Smart Software: An AI Future and IBM Wants to Be There for 10 Years

September 7, 2017

I read “Executives Say AI Will Change Business, but Aren’t Doing Much about It.” My takeaway: There is no there there—yet. I noted these “true factoids” waltzing through the MIT-charged write up:

  • 20% of the 3,000 companies in the sample use smart software
  • 5% use smart software “extensively” (No, I don’t know what extensively means either.)
  • About one third of the companies in the sample “have an AI strategy in place.”

Pilgrims, that means there is money to be made in the smart software discontinuity. Consulting and coding are a match made in MBA heaven.

If my observation is accurate, IBM’s executives read the tea leaves and decided to contribute a modest $240 million for the IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT. You can watch a video and read the story from Fortune Magazine at this link.

The Fortune “real” journalism outfit states:

This is the first time that a single company has underwritten an entire laboratory at the university.

However, the money will be paid out over 10 years. Lucky parents with children at MIT can look forward to undergrad, graduate, and post graduate work at the lab. No living in the basement for this cohort of wizards.

Several questions arise:

  1. Which institution will “own” the intellectual property of the wizards from MIT and IBM? What about the students’ contributions?
  2. How will US government research be allocated when there is a “new” lab which is funded by a single commercial enterprise? (Hello, MITRE, any thoughts?)
  3. Will young wizards who formulate a better idea be constrained? Might the presence or shadow of IBM choke off some lines of innovation until the sheepskin is handed over?
  4. Are Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft executives kicking themselves for not thinking up this bold marketing play and writing an even bigger check?
  5. Will IBM get a discount on space advertising in MIT’s subscription publications?

Worth monitoring because other big name schools might have a model to emulate? Company backed smart software labs might become the next big thing to pitch for some highly regarded, market oriented institutions. How much would Cambridge University or the stellar University of Louisville capture if they too “sold” labs to commercial enterprises? (Surprised at my inclusion of the University of Louisville? Don’t be. It’s an innovator in basketball recruiting and recruiting real estate mogul talent. Smart software is a piece of cake for this type of institution of higher learning.)

Stephen E Arnold


2 Responses to “Smart Software: An AI Future and IBM Wants to Be There for 10 Years”

  1. Tutuvip on September 8th, 2017 8:50 am

    Indeed. Utterly shameless to seize the name of one of the greatest physicists who ever lived, and then plaster it on some shonky marketing software that does nothing clever, nothing groundbreaking, and has no relationship to either Einstein or his scientific interests.

    I suppose the Newton set an unwelcome precedent; at least Watson was a second fiddle fictional character rather than a scientific great having their name abused by marketing twats.

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