Amazon Answers Artificial Intelligence Questions

May 24, 2017

One big question about Amazon is how the company is building its artificial intelligence and machine learning programs.  It was the topic of conversation at the recent Internet Association’s annual gala, where Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, discussed it.  GeekWire wrote about Bezos’s appearance at the gala in the article, “Jeff Bezos Explained Amazon’s Artificial Intelligence And Machine Learning.”

The discussion Bezos participated in covered a wide range of topics, including online economy, Amazon’s media overage, its business principles, and, of course, artificial intelligence.  Bezos compared the time we are living in to the realms of science fiction and Amazon is at the forefront of it.  Through Amazon Web Services, the company has clients ranging from software developers to corporations.  Amazon’s goal is make the technology available to everyone, but deployment is a problem as is finding the right personnel with the right expertise.

Amazon realizes that the power of its technology comes from behind the curtain:

I would say, a lot of the value that we’re getting from machine learning is actually happening beneath the surface. It is things like improved search results. Improved product recommendations for customers. Improved forecasting for inventory management. Literally hundreds of other things beneath the surface.

This reminds me of Bitext, an analytics software company based in Madrid, Spain.  Bitext’s technology is used to power machine learning beneath many big companies’ software.  Bitext is the real power behind many analytics projects.

Whitney Grace, May 24, 2017

Bitvore: The AI, Real Time, Custom Report Search Engine

May 16, 2017

Just when I thought information access had slumped quietly through another week, I read in the capitalist tool which you know as Forbes, the content marketing machine, this article:

This AI Search Engine Delivers Tailored Data to Companies in Real Time.

This write up struck me as more interesting than the most recent IBM Watson prime time commercial about smart software for zealous professional basketball fans or Lucidworks’ (really?) acquisition of the interface builder Twigkit. Forbes Magazine’s write up did not point out that the company seems to be channeling Palantir Technologies; for example, Jeff Curie, the president, refers to employees at Bitvorians. Take that, you Hobbits and Palanterians.

image

A Bitvore 3D data structure.

The AI, real time, custom report search engine is called Bitvore. Here in Harrod’s Creek, we recognized the combination of the computer term “bit” with a syllable from one of our favorite morphemes “vore” as in carnivore or omnivore or the vegan-sensitive herbivore.

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Palantir Settles Discrimination Case

May 15, 2017

Does this count as irony? Palantir, who has built its data-analysis business largely on its relationships with government organizations, has a Department of Labor analysis to thank for recent charges of discrimination. No word on whether that Department used Palantir software to “sift through” the reports. Now, Business Insider tells us, “Palantir Will Shell Out $1.7 Million to Settle Claims that It Discriminated Against Asian Engineers.” Writer Julie Bort tells us that, in addition to that payout, Palantir will make job offers to eight unspecified Asians. She also explains:

The issue arose because, as a government contractor, Palantir must report its diversity statistics to the government. The Labor Department sifted through these reports and concluded that even though Palantir received a huge number of qualified Asian applicants for certain roles, it was hiring only small numbers of them. Palantir, being the big data company that it is, did its own sifting and produced a data-filled response that it said refuted the allegations and showed that in some tech titles 25%-38% of its employees were Asians. Apparently, Palantirs protestations weren’t enough on to satisfy government regulators, so the company agreed to settle.

For its part, Palantir insists on their innocence but say they settled in order to put the matter behind them. Bort notes the unusual nature of this case—according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, African-Americans, Latin-Americans, and women are more underrepresented in tech fields than Asians. Is the Department of Labor making it a rule to analyze the hiring patterns of companies required to report diversity statistics? If they are consistent, there should soon be a number of such lawsuits regarding discrimination against other groups. We shall see.

Cynthia Murrell, May 15, 2017

AI Not to Replace Lawyers, Not Yet

May 9, 2017

Robot or AI lawyers may be effective in locating relevant cases for references, but they are far away from replacing lawyers, who still need to go to the court and represent a client.

ReadWrite in a recently published analytical article titled Look at All the Amazing Things AI Can (and Can’t yet) Do for Lawyers says:

Even if AI can scan documents and predict which ones will be relevant to a legal case, other tasks such as actually advising a client or appearing in court cannot currently be performed by computers.

The author further explains that what the present generation of AI tools or robots does. They merely find relevant cases based on indexing and keywords, which was a time-consuming and cumbersome process. Thus, what robots do is eliminate the tedious work that was performed by interns or lower level employees. Lawyers still need to collect evidence, prepare the case and argue in the court to win a case. The robots are coming, but only for doing lower level jobs and not to snatch them.

Vishol Ingole, May 9, 2017

Voice Recognition Software Has Huge Market Reach

May 3, 2017

Voice recognition software still feels like a futuristic technology, despite its prevalence in our everyday lives.  WhaTech explains how far voice recognition technology has imbedded itself into our habits in, “Listening To The Voice Recognition Market.”

The biggest example of speech recognition technology is an automated phone system.  Automated phone systems are used all over the board, especially in banks, retail chains, restaurants, and office phone directories.  People usually despise automated phone systems, because they cannot understand responses and tend to put people on hold for extended periods of time.

Despite how much we hate automated phone systems, they are useful and they have gotten better in understanding human speech and the industry applications are endless:

The Global Voice Recognition Systems Sales Market 2017report by Big Market Research is a comprehensive study of the global voice recognition market. It covers both current and future prospect scenarios, revealing the market’s expected growth rate based on historical data. For products, the report reveals the market’s sales volume, revenue, product price, market share and growth rate, each of which is segmented by artificial intelligence systems and non-artificial intelligence systems. For end-user applications, the report reveals the status for major applications, sales volume, market share and growth rate for each application, with common applications including healthcare, military and aerospace, communications, and automotive.”

Key players in the voice recognition software field are Validsoft, Sensory, Biotrust ID, Voicevault, Voicebox Technologies, Lumenvox, M2SYS, Advanced Voice Recognition Systems, and Mmodal.  These companies would benefit from using Bitext’s linguistic-based analytics platform to enhance their technology’s language learning skills.

Whitney Grace, May 3, 2017

 

How Data Science Pervades

May 2, 2017

We think Information Management may be overstating a bit with the headline, “Data Science Underlies Everything the Enterprise Now Does.”  While perhaps not underpinning quite “everything,” the use of data analysis has indeed spread throughout many companies (especially larger ones).

Writer Michael O’Connell cites a few key developments over the last year alone, including the rise of representative data, a wider adoption of predictive analysis, and the refinement of customer analytics. He predicts, even more, changes in the coming year, then uses a hypothetical telecom company for a series of examples. He concludes:

You’ll note that this model represents a significant broadening beyond traditional big data/analytics functions. Such task alignment and comprehensive integration of analytics functions into specific business operations enable high-value digital applications ranging far beyond our sample Telco’s churn mitigation — cross-selling, predictive and condition-based maintenance, fraud detection, price optimization, and logistics management are just a few areas where data science is making a huge difference to the bottom line.

See the article for more on the process of turning data into action, as illustrated with the tale of that imaginary telecom’s data-wrangling adventure.

Cynthia Murrell, May 2, 2017

Enterprise Search and a Chimera: Analytical Engines

May 1, 2017

I put on my steam punk outfit before reading “Leading Analytical Engines for Enterprise Search.” Now there was one small factual error; specifically, the Google Search Appliance is a goner. When it was alive and tended to by authorized partners, it was not particularly adept at doing “analytical engine” type things.

What about the rest of the article? Well, I found it amusing.

Let me get to the good stuff and then deal with the nasty reality which confronts the folks who continue to pump money into enterprise search.

What companies does this “real journalism” out identify as purveyors of high top shoes for search. Yikes, sorry. I meant to say enterprise search systems which do analytical engine things.

Here’s the line up:

The Google Search Appliance. As noted, this is a goner. Yep, the Google threw in the towel. Lots of reasons, but my sources say, cost of sales was a consideration. Oh, and there were a couple of Google FTEs plus assorted costs for dealing with those annoyed with the product’s performance, relevance, customization, etc. Anyway. Museum piece.

Microsoft SharePoint. I find this a side splitter. Microsoft SharePoint is many things. In fact, armed with Visual Studio one can actually make the system work in a useful manner. Don’t tell the HR folks who wonder why certified SharePoint experts chew up a chunk of the budget and “fast.” Insider joke. Yeah, Excel is the go to analysis tool no matter what others may say. The challenge is to get the Excel thing to interact in a speedy, useful way with whatever the SharePoint administrator has managed to get working in a reliable way. Nuff said.

Coveo. Interesting addition to the list because Coveo is doing the free search thing, the Salesforce thing, the enterprise search thing, the customer support thing, and I think a bunch of other things. The Canadian outfit wants to do more than surf on government inducements, investors’ trust and money, and a key word based system. So it’s analytical engine time. I am not sure how the wrappers required to make key word search do analytics help out performance, but the company says it is an “analytical engine.” So be it.

Attivio. This is an interesting addition. The company emerged from some “fast” movers and shakers. The baseball data demo was nifty about six years ago. Now the company does search, publishing, analytics, etc. The shift from search to analytical engine is somewhat credible. The challenge the company faces is closing deals and generating sustainable revenue. There is that thing called “open source”. A clever programmer can integrate Lucene (Elasticsearch), use its open source components, and maybe dabble with Ikanow. The result? Perhaps an Attivio killer? Who knows.

Lucidworks (Really?). Yep, this is the Avis to the Hertz in the open source commercial sector. Lucidworks (Really?) is now just about everything sort of associated with Big Data, search, smart software, etc. The clear Lucid problem is Shay Bannon and Elastic. Not only does Elastic have more venture money, Elastic has more deployments and, based on information available to me, more revenue, partners, and clout in the open source world. Lucidworks (Really?) has a track record of executive and founder turnover and the thrill of watching Amazon benefit from a former Lucid employee’s inputs. Exciting. Really?

So what do I think of this article in CIO Review? Two things:

  1. It is not too helpful to me and those looking for search solutions in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky. The reason? The GSA error and gasping effort to make key word search into something hot and cool. “Analytical engines” does not rev my motor. In fact, it does not turn over.
  2. CIO Review does not want me to copy a quote from the write up. Tip to CIO Review. Anyone can copy wildly crazy analytical engines article by viewing source and copying the somewhat uninteresting content.

Stephen E Arnold, May 1, 2017

Amazon Aims to Ace the Chatbots

April 26, 2017

Amazon aims to insert itself into every aspect of daily life and the newest way it does is with the digital assistant Alexa.  Reuters reports that, “Amazon Rolls Out Chatbot Tools In Race To Dominate Voice-Powered Tech,” explaining how Amazon plans to expand Alexa’s development.  The retail giant recently released the technology behind Alexa to developers, so they can build chat features into apps.

Amazon is eager to gain dominance in voice-controlled technology.  Apple and Google both reign supreme when it comes to talking computers, chatbots, and natural language processing.  Amazon has a huge reach, perhaps even greater than Apple and Google, because people have come to rely on it for shopping.  Chatbots have a notorious history for being useless and Microsoft’s Tay even turned into a racist, chauvinist program.

The new Alexa development tool is called Alexa Lex, which is hosted on the cloud.  Alexa is already deployed in millions of homes and it is fed a continuous data stream that is crucial to the AI’s learning:

Processing vast quantities of data is key to artificial intelligence, which lets voice assistants decode speech. Amazon will take the text and recordings people send to apps to train Lex – as well as Alexa – to understand more queries.

That could help Amazon catch up in data collection. As popular as Amazon’s Alexa-powered devices are, such as Echo speakers, the company has sold an estimated 10 million or more.

Amazon Alexa is a competent digital assistant, able to respond to vocal commands and even offers voice-only shop via Amazon.  As noted, Alexa’s power rests in its data collection and ability to learn natural language processing.  Bitext uses a similar method but instead uses trained linguists to build its analytics platform.

Whitney Grace, April 26, 2017

Smart Software, Dumb Biases

April 17, 2017

Math is objective, right? Not really. Developers of artificial intelligence systems, what I call smart software, rely on what they learned in math school. If you have flipped through math books ranging from the Googler’s tome on artificial intelligence Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach to the musings of the ACM’s journals, you see the same methods recycled. Sure, the algorithms are given a bath and their whiskers are cropped. But underneath that show dog’s sleek appearance, is a familiar pooch. K-means. We have k-means. Decision trees? Yep, decision trees.

What happens when developers feed content into Rube Goldberg machines constructed of mathematical procedures known and loved by math wonks the world over?

The answer appears in “Semantics Derived Automatically from Language Corpora Contain Human Like Biases.” The headline says it clearly, “Smart software becomes as wild and crazy as a group of Kentucky politicos arguing in a bar on Friday night at 2:15 am.”

Biases are expressed and made manifest.

The article in Science reports with considerable surprise it seems to me:

word embeddings encode not only stereotyped biases but also other knowledge, such as the visceral pleasantness of flowers or the gender distribution of occupations.

Ah, ha. Smart software learns biases. Perhaps “smart” correlates with bias?

The canny whiz kids who did the research crawfish a bit:

We stress that we replicated every association documented via the IAT that we tested. The number, variety, and substantive importance of our results raise the possibility that all implicit human biases are reflected in the statistical properties of language. Further research is needed to test this hypothesis and to compare language with other modalities, especially the visual, to see if they have similarly strong explanatory power.

Yep, nothing like further research to prove that when humans build smart software, “magic” happens. The algorithms manifest biases.

What the write up did not address is a method for developing less biases smart software. Is such a method beyond the ken of computer scientists?

To get more information about this question, I asked on the world leader in the field of computational linguistics, Dr. Antonio Valderrabanos, the founder and chief executive officer at Bitext. Dr. Valderrabanos told me:

We use syntactic relations among words instead of using n-grams and similar statistical artifacts, which don’t understand word relations. Bitext’s Deep Linguistics Analysis platform can provide phrases or meaningful relationships to uncover more textured relationships. Our analysis will provide better content to artificial intelligence systems using corpuses of text to learn.

Bitext’s approach is explained in the exclusive interview which appeared in Search Wizards Speak on April 11, 2017. You can read the full text of the interview at this link and review the public information about the breakthrough DLA platform at www.bitext.com.

It seems to me that Bitext has made linguistics the operating system for artificial intelligence.

Stephen E Arnold, April 17, 2017

Bitext: Exclusive Interview with Antonio Valderrabanos

April 11, 2017

On a recent trip to Madrid, Spain, I was able to arrange an interview with Dr. Antonio Valderrabanos, the founder and CEO of Bitext. The company has its primary research and development group in Las Rosas, the high-technology complex a short distance from central Madrid. The company has an office in San Francisco and a number of computational linguists and computer scientists in other locations. Dr. Valderrabanos worked at IBM in an adjacent field before moving to Novell and then making the jump to his own start up. The hard work required to invent a fundamentally new way to make sense of human utterance is now beginning to pay off.

Antonio Valderrabanos of Bitext

Dr. Antonio Valderrabanos, founder and CEO of Bitext. Bitext’s business is growing rapidly. The company’s breakthroughs in deep linguistic analysis solves many difficult problems in text analysis.

Founded in 2008, the firm specializes in deep linguistic analysis. The systems and methods invented and refined by Bitext improve the accuracy of a wide range of content processing and text analytics systems. What’s remarkable about the Bitext breakthroughs is that the company support more than 40 different languages, and its platform can support additional languages with sharp reductions in the time, cost, and effort required by old-school systems. With the proliferation of intelligent software, Bitext, in my opinion, puts the digital brains in overdrive. Bitext’s platform improves the accuracy of many smart software applications, ranging from customer support to business intelligence.

In our wide ranging discussion, Dr. Valderrabanos made a number of insightful comments. Let me highlight three and urge you to read the full text of the interview at this link. (Note: this interview is part of the Search Wizards Speak series.)

Linguistics as an Operating System

One of Dr. Valderrabanos’ most startling observations addresses the future of operating systems for increasingly intelligence software and applications. He said:

Linguistic applications will form a new type of operating system. If we are correct in our thought that language understanding creates a new type of platform, it follows that innovators will build more new things on this foundation. That means that there is no endpoint, just more opportunities to realize new products and services.

Better Understanding Has Arrived

Some of the smart software I have tested is unable to understand what seems to be very basic instructions. The problem, in my opinion, is context. Most smart software struggles to figure out the knowledge cloud which embraces certain data. Dr. Valderrabanos observed:

Search is one thing. Understanding what human utterances mean is another. Bitext’s proprietary technology delivers understanding. Bitext has created an easy to scale and multilingual Deep Linguistic Analysis or DLA platform. Our technology reduces costs and increases user satisfaction in voice applications or customer service applications. I see it as a major breakthrough in the state of the art.

If he is right, the Bitext DLA platform may be one of the next big things in technology. The reason? As smart software becomes more widely adopted, the need to make sense of data and text in different languages becomes increasingly important. Bitext may be the digital differential that makes the smart applications run the way users expect them to.

Snap In Bitext DLA

Advanced technology like Bitext’s often comes with a hidden cost. The advanced system works well in a demonstration or a controlled environment. When that system has to be integrated into “as is” systems from other vendors or from a custom development project, difficulties can pile up. Dr. Valderrabanos asserted:

Bitext DLA provides parsing data for text enrichment for a wide range of languages, for informal and formal text and for different verticals to improve the accuracy of deep learning engines and reduce training times and data needs. Bitext works in this way with many other organizations’ systems.

When I asked him about integration, he said:

No problems. We snap in.

I am interested in Bitext’s technical methods. In the last year, he has signed deals with companies like Audi, Renault, a large mobile handset manufacturer, and an online information retrieval company.

When I thanked him for his time, he was quite polite. But he did say, “I have to get back to my desk. We have received several requests for proposals.”

Las Rosas looked quite a bit like Silicon Valley when I left the Bitext headquarters. Despite the thousands of miles separating Madrid from the US, interest in Bitext’s deep linguistic analysis is surging. Silicon Valley has its charms, and now it has a Bitext US office for what may be the fastest growing computational linguistics and text analysis system in the world. Worth watching this company I think.

For more about Bitext, navigate to the firm’s Web site at www.bitext.com.

Stephen E Arnold, April 11, 2017

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