Country to Country: Canada, Seize the Day in Technology

March 22, 2017

Canada has some excellent universities. Canada has enabled some of IBM’s nifty technology. And there was the BlackBerry moment. But the University of Waterloo soldiers on, unlike Napoleon.

Google apparently offered some country to country advice to Canada, assuming the information about the online ad giant is correct. I am referring to “Canada Must Seize the Moment to Lead in Tech Innovation, Google Canada Head Says.” That’s good advice, but I was under the impression that Industry Canada, go go provinces like Quebec, and assorted industry players like Rogers were already taking steps.

Well, I guess I was wrong. Google thinks that Canada can do more. I learned from the write up:

to seize its moment Canada’s tech industry needs to grow exponentially; focus on the regions and sectors with the greatest momentum; and ensure that today’s elementary, middle, and secondary school students are exposed to memorable STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) experiences before entering university.

There you go.

Google apparently suggested that leaders of high profile Canadian technology companies were not perceived as “leaders.” I wonder if that comes as a surprise to the employees of the companies these folks lead.

Google thinks Canada is “punching above its weight.” Yep, the rule of thumb is that to estimate a market in Canada, one takes the US market number and multiples by point two. Canada, therefore, should be winning more boxing matches with US companies. (I am not sure how the logic works out, but it apparently is intended to make the Google perception that Canada is not doing enough in technology easier to swallow.)

My hunch is that the suggestion is one of those “let’s get this over with” talks. When Google executives depart from the “playbook,” oddities like telling a country what to do become news. Google sells online ads, and its core technology comes from clever places and outfits like Ah, it is easy to forget the history of the GOOG, isn’t it?

I have been tracking the company as country movement. Facebook wants to a giant focus group to become the way of the world. Google tried to get China to rethink its policies. How are these ideas working out?

Hop to it, Canada. Oh, Google won’t forget buying that nifty Montreal AI company with the very influential professor. Nevertheless, Google may not be able to go back in time, but it certainly wants Canada to go forward in a Googley way. IBM is demonstrating its speech recognition wizardry in Montreal. Better late than never for both outfits.

Stephen E Arnold, March 22, 2017

Vanity Fair and Palantir Technologies: The Focus Is on Peter Thiel

March 6, 2017

My hunch is that Vanity Fair Magazine will sell briskly in and around the Washington, DC beltway. Oh, wait. Most of the newsstands and bookstores have gone out of business. Maybe Giant Foods in Gaithersburg will have some copies? The convenient store in Ashburn may have a copy or two tucked in among the car magazines and Find-A-Word pamphlets?

The article which will make Vanity Fair even fairer this month is “Donald Trump Has Made Peter Thiel Immensely Powerful.” Good news for Palantir; bad news for some of the clear eyed professionals who have been sending the US government big bills for their work on the Distributed Common Ground System or DCGS.

I liked the positioning of Mr. Thiel in the write up. He is called the “shadow president.” Interesting. Does that make Palantir Technologies’ Alex Karp the veep?

The write up deserves your attention. Let me highlight three items from the article which I found interesting:

First, the moniker “shadow president” is a coinage of those who work with Mr. Thiel in California and elsewhere. I was hoping that this was a coinage from the Trump inner circle.

Second, the write up reveals that Mr. Thiel believes in the “move fast and break things” approach to innovation. Who would have guessed? Certainly not the US Army procurement professionals.

Third, Mr. Thiel wants to live a long time. Isn’t that a thing in Silicon Valley?

My hunch is that none of the DCGS contractors will be happy with the visibility that Vanity Fair imparts to the “shadow president.”

Will there be a news conference for those in the shadows?

Stephen E Arnold, March 6, 2017

Hewlett Packard Enterprise: Emulating IBM?

March 3, 2017

I read “HPE Misses Q1 Revenue Estimates.” The interesting point to me is that HPE seems to be following in IBM footsteps: Declining revenues, interesting explanations. Stakeholders cannot spend explanations in my experience. The write up references the HPE top dog who allegedly said:

I believe HOPE remains on the right track.

HOPE is a product. Believe it or not? The write up points out that HOPE’s revenue was eroding across the companies lines of business. What’s the fix? The right leadership team.

Rah, rah.

Perhaps HPE will prevail in its legal machinations related to the company’s purchase of Autonomy? Perhaps the “right leadership team” will understand that emulating IBM’s chatter about the future may not be enough to deal with the present market climate.

Oh, one more question: Will the “right leadership team” understand the phrase caveat emptor? HPE continues to try to find ways to shift the burden of Hewlett Packard’s own decisions to others.

Could some stakeholders rightly ask, “How about shifting to revenue growth?”

Stephen E Arnold, March 3, 2017

Fake News Is Old News. Fake Research Is Old Too.

March 1, 2017

I read “Crossfire” on the site. I liked the write up. I noted the introduction’s quotation from 1967. I had heard something similar from one of my college instructors in 1962. My recollection is that one of his professors told him about crazy research, fiddled experiments, and lousy math in the late 1930s. My hunch is that this declaration of “a crisis” has been pointed out since folks gathered for lectures about mathiness and rational thought.

I did highlight several passages from the write up:

  • A comment about a flawed study: “The basic problem here is not the results, but the basic implausibility of the methods combined with the results.”
  • On getting published in an academic journal: “Everything will get published, if you just keep submitting it to journal after journal.”
  • On the state of “real” research: “The real problem is that this sort of work is standard operating practice in the field of psychology, no better and no worse (except for the faked data) than the papers on himmicanes, air rage, etc., endorsed by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. As long as this stuff is taken seriously…”

There’s interest in fake news. A British newspaper staffed with “real” journalists has been banned as a source for Wikipedia. What about “real” scholars who crank out fake research? Oh, right, it takes expertise to identify some academic baloney. Who has time for academic research when watching Facebook videos is the better way to become a critical thinker. Marketing for tenure: Great idea.

Stephen E Arnold, March 1, 2017

Mondeca: Tweaking Its Market Position

February 22, 2017

One of the Beyond Search goslings noticed a repositioning of the taxonomy capabilities of Mondeca. Instead of pitching indexing, the company has embraced ElasticSearch (based on Lucene) and Solr. The idea is that if an organization is using either of these systems for search and retrieval, Mondeca can provide “augmented” indexing. The idea is that keywords are not enough. Mondeca can index the content using concepts.

Of course, the approach is semantic, permits exploration, and enables content discovery. Mondeca’s Web site describes search as “find” and explains:

Initial results are refined, annotated and easy to explore. Sorted by relevancy, important terms are highlighted: easy to decide which one are relevant. Sophisticated facet based filters. Refining results set: more like this, this one, statistical and semantic methods, more like these: graph based activation ranking. Suggestions to help refine results set: new queries based on inferred or combined tags. Related searches and queries.

This is a similar marketing move to the one that Intrafind, a German search vendor, implemented several years ago. Mondeca continues to offer its taxonomy management system. Human subject matter experts do have a role in the world of indexing. Like other taxonomy systems and services vendors, the hook is that content indexed with concepts is smart. I love it when indexing makes content intelligent.

The buzzword is used by outfits ranging from MarkLogic’s merry band of XML and XQuery professionals to the library-centric outfits like Smartlogic. Isn’t smart logic better than logic?

Stephen E Arnold, February 22, 2017

Watson to the Future: The Mainframe

February 19, 2017

Hey, you love mainframes. You may have some. IBMs own. Hitachi-style plug compatibles. Whatever.

Want to run some zip zip stuff on them? Now you can load Watson and get cognitive computing for your airline reservations, your government accounting, or your bank’s back office process which no one knows how to port to Goggle-style servers.

The light shined in my mind’s dark rooms when I read “IBM Brings Machine Learning To The Private Cloud.” Nestled into the article is this statement:

BM has extracted the core machine learning technology from IBM Watson and will initially make it available where much of the world’s enterprise data resides: the z System mainframe, the operational core of global organizations where billions of daily transactions are processed by banks, retailers, insurers, transportation firms and governments.

The write up makes some bold assertions; for example, “any” language, popular machine learning framework, transaction data type, and “without the cost, latency, or risk of moving data off premise.”

The write up provides a snapshot of where IBM thinks mainframes and Watson will generate revenues; specifically:

  • Retail
  • Financial services
  • Healthcare.

My thought is that each of these markets may want to reduce their dependence on mainframes and the challenges of cost control, staffing, and rapid application development “chains.”

If Watson were selling like hot cakes, why chase mainframes? Answer: More revenue. Customer demand, in my opinion, might be the wrong answer.

Stephen E Arnold, February 19, 2017

Whither ISYS Search Software?

February 13, 2017

I must admit I don’t think too much about ISYS Search Software. Founded in the 1980s, Lexmark acquired the Australian company in 2012. The former IBM printer unit described ISYS as a “global leader” in search. ISYS performed well, but global leader? Well, that’s verbal fireworks in my opinion. ISYS disappeared and emerged (sort of) as the search system in Lexmark’s health care play. This outfit was called Perceptive Software and performed a wide range of magic for a market sector which would presumably make as much money as printer ink once did. Yep, how’s that for an MBA play? Not the full ball game. But Lexmark did not have enough text processing oomph. The company bought Brainware in 2012, an outfit which held patents for trigram, offered pattern matching search technology, and had a work flow system to do some back office tricks. Busy year 2012 for the horsey printer set.

The answer is that Lexmark is now part of Apex and PAG Asian Capital. Stated another way, Lexmark blew money and, like many other companies, learned that search was a tough business to use as a springboard to untold wealth. Lexmark snagged Kofax in 2015 in an attempt to generate money from the world’s need to federate content.

I thought of Lexmark, ISYS, and the gyrations of Lexmark when I read “Lexmark Cuts 320 Software Jobs; Local Toll Unclear.” What units of Lexmark are affected? My hunch is that the trio of Brainware, ISYS, and Kofax may bear the brunt of the weight of the folks looking for new jobs. (Lexmark bought the ETL outfit Kofax, which does some work for interesting US government agencies, licenses tools to one of my favorite outfits with visions of JRR Tolkien, and does not return telephone calls.) My experience with Chinese executives is that they are pragmatic. The write up told me:

“This action was taken to reduce our costs to be more in line with our revenues and those of comparable enterprise software companies,” Sylvia Chansler, a spokeswoman for Lexmark subsidiary Kofax Inc., said in a statement.

The great pivot of Lexmark from printers to management software seems to have failed. Surprised? I am not. I live in rural Kentucky and know that high technology dreams can be difficult to realize in an area where fast horses and expensive bourbon capture one’s imagination.

Stephen E Arnold, February 13, 2017

Google: Getting Frisky or a Victim. You Decide

February 12, 2017

I read “Google Cozies to Trump but Calls for His Impeachment.” This is a pretty exciting chunk of “real” journalism. The Washington Times is an interesting publication. Gee, I wonder who owns it. I noted this statement in the “real” news write up:

“Some of us may need to adopt Pence 2017 bumper stickers,” Google’s cofounder Sergey Brin joked at a company sponsored anti-Trump protest — the biggest demonstration from a Silicon Valley corporation this week — in response to Mr. Trump’s controversial immigration executive order.

That’s interesting. Online advertising meets politics without selling AdWords. I recall that Mr. Brin made some folks grin more than a decade ago when he visited poobahs. Mr. Brin, as I recall, wore a T shirt. Interesting. Made quite a stir for those of us who were in proximity to the Googler’s day on the Hill.

I also highlighted this passage:

Mr. Schmidt told Google employees that the Trump administration is “going to do these evil things as they’ve done in the immigration area and perhaps some others.” Google’s corporate mantra is “don’t be evil.” And yet, like any firm, Google needs to make money, and it’s benefited from peddling soft influence in the nation’s capital. Now that a new sheriff is in town, Google needs to at least pretend to play nice — or all be lost.

Hmm. I thought that “don’t be evil” thing was a goner. Guess not.

I circled this statement in the “real” news story as well:

Before Mr. Obama took office, Google spent almost no money trying to peddle political influence, now it’s a behemoth. It spent more than $15 million in lobbying in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, compared with $2.8 million in 2008. During Mr. Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, Google employees were the second-largest source of donations by any single U.S. company, with Microsoft being number one.

Nifty write up. And it is “real” journalism. If Google is sending mixed messages to humans, how does one search for this: “Google actual intent Trump”.  I got neither relevant nor timely results on this query. I must admit I did not run this query: “Google Trump impeach”. Ah, call me superficial.

Stephen E Arnold, February 12, 2017

Captain Obvious Report: Smart Software Will Kill Jobs

February 12, 2017

I love the chatter about artificial intelligence. Lists Like “Experts Have Come Up with 23 Guidelines to Avoid an AI Apocalypse” are amusing. The outfits applying smart software are focused on revenues, deals, market share, big contracts, and money. I am not sure worrying about how a Boston Dynamics-type robot will operate when deployed in a war zone in swarm autonomous mode is going to do much for the apocalypse worriers.

There  are the obvious statements about smart software. You know. Search systems that deliver information to you before you knew you needed that information. A digital mom or a persistent and ever present significant other. Enter our Captain Obvious report. Read on.

I read the “Experts Have Come Up with…” article can absorbed this injunction:

the Asilomar AI Principles (after the beach in California, where they were thought up), the guidelines cover research issues, ethics and values, and longer-term issues – everything from how scientists should work with governments to how lethal weapons should be handled. On that point: “An arms race in lethal autonomous weapons should be avoided,” says principle 18.

Interesting. You can look at the complete list, sort of like a year end top 10 films output, at this link.

Enter Captain Obvious. Navigate to “Google’s Diane Greene: Machine Learning Will Cost Jobs, So Skills Training Is Essential.” I love it when Googlers make it so easy for folks with dull normal IQs to get good advice for working in the post smart software world. But our intrepid Captain Obvious intellect spotted this gem:

Greene said, “machines are better than humans” at some tasks. Recently they’ve started to do better at some kinds of image and speech recognition, and they’re performing tasks such as finding signs of disease, such as retinopathy, from images more accurately than humans.

Yikes, aren’t these jobs performed by people with college educations and maybe graduate degrees?

Captain Obvious enters:

people, especially those that are computer-literate, shouldn’t have a problem getting new jobs. “This has happened before in the world,” she said, such as during the Industrial Revolution. “There’s new jobs they can easily do. It’s all about training.” But others need to be helped through the transition.

So no work. Retraining. What about some folks who are not too bright? asks Captain Obvious. These people can work on “new” jobs at Google maybe?

Stephen E Arnold, February 11, 2017

Big Guns Want to Make Artificial Intelligence Ethical

January 31, 2017

I read “Apple Joins Research Group for Ethical AI with Fellow Tech Giants.” The write up informed me that:

As artificial intelligence becomes an increasingly powerful force in industry and society, some of the world’s biggest companies are worrying about how the technology can be used ethically, and how the public will perceive its spread. To combat these problems (and others), five tech companies — Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and IBM — set up a research group called the Partnership on AI.

Apple is on the bus.

I don’t want to be skeptical, but there are some outfits actively working on smart software for government use cases. There is, in effect, a shadow business in artificial intelligence and smart software for warfighting, intelligence, and law enforcement.


A prototype autonomous weapon hunts for the enemy. For more images of the device, navigate to this link.

Sure, it’s great that the consumer facing outfits are going to meet and talk about how to keep children and partially informed users of mobile phones from negative uses of smart software. But I had two thoughts flit through my addled goose brain.

What are the outfits listed in the Carahsoft round up of Carahsoft IT solutions for government doing to make sure smart software is ethical. If you are not familiar with Carahsoft’s lists, you can check them out at this link.

Also, there are the US government programs to advance the use of smart software. Some of these ideas are interesting to me, but I am not sure how they will fly in a grade school. Examples include self directing swarms of weaponized mini drones released from an aircraft to autonomous imagery analysis systems which can deploy countermeasures automatically when folks face a threat.

Finally, there are the wizards working at various government research centers. These range from the little known units of consulting companies to university related research organizations.

In short, the notion of making artificial intelligence ethical is an interesting one for commercial enterprises. I wonder if the folks will chit chat about other topics when the members sit down for Philz coffee. There’s nothing like a helpful conversation among publicly traded companies who have a mandate to maximize their revenues.

I don’t want to be a fuddy duddy, but what does “ethics” mean?

Stephen E Arnold, January 31, 2017

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