IBM Watson: Did You Generate These AI Requirements Answers?

May 16, 2018

I read a darned remarkable write up called “The 5 Attributes Of Useful AI, According To IBM.” IBM, of course, has Watson, the billion dollar bet that continues to chase other horses in the artificial intelligence derby. What Facebook and Google lack in marketing, IBM has that facet of grooming expensive horses nailed tighter than a stall barn door.

Let me run through the five attributes of “useful AI” which are explained in the write up:

  1. Managed. I think this means one pays a big outfit to do the engineering, tuning, and servicing of the useful AI. Billability seems to lurk around the edges of this seemingly innocuous term.
  2. Resilient. My hunch is that when the AI goes off the rails and generates nonsense or dead wrong outputs, the useful AI is going to fix itself. See item number 1. If the AI is resilient, why do we need the “managed” approach?
  3. Performant. I first encountered this word in Norway when a person who taught English to hearty Norwegians used it when communication with me. I think it means “works” or “performs in an acceptable manner.” The idea is that the AI system delivers a useful output. Keep in mind the “managed” and “billability” angles, please.
  4. Measureable. I like this idea almost as much as I like precision and recall. However, when one asks Watson how to treat a cancer, it seems to me that the treatment should nuke the cancer. I am on board with statistical analyses, but in the case of a doctor depending on AI for a treatment, the operative number is one and the key value is 100 percent. Your mileage may differ unless you have life threatening cancer.
  5. Continuous. I loop back to “managed” and the notion of “billability.” I like the notion that smart software should operate continuously, but there are challenges associated with “drift” as new content enters the system, the cost of processing real time or near real time flows of information which has a tendency to expand over time, and built in algorithmic biases. Few want to talk about how popular numerical recipes output junk unless tweaked, retrained, tuned, and enhanced. This work is obviously “billable.”

I would point out that one attribute important to me is that the useful AI should generate a beneficial financial positive for the customer. I understand the revenue upside for an outfit like IBM, but AI has an interesting characteristic: The smart software becomes increasingly expensive to maintain and operate in a “useful” manner over time.

If I look at “useful” from IBM’s perspective, the task for the stalwarts in Big Blue is making money from this “useful” software. Seems like it has been slow going.

Stephen E Arnold, May 16, 2018

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