Amazon: Not Yet Immune to Staff Push Back

October 18, 2018

I recall reading that Jeff Bezos suggested that high technology companies work for the US government. I thought about that suggestion, which was probably ignored by Google and Microsoft, when I read “I’m an Amazon Employee. My Company Shouldn’t Sell Facial Recognition Tech to Police.” Maybe Amazon will give in to employee democracy. On the other hand, the situation will be managed and employees encouraged to take one of the two paths identified below.

The write up explains (in and around the ads covering up the Medium article’s page):

A couple weeks ago, my co-workers delivered a letter to this effect, signed by over 450 employees, to Jeff Bezos and other executives. The letter also contained demands to kick Palantir, the software firm that powers much of ICE’s deportation and tracking program, off Amazon Web Services and to institute employee oversight for ethical decisions.

I am confident that these employees believe that the world’s richest man should do what a “group” of employees want.

On the other hand, Amazon has been chugging along in the policeware sector for a number of years. Rekognition and the Palantir Technologies’ use of the Amazon platform are pretty tiny fish. Amazon, as I demonstrate in my forthcoming four part series about Amazon’s policeware. (You can view the four short DarkCyber videos  beginning on Tuesday, October 30, 2018. The second program becomes available on November 6, the third on November 13, and the final program on November 20.)

Amazon has an active contract with a major intelligence agency. Specialist vendors of policeware use the Amazon platform to serve their government customers with specific technology solutions. Examples range from an index of the Dark Web, social media, and the Surface Web updated hourly to crunching numbers to identify persons of interest involved in specific matters of interest to the United States. Furthermore, Amazon has been assembling or “growing” its own vendor, integrator, and contractor ecosystem. Furthermore Amazon is providing policeware services to certain UK agencies. I have heard that there is keen interest in the Amazon policeware services, the streaming data marketplace, the Sagemaker machine learning system, and the advanced analytics the company has integrated into the policeware suite. Do you think tax authorities and regulatory authorities will be interested in some of the policeware capabilities? The grousing employees are not I would wager.


Watch the DarkCyber Amazon policeware video series.

To sum up, I think that employees who object to what their employers pay them to do have some choices to make:

  1. Remain on the job. Do good work. Accept their paychecks, bonuses, healthcare and retirement benefits, and any perks that come their way from the employer.
  2. Find their future elsewhere.
  3. Transfer to a warehouse job in Indiana or Kentucky and enjoy the minimum wage, the facility breaks, and the opportunity to build those biceps.

i suppose I am old fashioned, but when once accepts money and has a job description which spells out what one does, I am not too keen on spending much time listening to suggestions about what products to make or what contracts to pursue.

Watch for the Amazon video series which is an exclusive on DarkCyber, my weekly news program about policeware, cybercrime, and related subjects. Links to the video will appear in this blog on each Tuesday.

Stephen E Arnold, October 18, 2018

HSSCM Method: October 11, 2018 Google Item

October 12, 2018

I read “Google Home Hub—Under the Hood, It’s Nothing Like Other Google Smart Displays.”

In that interesting write up, I noted a remark which adds to the high school science club management methods I have been compiling.

First, let’s look at the statement, then I will extract the HSSCM method.

The statement:

When asked why Google was using a totally different platform from the third parties, Jolly told me, “There’s no particular reason. We just felt we could bring the experience to bear with Cast, and the experiences are the same. We would have easily given the third-parties Cast if they wanted it, but I think most developers are comfortable using Android Things.”

What’s the management method?

Here it is:

There’s no particular reason.

Yes, Google takes actions without having a “particular reason.” That is an interesting and, in my view, subjective way to approach significant technical approaches. Meh, no reason.

But there’s another HSSCM method tucked into the passage. Did you spot it? Notice this:

We just felt we could bring the experience to bear with Cast, and the experiences are the same.

The HSSCM method seems to be to avoid using data. Nope, just use feelings. Feelings are justification enough for a decision which may have an effect on partners and vendors. Meh, just feelings.

Plus, there is a third HSSCM method in the statement. Give up? Here it is:

I think most developers are comfortable using Android Things.

The HSSCM method is to make assumptions about how other humanoids perceive Google decisions. What about the “developers”? What exactly does comfortable mean to a developer?

The HSSCM methods extracted from this allegedly accurate quote from a Googler are:

  1. One does not have to have a reason for a decision.
  2. Feelings, not data, justify a decision.
  3. Assumptions about other people are more important than what those individuals say.

Quite a bountiful harvest of management methods. Let’s implement them today because without data, gut instinct, and inputs from other people, we can be agile and surprising. The upside is significant.

Downsides? Not important.

Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. Wait. Isn’t Amazon consistent with its home devices?

Stephen E Arnold, October 11, 2018

Algorithms Are Neutral. Well, Sort of Objective Maybe?

October 12, 2018

I read “Amazon Trained a Sexism-Fighting, Resume-Screening AI with Sexist Hiring data, So the Bot Became Sexist.” The main point is that if the training data are biased, the smart software will be biased.

No kidding.

The write up points out:

There is a “machine learning is hard” angle to this: while the flawed outcomes from the flawed training data was totally predictable, the system’s self-generated discriminatory criteria were surprising and unpredictable. No one told it to downrank resumes containing “women’s” — it arrived at that conclusion on its own, by noticing that this was a word that rarely appeared on the resumes of previous Amazon hires.

Now the company discovering that its smart software became automatically biased was Amazon.

That’s right.

The same Amazon which has invested significant resources in its SageMaker machine learning platform. This is part of the infrastructure which will, Amazon hopes, will propel the US Department of Defense forward for the next five years.

Hold on.

What happens if the system and method produces wonky outputs when a minor dust up is automatically escalated?

Discriminating in hiring is one thing. Fluffing a global matter is a another.

Do the smart software systems from Google, IBM, and Microsoft have similar tendencies? My recollection is that this type of “getting lost” has surfaced before. Maybe those innovators pushing narrowly scoped rule based systems were on to something?

Stephen E Arnold, October 11, 2018

Has Amazon Kicked IBM Watson into Action?

October 2, 2018

Amazon’s policeware, based on Sagemaker and other Amazon innovations, makes it easy to de4ploy machine learning applications. Amazon delivers, as we report in our DarkCyber video about Amazon’s machine learning approach, a Blue Apron approach to smart software intended to make sense of Big Data. You can view our four part series beginning later this month. Watch Beyond Search for details.

IBM seems to have noticed what Amazon has been doing for the last four or five years. With a bit of a late start, IBM is, it appears, emulating the Bezos buzz saw. Some information about the more pragmatic approach to rule based smart software is revealed in “IBM Launches Pretrained Watson Packs for Industries.”

I learned:

IBM outlined prepackaged Watson tools pretrained for various industries use cases such as agriculture, customer service, human resources, manufacturing and marketing.

One of Watson’s more amusing characteristics is that human subject matter experts have to figure out what questions Watson is to answer and then build a collection of text to instruct Watson on the who, what, why, etc.

Expensive, time consuming, and usually a surprise to licensees who assume that IBM Watson is a product. Ho ho ho.

Like Amazon, IBM wants to deliver ready to use packs for specific business sectors like marketing.

Now Amazon is delivering its Sagemaker meals ready to eat, microwavable data burritos, and the Blue Apron “any fool can fix dinner” smart software. IBM is sort of moving in that direction. I noted this passage:

Each Watson pack is in different states of release but take best practices and training knowledge from various IBM engagements. For instance, IBM said its Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture is generally available. IBM has integrated its weather data as well as Internet of things end points in agriculture and images to provide a “predictive view of a farm.” Farmers would get an app for real-time decision support.

Just think. Amazon is selling to a large covert government agency its smart software. IBM is working on similar initiatives but it has the farm thing nailed. Can IBM fix John Deere tractors?

Will IBM Watson beat Amazon Sagemaker?

I am not sure the two are in the same game.

Stephen E Arnold, October 2, 2018

Amazon: Policeware Capability Microsoft May Not Be Able to Duplicate

October 1, 2018

You, like others, are probably not interested in our Amazon policeware research. That’s super.

I do, however, want to document that Amazon has moved beyond the wonky Loon balloons and Facebook’s airplanes to a more practical view of data from above.

Navigate to “Satellite Company Partners with Bezos’ AWS to Bring Internet Connectivity to the Whole Planet.”

The idea is to get into a flow of data. If you have attended one of my Amazon Policeware lectures, you will recall the diagram that shows the data flowing into a nifty construct built painstakingly since 2008.

The policeware angle is to make sense of these and other data via cross correlation and other functions.

New partners, new data, and new outputs — Amazon is moving forward, and I am not sure Microsoft as well as fellow travelers like Google and Oracle can match Amazon’s forced march in its effort to reword the intelligence and law enforcement intelligence ecosystem.

For me, our analysis of Amazon is a reminder of what we discovered in 2002 when my researchers and I were working on Google’s patents, technical articles, and hires PhD theses.

No one cared until BearStearns paid to recycle some of the more interesting facets of our work. Want to know more. Write the every faithful BenKent2020 at yahoo dot com for information about our for fee briefing on this subject.

Stephen E Arnold, October 1, 2018

Amazon: Accommodating Big Chunks of Data

September 28, 2018

Our research into Amazon’s capabilities caused us to note the information in “Amazon Rolls Out High Memory Instances for In-Memory Databases.” Many companies want to munch on Big Data. I would point out that certain US government organization have a healthy appetite for the capability as well.

I noted this statement:

The new High Memory EC2 instances offer a choice of 6, 9 and 12 terabytes of memory, with 18TB and 24TB options to arrive next year.

The individual offering this information is Amazonian Jeff Barr, one of the people providing insight into what the Bezos machine is doing. These announcements typically come after the innovation is up and running and productized.

Why is this important?

The announcement snaps into the policeware and intelligence services offerings which Amazon has available now.

Next move is up to IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle. Procurement time is fast approaching as is the announcement of the new Amazon headquarters.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2018

Amazon and Its Star Approach to Popularity

September 27, 2018

I suggest you read “Introducing Amazon 4-Star.” Ignore the explanation of using purchaser data to determine what to put in a retail store. Read the article in this context:

What advantage will Amazon have in its policeware business if it offers lower cost, easier to use versions of policeware and intelligence centric software, solutions, and services?

Here in Harrod’s Creek, we have been monitoring Amazon’s move into the law enforcement and intelligence support markets. The rumors of the new Amazon’s headquarters in the DC area are interesting.

Net net?

We think that Amazon’s hoisting of systems like Palantir Gotham and  many other US and non US policeware systems will provide data which gives Amazon an opportunity.

We explore some of the larger issues in our four part series about Amazon policeware which will be in the form of DarkCyber videos. These programs become available at the end of October 2018. Watch for details.

In the meantime, think about four star popularity applied to government procurement. Nifty, right?

Stephen E Arnold, September 27, 2018

Amazon: Device Proliferation and One Interesting Use Case

September 21, 2018

The technology “real news” channels are stuffed with Amazon gizmo news. Interesting stuff if one considers that these devices may snap into the eCommerce company’s policeware subsystems.

Here in Harrod’s Creek, we noted one announcement almost lost in the flood of device announcements. “Skype Calling Coming to Amazon Alexa Devices Later This Year” indicates that the tension between the two companies may be lessening. Years ago Microsoft had database envy generated by the eCommerce giant’s innovations in data management and data wrangling. Then there were the skirmishes over staff and office space.

If the information in the ZDNet “real news” write up is accurate, this statement may be more interesting than using an Alexa gizmo as a telephone:

Alexa users will be able to make outgoing Skype voice and video calls, accept incoming Skype calls and make SkypeOut calls to most phone numbers around the world, according to Microsoft officials. Users will be able to say “Alexa, call Jimmy on Skype,” or to say “Alexa, answer” when a Skype call comes in.

But the “real news” continues with an admission from the author:

I have to admit at this point I am kind of lost as to how Microsoft hopes to differentiate and position Cortana. Granted, Microsoft execs said they want Cortana not to be just about convenience, but about built-in assistance, but Skype is a Microsoft service….

From my vantage point in Harrod’s Creek, the tie up in voice may be more than a test. In fact, the deal may signal another victim of the Amazon strategy. Microsoft may be losing without knowing that it is in a fight.

Stephen E Arnold, September 21, 2018

IBM Lock In Approach Modified and Given New Life

September 20, 2018

I read “Alphabet Backs GitLab’s Quest to Surpass Microsoft’s GitHub.” The write up explains that Microsoft bought GitHub. Google invests in GitLab. Plus:

It’s the latest major deal in the so-called DevOps market. Broadcom Inc. agreed to buy CA Technologies for $19 billion earlier this year; Atlassian Corp. bought OpsGenie Inc. for $295 million; and Salesforce Inc. spent $6.5 billion to purchase MuleSoft Inc.

From my point of view, these are open source oriented deals.

These deals are part of a revitalization of the old school IBM type of vendor lock in. The way that once worked was:

Buy our big iron

Use our software

Use our preferred partners


Good luck getting those mainframe puppies to behave.

Now the trajectory is to embrace open source, support anyone who codes something semi useful, add proprietary bits, and lock in the platform users.

In short, the lock in play is undergoing a renascence.

How about that open source credo? But where’s Amazon? If you want our take on Amazon’s tactics, contact benkent2020 at yahoo dot com and ask about our for fee briefing on this subject.

Stephen E Arnold, September 20, 2018

Amazon: Will Its Brick and Mortar Ambitions Succeed?

September 19, 2018

I read “The CEO of Macy’s Says It’s Harder for an E-commerce Giant to Conquer Offline Retail Than the Other Way Around.” The main idea is that Amazon will fail if it pushes forward with more book stores, more grocery stores, and more traditional retail store fronts. I learned in this allegedly accurate statement by Macy’s CEO, Jeff Gennette:

I think it’s more difficult for an internet star to go into brick and mortar than the other way around.

My research team has been chasing down information about Amazon’s policeware initiative. On that research path, we have noticed one aspect of Amazon’s approach to traditional store fronts; that is, Amazon first decimates traditional businesses and then selectively moves in. The examples which point to the future include Amazon book stores in Denver.

Amazon also is using a “buy and price cut” approach in its grocery business. One of my researchers wondered if the grocery delivery play was a way for Amazon to sucker outfits like Kroger into spending cash for a service which is ultimately a money pit. Time will tell.

A company like Macy’s may find itself in the same boat with JCPenny’s, Sears, and other old style retain businesses. Macy’s, for example, may struggle to match what might be called predatory pricing, bundling, ad hoc discounts on house brands and brand name products, and other sales techniques like “bought with” nudges used by the absolutely happy Amazon work force.

Perhaps Mr. Gennette is correct? His role at the company demands that he remain confident that he can take steps to keep Macy’s a bigly retail force. On the other hand, I wonder if anyone in his family uses Amazon?

Stephen E Arnold, September 19, 2018

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