Rogan and Elon Musk on YouTube. The press made a big deal about Elon smoking pot, but that misses the entire value of the discussion. Elon calmly presents some serious questions about what happens when AI gets so smart it starts influencing our world in more major ways. If you are a fan of the Matrix you'll love this video.

Joe Rogan Experience #1169 - Elon Musk

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FYI, I'm a network administrator so I see technology altering the workplace daily. 

I don't have 'fears' as such (a word I was careful to not use).  I'm just used to pointing out the potential negatives of converting an analog process to digital.  The downsides are usually outweighed by the productivity gains, but I like people to know up front that downsides do indeed exist.

I have little doubt the technology will eventually advance to the point where an electronic tool is reliably more accurate than a human being.  I don't see any reason why that would stop anyone from birding unless they were looking for an excuse.  Cars haven't stopped people from walking or running for pleasure.  We do crossword puzzles manually although a computer could solve them in seconds.

Bird Brain said "When we can give them an ID, tell them something about the bird they saw, and maybe even recommend a good field guide for them, it may spark their interest enough to begin actually looking for birds."   I realized that regardless why people asks, as birders it's our responsibility to encourage their budding interest.  Providing a positive response is our first step to encouraging people.  From there we can hope they'll become interested enough to learn about birds in detail, beyond basic identification.

I'll just put my soapbox back in the truck now.

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Charlie please don't put your soapbox in the truck, leave it out and stand on it as often as you can.

Everything you say is thoughtful and accurate and if there is any confusion, its all on me. I hope we hear from some of the other birding experts (and beginners too) about this subject because I feel its extremely important. Did you guys watch the Elon Musk interview video? Its really cool, you can get an idea of how different and the same he is as Steve Jobs.

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I view it as another intriguing tool/toy in the birding goodie bag.  And obviously it will be utilized and appreciated by many.    There are so many people browsing and using cellphone apps already; if they can find a functional app that gets them interested in birds and ID’ing them that’s great.

It’s similar to debating whether electronic synthesizers are ruining music.  They’re not really ruining anything, they’re just adding a new dimension to the music scene.  If you are an aficionado of the classical guitar or the banjo, for example, you may enjoy the new sounds but also feel some disappointment if you sense loss of appreciation in your craft.   I think we can all relate to that.

I also understand what you’re alluding to in the future, if we let AI get so ‘smart’ that we let it take charge of all decision-making – philosophical and moral decisions too.   I know the race is on to try and endow AI with not just measured intelligence but with nuance, conscience and wisdom too.  

And I totally agree with Charlie stipulating that it’s not fears per se, it’s a realization that there will be downsides or tradeoffs to ‘progress’; there always will be.  And try to recognize and distinguish (or at least acknowledge) these nuances, so the baby doesn’t get thrown out with the bath water.

Interesting discussion!

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Bee_keeper, great example of a colorful way tech has disrupted an art form, here digital synths altering the analog world of instruments. Its a perf example because it expanded the boundaries of what we call music in such unexpected ways. It gave rise to incredible new groups, like Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Daft Punk.

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6 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:

I'll just put my soapbox back in the truck now.

5 hours ago, Administrator said:

Charlie please don't put your soapbox in the truck, leave it out and stand on it as often as you can.

I have this poster in my schoolroom:

 Image result for stand up for what you believe is right even if you are standing alone poster

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11 hours ago, MerMaeve said:

I have this poster in my schoolroom:

 Image result for stand up for what you believe is right even if you are standing alone poster

While I applaud the idea in general, I think there's no 'right' or 'wrong' on this particular topic.  Tools are tools.  Sometimes right and wrong are determined by how we use them.  Sometimes neither apply and we're just discussing personal preferences.  @Administrator answered several questions for me in another discussion regarding birding apps before I concluded that they don't (currently) fit the way I bird.

('I bird'? :classic_blink: 'iBird'! :classic_biggrin: Get it?  I made a funny!  HA! :classic_laugh: I just kill me!)

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I think it can be a great tool because if I spend less time figuring out what I am looking at (or hearing) then I can spend more time enjoying watching it. It should also make bird counts more accurate and that can be helpful in terms of understanding bird populations, migration patterns, and so on. I have a motion-activated camera that I use to photograph wildlife including birds. It would be great if it was tied to software that told me how many birds of which species were seen at every given day/time because knowing that is something that interests me. AI could help with that.

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1 hour ago, dimitrig said:

It would be great if it was tied to software that told me how many birds of which species were seen at every given day/time because knowing that is something that interests me.

I think eBird can give you that.  Click the 'Science' tab and look for 'Download eBird Data Products'

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