Wow Revelation: AI and the Proletariat

October 29, 2016

IBM’s week long Watson conference WOW marks the starting gun for end of year marketing. I read “IBM Says New Watson Data Platform Will Bring Machine Learning to the Masses.” I like the headline. It reminded me of a part time lecturer at the one horse college I attended 50 years ago. Wild eyed, the fellow was a fan of “ism”, almost any flavor was okay with him. I read the books on the reading list and dutifully took the tests. To be candid, I was delighted when the course ended.

Watson, if the headline is to be believed, may be drifting into the lingo of that now ignored adjunct lecturer. I learned:

IBM unveiled a cloud-based AI engine to help businesses harness machine learning. It aims to give everyone, from CEOs to developers, a simple platform to interpret and collaborate on data.

There we have it: An “everyone.” Really?

The write up, which I assume to be spot on, told me:

“Insight is the new currency for success,” said Bob Picciano, senior vice president at IBM Analytics. “And Watson is the supercharger for the insight economy.” Picciano, speaking at the World of Watson conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday, unveiled IBM’s Watson Data Platform, touted as the “world’s fastest data ingestion engine and machine learning as a service.” The cloud-based Watson Data Platform, will “illuminate dark data,” said Picciano, and will “change everything—absolutely everything—for everyone.”

Interesting. “Insight” is the “currency of success.” The idea is that if someone understands an issue, that mental perception is money.

I like the superlatives too. I found this statement amusing: …Watson will illuminate Dark Data” and “will change everything.”

There we have it: An “everything.” Really?

Now Watson is no longer Lucene, home brew code, and acquired technology. Watson is an enabler. The write up told me that “I haven’t made it a reality yet.” The “it” is the potential of Watson. I liked the concept that I am going to have to do more with Watson.

Okay, but we sort of like the Facebook and Google tools. The IBM approach was important when I worked in my university’s computing center as a JCL go-fer. I even embraced IBM servers for projects at outfits like Bell Communications Research. Ah, the joys of MVS/TSO.

But now the Watson categorical superlatives are noise.

I highlighted this statement attributed to an IBM wizard:

“The number of people in today’s business who have to be able to leverage data as part of their everyday lives, to make sense of it, to drive intelligent decision-making, has grown rapidly,” she said. Gunnar pointed to the need for businesses to collaborate with data across departments to make decisions. The simple interface, she said, helps give everyone, from those who are data savvy to “citizen analysts,” a chance to work with data. “The notion of being able to work on data together, to share across the business, is a huge opportunity to accelerate insights and uncover things that weren’t able to because of the silos within the organization that prevented working on common information,” she [Ritika Gunnar, VP of offering management] said.

There we have it: “everyone.” Really?

The sheer overstatement and superlative density underscore that IBM is trying hard to make Watson a success. I am reasonably certain that Watson’s all-embracing range of functions will generate revenue for Big Blue.

But compare the coverage of the IBM Wow conference with the hooting and hollering for the Apple event which took place during the Wow event.

And remember the proletariat. Yep, wow.

Stephen E Arnold, October 29, 2016


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