Canada Socks It to the USA Again

November 28, 2017

The US loves making fun of Canada and Canadians take it in stride.  While Canadians brush off the teasing, they feel a smug sense of superiority, especially when they get something the US does not.  These include a less embarrassing national leader, the metric system, and now the city of the future.  The San Francisco Gate reports that “Larry Page’s Urban Innovation Unit Picks Toronto For First Digital Neighborhood.”

This does not come as a surprise, especially if you work in the technology or entertainment industries.  Along with other advantages, Canada rewards technology innovations and film crews with tax incentives and other cost-saving laws.  Toronto is Canada’s biggest city and Larry Page talked the city officials into building the city of the future along Lake Ontario’s shore.  Alphabet Inc. and Waterfront Toronto are working side by side to develop a high-tech community that includes green technologies, self-driving transport, and construction techniques that will lower housing costs.

Unknown to many, Toronto is home to a thriving startup boom and the deal has been in talks for a decade:

Sidewalk Toronto will dedicate $50 million to planning the project, which will begin with a new neighborhood called Quayside and eventually extend into the Eastern Waterfront, more than 800 acres in one of North America’s largest undeveloped urban parcels. Google’s Canadian headquarters will relocate to the development from the west end to support the project.

It is hard to imagine a US city doing something similar to Toronto.  Most city governments would want to be paid, instead of giving money to this big of a project.

Whitney Grace, November 28, 2017


Experts Desperately Seeking the Secret to Big Data Security

November 28, 2017

As machine learning and AI becomes a more prevalent factor in our day-to-day life, the daily risk of a security breach threatens. This is a major concern for AI experts and you should be concerned too. We learned how scary the fight feels from a recent Tech Target article, “Machine Learning’s Training is Security Vulnerable.”

According to the story:

To tune machine learning algorithms, developers often turn to the internet for training data — it is, after all, a virtual treasure trove of the stuff. Open APIs from Twitter and Reddit, for example, are popular training data resources. Developers scrub them of problematic content and language, but the data-cleansing techniques are no match for the methods used by adversarial actors…

What could solve that risk? Some experts have been proposing a very interesting solution: a global security framework. While this seems like a great way to roadblock hackers, it may also pose a threat. As the Tech Target piece states, hacking technology usually moves at the same speed as a normal tech. So, a global security framework would look like a mighty tempting prize for hackers looking to cause global chaos. Proceed with caution!

Patrick Roland, November 28, 2017

Mitsubishi: Careless Salarymen or Spreadsheet Fever?

November 27, 2017

I read “Mitsubishi Materials Says Over 200 Customers Could be Affected by Data Falsification.” Source of the story is Thomson Reuters, a real news outfit, in my opinion.

The main point of the story is to reveal that allegedly false data were used to obfuscate the fact that 200 customers may have parts which do not meet requirements for load bearing, safety, or durability.

When I was in college, I worked in the Keystone Steel & Wire Company’s mill in Illinois. I learned that the superintendent enforced on going checks for steel grades. I learned that there is a big difference between the melt used for coat hanger wire and the melt for more robust austenitic steel. Think weapons or nuclear reactor components made of coat hanger steel.

Mislabeling industrial components is dangerous. Planes can fall from the sky. Bridges can collapse. Nuclear powered submarines can explode. Or back flipping robots to crush Softbank/Boston Dynamic cheerleaders and an awed kindergarten class.

Reuters calls this a “quality assurance and compliance scandal.” That’s a nicer way to explain the risks of fake data, but not even Reuters’ olive oil based soft soap can disguise the fact that distortion is not confined to bogus information in intelligence agency blog posts.

Online credibility is a single tile in a larger mosaic of what once was assumed to be the norm: Ethical behavior.

Without common values regarding what’s accurate and what’s fake, the real world and its online corollary are little more than video game or Hollywood comic book films.

Silicon Valley mavens chatter about smart software which will recognize fake news. How is that working out? Now about the crashworthiness of the 2018 automobiles?

I think the problem is salarymen, their bosses, and twiddling with outputs from databases and Excel in order to make the numbers “flow.”

Stephen E Arnold, November 27, 2017

IBM Watson: Shedding Dreams?

November 27, 2017

I read a short item in “IBM to Retire Two Watson IoT Services.” IBM rolled out Watson in 2011, but the bits and pieces were floating around or acquired years before Watson won a TV game show. (Post production, anyone?)

The short write up reveals a factoid, which I assume not to be too fake. Specifically, IBM Watson is not longer providing two Internet of Things, Watson-infused services. These are or were Context Mapping and Driver Behavior. Presumably clever customers can whip up something to perform Watson-like services with other chunks of IBM code.

From birth to shedding functions in just 72 months. What’s next? Shall I ask Watson? No, I shall not. It seems to me that reality may be dawning in some IBM management circles. There is more to shed as baby Watson tries to generate money, not PR and marketing hyperbole.

Stephen E Arnold, November 27, 2017

Nothing New as UK Continues to Spy on Citizens

November 27, 2017

People in the United States appear to always be up in arms about their civil liberties.  While it can be annoying, this is a good thing because it shows that citizens are trying to keep their government in check. The United States pales in comparison to the United Kingdom when it comes to defying civil liberties and spying on citizens.  TechCrunch shares the article, “UK Spies Using Social Media Data For Das Surveillance.”

Why does it come as a surprise that governments are using social media to collect information on their citizens? Many social media users do not have filters, including the US President Trump, and post everything online.  Governments take advantage of this, so it only makes sense when Privacy International says they have evidence that UK spy agencies use social media to gather information on suspects.

What does come as interesting is that the evidence shows that UK agencies shared their information databases with foreign governments and law enforcement?  On the other hand, given that the UK has been a target for terrorist attacks, this makes sense. Privacy International is challenging UK’s intelligence use of the of the personal data as an investigation tool.  This is the biggest concern and rightly so:

A key concern of the committee at the time was that rules governing use of the datasets had not been defined in legislation (although the UK government has since passed a new investigatory powers framework that enshrines various state surveillance bulk powers in law).  But at the time of the report, privacy issues and other safeguards pertaining to BPDs had not been considered in public or parliament.

There are not any legal ramifications if the data is misused.  This is a big deal and there need to be penalties if the data is used in harmful ways.  It begs the question, however, what about financial and retail industries that collect data on customers to sell more products?  Is that akin to this?  Also, people need to put less of their lives online and they would have less to worry about.

Whitney Grace, November 27, 2017

AIs Newest Hurdle Happens When the Machines Hallucinate

November 27, 2017

Artificial Intelligence has long been thought of as an answer to airport security and other areas. The idea of intelligent machines finding the bad guys is a good one in theory. But what if the machines aren’t as clever as we think? A stunning new article in The Verge, “Google’s AI Thinks This Turtle is a Gun and That’s a Problem,” made us sit up and take notice.

As you can guess by the title, Google’s AI made a huge flub recently:

This 3D-printed turtle is an example of what’s known as an “adversarial image.” In the AI world, these are pictures engineered to trick machine vision software, incorporating special patterns that make AI systems flip out. Think of them as optical illusions for computers. You can make adversarial glasses that trick facial recognition systems into thinking you’re someone else, or can apply an adversarial pattern to a picture as a layer of near-invisible static. Humans won’t spot the difference, but to an AI it means that panda has suddenly turned into a pickup truck.

This adversarial image news is especially concerning when you consider how quickly airports are implementing this technology. Dubai International airport is already using self-driving carts for luggage. It’s only a matter of time until security screening goes the same way. You’d best hope they iron out adversarial image issues before we do.

Patrick Roland, November 27, 2017

KFC: Colonel Faraday Sanders Is Not Online

November 26, 2017

I am proud to live in Kentucky. We have the University of Louisville occupying investigators’ time and energy. We have the exciting West End, which generates quite a bit of news each week. We have the Kentucky Fried Chicken (yum, yum, yum) Faraday cage milestone.

Here in Harrod’s Creek, the gang of geriatric squirrel hunters usually talks about Senator Mitch McConnell’s struggles or the Rand Paul fight with his neighbor. This morning, one of the tobacco chewing professionals drew my attention to “KFC Offering $10K ‘Internet Escape Pod’ Ahead of Cyber Monday.”

I am okay with the notion of Faraday cages, bags, and rooms. I have a Faraday bag myself. I stick my mobile phone in the bag and enjoy annoyance free drives to and from Lexington. (I use the UK library, gentle reader. The U of L makes me nervous when I think of the late, lamented president, the most wonderful basketball coach in the world, and an athletic director whose income makes some investment bankers envious.)

The write up informed me:

KFC’s Escape Pod is just one of several items the chicken chain made available on its new KFC Ltd. online shopping platform, which launched in July. Another collection of merchandise will reportedly be made available in early December, when it will become even more apparent that the executives at KFC have lost all interest in selling us chicken anymore.

What’s this $10,000 item look like? Here you go:


Kentucky deserves its reputation as an innovation center.

Nothing like a Faraday tent to make your chicken eating free of mobile phone calls. It also prevents an owner from uploading a picture of this odd ball product to Facebook.

Well, maybe not. KFC is making Kentucky great again!

Stephen E Arnold, November 26, 2017

Traveling Content: What? No Border Control?

November 25, 2017

I read “Understanding the Content Journey.” Frankly I was left with a cold fish on my keyboard. I shoved the dead thing aside after I learned:

The next major disruption for marketers will be in the form of embedded machine learning capabilities that augment and automate the content journey — making content more intelligent.

Okay, marketers, how are you going to make content smarter, more intelligent. Indexing, manual tags, plugging into the IBM Watson smart thing, or following the precepts of search engine optimization.

Intelligent content comes from intelligent people. Machines can and do write about sports scores, financial reports, and other information which lends itself to relatively error free parsing.

None of these issues struck me as germane to the “content journey.” What I learned was that intelligent content has several facets; for instance:

  1. Content ideation and search. What is content ideation? Search is a buzzword which is less clear than words like “mother” and “semantics.” (At least for “mother”, everyone has one. For semantics, I am not sure marketers have the answer.
  2. Content creation. I think this means writing. Most writing is just okay. Most college students once received average grades. Today, everyone gets a blue ribbon. Unfortunately writing remains difficult for many. I assume that content creation is different and, therefore, easier. One needs “content ideation” and Bing or Google.
  3. Content management. Frankly I have zero idea what content management means. The organizations with which I am familiar often have one or maybe multiple content management systems. In my experience, these are expensive beasties, and they, like enterprise search, generate considerable user hostility. The idea is to slap a slice and dice system on top of whatever marketers “write” and reuse that content for many purposes. Each purpose requires less and less of the “writing” function I believe.
  4. Content personalization. Ah, ha. Now I think I understand. A person needs an answer. A customer facing online support system will answer the person’s questions with no humans involved. That’s a close cousin to Facebook and Google keeping track of what a user does and then using that behavior to deliver “more like that.” Yes, that’s true “content ideation.” Reduce costs and reinforce what the user believes is accurate.
  5. Content delivery. That’s easy for me to understand. One uses social media or search engines to get the fruits of “content ideation” to a user. The only hitch is that free mechanisms are not reliable. The solution, from my perspective, is to buy ads. Facebook, Google, and other online ad mechanisms match the words from the “content ideation” with what the systems perceive is the user’s information need. Yep, that works well for research, fact checking, and analyzing a particular issue.
  6. Content performance. Now we come to metrics, which means either clicks or sales. At this point we are quite far from “content ideation” because the main point of this write up is that one only writes what produces clicks or sales. Tough luck, Nietzsche.

Net net: I am not sure if this write up would have received a passing grade from my first English 101 professor, a wacky crank named Dr. Pearce. For me, “content ideation” is more than making up a listicle of buzzwords.

But what about the journey? Well, that trope was abandoned because silliness rarely gets from Point A to Point B.

Pretty remarkable analysis even in our era of fake news, made up facts, specious analysis, and lax border controls.

Stephen E Arnold, November 25, 2017

Consumer Health Search: An Angle for an Amazon Black Friday Sale?

November 24, 2017

I read “How Consumers Search for Health Care.” What struck me as interesting about this article’s information was that the data reminded me of research conducted i 1986 by the one time commercial online giant Information Access, a unit of Ziff Communications. We developed the Health Reference Center, which was an innovative service at that time. A kiosk allowed a user to obtain curated information about a medical condition. I recall we placed these Health Reference Centers in libraries and a handful of forward thinking health care facilities. We did tons of research, and the product included a number of interesting features.

I matched the findings reported in the article with my recollection of some of the research we conducted as part of the IAC product development process. One finding which was decidedly different was the preference for millennials for convenience. If the data in the article are accurate, 40 percent of the millennials in the sample like convenience which translates to mobile usage and online scheduling.

Other data points were in line with the findings from three decades ago; for example, ease of use and finding solutions that would be covered by insurance companies.

What do these data suggest? Health care is unlikely to be able to deal with expectations for mobile scheduling and patient convenience. As for shopping around for a deal on a treatment or procedure, Amazon, not established health care providers, may be encouraged to enter the field.

Black Friday deals on nose jobs and hip replacements may sound interesting to the Bezos behemoth. Use an Amazon credit card? One might get some Amazon credits which might be applied to the next procedure. Prime cut?

Stephen E Arnold, November 24, 2017

Alexa Can Name the Tune If You Sing a Bar

November 24, 2017

A brief write-up at MakeUseOf points out a nifty Alexa capability—“How to Search for Songs by Lyrics on Amazon Echo.” Writer Nancy Messieh writes:

One of the Echo’s native features (recently pointed out by Lifehacker) is the ability to search for songs by lyrics. Rather than pulling up a browser on your phone or computer, you can just ask Alexa using the voice command ‘Alexa, what’s the song that goes [lyrics]?’ If Alexa recognizes the song, she’ll let you know the title and artist and will start playing the song immediately. Amazon also recently released a list of the top 50 most requested songs by lyrics through Alexa. The number one song HandClap by Fitz and the Tantrums. Other artists that appear on the list include Justin Timberlake, Journey, Ed Sheeran, and Queen.

The feature can also report the most-searched songs by the city, though so far that list only includes five major cities in the U.S. Perhaps the Echo will add cities as more users take advantage of the search-by-lyrics feature.

Cynthia Murrell, November 24, 2017

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