Fours Hours to Learn IBM Watson and Microsoft Azure. Believe It or Not. Hint: Not

March 26, 2020

DarkCyber believes that online instructional videos are useful. However, DarkCyber believes that overstatement, hyperbole, and general buzzword craziness undermine the credibility of those offering a program.

An excellent example of basic marketing information packaged like a six figure F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Vertical watch, navigate to “Machine Learning with Watson and Azure.” You can download a four hour chunk of video which presents 20 lectures. That works out to 12 minute videos at which time, you

would be able to develop and deploy your applications over IBM Cloud- Bluemix. and having command over the Watson services and tools available.

Now what will you learn? Here’s the line up:

  • Cognitive Computing and how Watson changes the game
  • Using Watson Visual Recognition to tag and classify visual content using machine learning
  • Capabilities of the Watson API and how to choose the best features for your task
  • Using Watson Assistant to build an AI assistant (ChatBot)
  • Using Watson Watson Discovery to unlock hidden values to find answers , monitor trends and surface patterns
  • Using Watson Natural Language Understanding for advanced text analysis
  • Using Watson Knowledge Studio to discover meaningful insights in unstructured text.
  • Using Watson Speech to Text to easily convert audio and voice into written text
  • Using Watson Text to Speech to convert text into natural-surrounding audio
  • Using Watson Language Translator to translate from one language to another
  • Using Watson Natural Language Classifier to interpret and classify natural language with confidence
  • Using Watson Personality Insights to predict personality characteristics through text
  • Using Watson Tone Analyzer to understand emotions and communications style in text
  • Text Analytics
  • Detecting Language
  • Analyze image and video
  • Recognition handwritten from text
  • Generate Thumbnail
  • Content Moderator
  • Custom Vision
  • Translate

But wait!

The programs will also explain Microsoft Azure services; for example:

  • Computer Vision
  • Content Moderator
  • Custom Vision
  • Text Analysis
  • Translator.

You will not need an IBM account, but you will need a Microsoft Azure account.

This seems like an interesting program. Perhaps the overselling contributes to some of IBM’s more interesting deployments?

Stephen E Arnold, March 26, 2020

Amazing PR with an IBM Spin

March 24, 2020

Navigate to “Is This Taking a Toll on Coronavirus Pandemic? Scientists Claim This Supercomputer Found the Most Effective Vaccine Against Covid 19.”

Who made the supercomputer? Give up.

IBM did.

What software did the scientists at ORNL use?


Did IBM pump out the crowning glory of a story itself?

Nope, allegedly ORNL professionals did.

This is a summit of sorts. PR for IBM and a news story to circulate among the appropriation committee at budget time.

Opportunistic? Of course not. Just keeping those competitors like LANL at bay.

Stephen E Arnold, March 24, 2020

IBM: A Leader in Following?

March 16, 2020

DarkCyber spotted “IBM Prepares To Advance Watson’s Language Ability.” The story appeared in Capital FM, an online publication in Nairobi. That’s okay. What’s interesting is that IBM has announced “the first commercialization of key Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities to come from IBM Research’s Project Debater, the only AI system capable of debating humans on complex topics.”

What’s new, aside from the Kenya coverage? Here’s a sampling of the technologies that will allegedly make Watson a superhero: Natural language processing. Watson will understand sentiment which can “identify and analyze idioms and colloquialisms for the first time.” [Emphasis added]


IBM is bringing technology from IBM Research for understanding business documents, such as PDF’s and contracts, to also add to their AI models.

Where’s the technology originate? Project Debater. There’s also “deep learning based classification which

can learn from as few as several hundred samples to do new classifications quickly and easily. It will be added to Watson Discovery later this year.

Also, there’s another innovation:

It will also exploit natural language through Clustering or Advanced Topic Clustering. Building on insights gained from Project Debater, new topic clustering techniques will enable users to “cluster” incoming data to create meaningful “topics” of related information, which can then be analyzed.

Okay, let’s step back. NLP, quick deep learning, clustering, and the other technologies. My recollection is:

  • IBM’s Dharmendra Modha was writing about text clustering in “Large Scale Parallel Data Mining” which is about a decade after the Endeca crowd fired up their functional facets for “Guided Navigation”. Now this clustering is coming to IBM Watson. What?
  • In 2003 IBM researchers filed a patent application for “US7130777, Method to hierarchical pooling of opinions from multiple sources.” Now Watson is doing what commercial vendors have been offering for many years; for example, Lexalytics in 2003. Not exactly a text book case of using home grown technology or emulating a competitor, is it?
  • And NLP dates back to 1993 and the work of Vincent Stanford, Ora Williamson, Elton Sherwin, and Frank Castellucci. See US5615296. These are IBM professionals. And 1993 was more than a quarter century ago.

Net net: Kenya, Watson, and technologies that have been around for decades are part of IBM’s preparations to add functions to Watson. “Prepares”, year, pretty speedy.

Watson? What are you doing? Maybe DarkCyber should ask Alexa?

Stephen E Arnold, March 16, 2020

IBM Watson Dons An Indiana Jones Hat

December 13, 2019

Our knowledge on ancient civilizations is based on archeological evidence. Historians and scientists can only infer how ancient people lived, but often times the civilizations are shrouded more in mystery than answers. National Geographic España shares one mystery from Peru, “Descubiertos nuevos geoglifos en Nazca gracias a la Inteligencia Artificial.” If you do not speak Spanish, the article title translates as “New Geoglyphs Discovered in Nazca Thanks To Artificial Intelligence.”

One of Peru’s greatest treasures are the gigantic geoglyphs on the Nazca pampas. The geoglyphs are huge images of animals and humans drawn by the Nazcan people between 1 BC and eighth century AD. The geoglyphs are huge creations made from white sand set against large expanses of black rock. They were first discovered in 1927, then became UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1994.

There are many theories about why the Nazcan people drew the geoglyphs on the pampas encompassing an area of 75,000 hectares. Three hundred geoglyphs have been recorded, but Masato Sakai of Yamagata University, who specializes Andean culture and archaeology, used artificial intelligence to discover one hundred forty-three new geoglyphs. All of the new geoglyphs range between five to one hundred meters in size and are estimated to made between 100 BC and 300 AD. They are shared like animals and humans, similar to past discovered geoglyphs. Artificial intelligence built on an IBM Watson computer to find the geoglyphs:

“The new geoglyphs have been identified thanks to field work combined with artificial intelligence and high-resolution 3D data analysis, an investigation carried out between 2018 and 2019. In addition, the Japanese team discovered one of them when developing an artificial intelligence (AI) model on the IBM Power System AC922 artificial intelligence server, configured with the IBM Watson Machine Learning Community Edition deep learning platform. The study explored the feasibility of AI to discover new lines by introducing into the system the ability to process large volumes of data including high-resolution aerial photos at high speeds.


Without AI these Nazcan geoglyphs might never have been discovered. New, more robust technology allows archeologists like Sakai to find, research, and preserve these wonders and learn more about an ancient society. The question still remains why the Nazcan people created such huge drawings only visible from the air. Watson will never be able to solve that mystery.

Whitney Grace, December 13, 2019

The Flu Tracking Thing: A Hollywood-Style Repeat?

November 19, 2019

Guess not.

Perhaps we should be asking more often, “Do we really need an app for that?” Engadget announces, “Weather Channel App Uses Watson to Tell You When Flu Season Is Coming.” The write-up specifies:

“The latest version of the Weather Channel app for Android and iOS now includes a Flu Insights feature that uses IBM’s Watson to warn you when influenza is likely to be on the warpath. The team-up wields machine learning to provide a 15-day flu forecast as well notifications that pop up at key moments, such as the start of flu season or confirmed outbreaks. Ideally, this will keep you from going to a house party full of soon-to-be-sick virus carriers. Whatever the conditions are like, you’ll get prevention advice as well as CDC flu reports.”

On the other hand, Google tried its flu map back in 2008, and what happened to that? It was not too useful. We all know that flu season is upon us. According to the CDC, it happens every year from October through March, peaking December through February. And anyone can navigate directly to that site for prevention advice. Granted, that Watson-powered Flu Insights feature gives more details, like when and where confirmed outbreaks have occurred and a zip-code centered “flu forecast” that predicts risk from low to high. However, as the Engadget piece concedes:

“It’s easy to see Flu Insights fueling some paranoia. Do you really want to be afraid of going outside simply because Watson predicted trouble?”

For us, the answer is no. I, for one, prefer to simply get my flu shot in the fall and be done with it. No AI-prompted angst required.

Cynthia Murrell, November 19, 2019

IBM Watson to the Rescue of Truth: Facts? Not Necessary

November 7, 2019

Could IBM Watson Fix Facebook’s ‘Truth Problem’?” stopped me in my daily quest for truth, justice, and the American way of technology. The write up dangles some clickbait in front of the Web indexing crawlers. Once stopped by IBM Watson, Facebook, and Truth, the indexers indexed but I read the story.

I printed it out and grabbed by trusty yellow highlighter. I like yellow because it reminds me of an approach which combines some sensational hooks with a bit of American marketing.

For instance this passage warranted a small checkmark:

Facebook is between a rock and a hard place because “the truth” is often subjective, where what is true to one party is equally false to the other.

I like the word subjective, and I marveled at the turn of phrase in this fresh wordsmithing: “between a rock and a hard place.” Okay, a dilemma or a situation created when a company does what it can to generate revenue while fending off those who would probe into its ethical depths.

This statement warranted a yellow rectangle:

Since Facebook itself is perceived as being biased (or perhaps the news sources it hosts are), a solution from them would be suspect regardless of whether it was AI-based or, assuming such a thing was financially viable (which I doubt it is), human-driven.  But IBM may have a solution that could work here.

Yes, a hypothetical: IBM Watson, a somewhat disappointing display of the once proud giant’s Big Blueness, is a collection of software, methods, training processes, and unfulfilled promises by avid IBM marketers. I grant that a bright person or perhaps a legion of wizards laboring under the pressures of an academic overlord or a government COTAR possibly, maybe, or ought to be able to build a system to recognize content which is “false.” Defining the truth certainly seems possible with time, money, and the “right” people. But can IBM Watson or any of today’s smart software and wizards pull off this modest task? If the solution were available, wouldn’t it be in demand, deployed, and detailed. TV programs, streaming video, tweets, and other information objects could be identified, classified, and filtered. Easy, right?

I then used my yellow marker to underline words, place a rectangle around the following text, and I added an exclamation point for good measure. Here’s the passage:

IBM also has the most advanced, scalable, deployable AI in the market with Watson. They recognized the opportunity to have an enterprise-class AI long before anyone else, and they have demonstrated human-like competence both with Jeopardy and with a debate against a live professional debater a few years ago.  I attended that debate and was impressed that Watson not only was better with the facts, it was better with humor. It lost the debate, but it was arguably the audience’s favorite.

Yes, assertions without facts, no data, no outputs, no nothing. Just “has the most advanced, scalable, deployable AI in the market.” The only hitch in this somewhat over-the-top generalization is, “It [Watson] lost the debate.”

But what warranted the exclamation mark was “it [IBM Watson] was better with humor.” Yep, smart software has a sense of humor at IBM.

This write up raises several questions. I will bring these up with my team at lunch today:

  1. Why are publications like Datamation running ads in the form of text? Perhaps, like Google Ads, a tiny label could be affixed so I can avoid blatant PR.
  2. Why is IBM insisting it has technology that “could” do something. I had a grade school teacher named Miss Bray who repeated endlessly, “Avoid woulda, coulda, shoulda.” What IBM could do is irrelevant. What IBM is doing is more important. Talking about technology is not the same as applying it and generating revenue growth, sustainable revenue, and customers who cannot stop yammering about how wonder a product or service is. For example, I hear a great deal about Amazon. I don’t here much about IBM.
  3. What is the “truth” in this write up. IBM Watson won Jeopardy. (TV shows do post production.) I am not convinced that the investment IBM made in setting up Watson to “win” returned more than plain old fashioned advertising. The reality is that the “truth” of this write up is very Facebook like.

To sum up, clicks and PR are more important than data, verifiable case examples, and financial reports. IBM, are you listening? Right, IBM is busy in court and working to put lipstick on its financials. IBM marketers, are you listening? Right, you don’t listen, but you send invoices I assume. Datamation, are there real stories you will cover which are not recycled collateral and unsupported assertions? Right, you don’t care either it seems. You ran this story which darn near exhausted by yellow marker’s ink.

Stephen E Arnold, November 7, 2019

IBM and the UK Military

October 31, 2019

After trying its hand at everything from recipes to healthcare, Watson branched out into the military a few years ago. Now, IBM is using its AI tech to help out an old ally. NS Tech reports, “Revealed: IBM’s £4m Deal to Build Prototype AI Software Platform for UK Military.” Writer and NS Tech editor Oscar Williams cites a contract notice from the Ministry of Defense (MoD), which considers the forthcoming platform a way to gain an operational advantage. We’re told IBM won the £3.8m (or about $4.9m) contract in September, and has a year to demonstrate its worth. Williams writes:

“The contract notice, identified through Tussell’s procurement database, states that the proof of concept will be cloud-hosted and reliant on a large computer processor to analyze existing commercial data sources. The data sources could include mapping data from Ordinance Survey and weather data from the Met Office, as well as flight paths and navigation channels, said [former MoD IT director Gerry] Cantwell. The deal was struck around six months after the US government awarded an $800m battlefield software contract to Palantir, a big data analytics firm founded by the Paypal billionaire and Trump supporter Peter Thiel. NS Tech revealed in August that Palantir has won nearly £11m [about $14m] of MoD contracts over the last four years. An MOD spokesperson said: ‘We have awarded a contract to IBM to assist with the development of a standalone AI proof of concept, using commercially available data.’”

Not surprisingly, the MOD spokesperson refused to explain the similarities or differences between their upcoming platform to the US battlefield platform. IBM likewise declined to comment.

Cynthia Murrell, October 31, 2019

Quantum Baloney Spat: IBM Dismisses the GOOG over Supremacy

October 23, 2019

I am not holding my breath for quantum computers which do something semi-useful. Science club experiments are interesting but not something welcomed in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky.

Not long ago a Googler announced that the GOOG was king and queen of the quantum hill. “IBM Upends Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim” suggests that Google’s statement and subsequent removal of the document containing the claim was baloney. Hence, the quantum baloney spat.

The capitalist’s tool states:

Dario Gil, head of IBM quantum research, described the claim of quantum supremacy as indefensible and misleading. In a written statement, he said, “Quantum computers are not ‘supreme’ against classical computers because of a laboratory experiment designed to essentially implement one very specific quantum sampling procedure with no practical applications.”

Why believe IBM, the master of the Watson hot air balloon?

The answer:

Yesterday, IBM published a paper that backed up their claim. The paper points out that Google made an error in estimating that a classical computer would require 10,000 years to solve the problem.

There you go. Two self published papers. Real news.

Forbes included a useful point:

According to IBM’s blog, “an ideal simulation of the same task can be performed on a classical system in 2.5 days and with far greater fidelity.”  The blog post went on to say that 2.5 days is a worst-case estimate. Additional research could reduce the time even further. Google’s 10,000-year estimate was overstated because of an erroneous assumption. They believed that RAM requirements for running a quantum simulation of the problem in a classical computer would be prohibitively high.  For that reason, Google used the time to offset the lack of space, hence their estimate of 10,000 years.

Cheese with that baloney?

Stephen E Arnold, October 23, 2019

IBM Says Hub-and-Spoke Model Will Make Watson a Winner.. What about a Bottleneck?

October 4, 2019

Business Insider amuses me. It recycles IBM marketing material and slaps a paywall on collateral.

One possible example is the write up titled “The Head of IBM’s Watson Walks Us Through the Exact Model Tech Leaders Can Use to Build Excitement Around Any AI project.”

Not the word “exact.” Sounds like a winner. I like the “any AI project”, but I would wager a copy of the IBM PC 704 RAID documentation that if the AI project relied on Amazon, Google, or Microsoft technology, IBM might want to rethink that “any AI project” assurance.

DarkCyber noted this statement which is allegedly spontaneous, unedited, and prose worthy of Cicero, a wordsmith alive when the Romans were using the hub-and-spoke system to organize the Empire as the Barbarians destroyed what Rome built:

One way to ensure projects advance is to appoint leaders within each respective business unit to help support the chief technology, data, or innovation officers, argues IBM’s Rob Thomas, a system he refers to as the “hub-and-spoke” model because the structure resembles one in which a central point is connected to several secondary points. “You need somebody that has a seat at the table at the top that’s saying it’s important to the company,” he told Business Insider. Organizations also “need somebody in those business units that owns this day-to-day, but is accountable back to the company strategy.”

Now the hub-and-spoke analogy is different from the distributed information and computing model. The reason is visible when it snows in Chicago. Flights are delayed because the hub doesn’t work. Contrast that the architecture used by some of the Eastern European pirate streaming video sites.

A node dies and an origin server communicates with a control server to bring the node back up. What is an origin server is taken down? The smart software activates a hot spare origin server and the system comes back up. Magic? Nope, just side deals with some ISPs with interesting perceptions of right and wrong.

What will save IBM? The “thousands of O’Hare flights are cancelled approach” or the distributed system which cyber criminals have embraced enthusiastically.

The fact is that the hub-and-spoke model is unlikely to breathe much life into IBM. The top down approach is conceptually useful because it explains some of the issues arising from Industrial Revolution management: Blue suit, red tie, white shirt, etc.

Not only is the IBM solution unusual, it is not special content. What proof? Check out:

Microsoft’s 2009 encomium to SQLServer called “Using SQL Server to Build a Hub-and-Spoke Enterprise Data Warehouse Architecture.”

New? Yeah, well. Convinced? Nope. One could combine Microsoft AI with SQLServer in a corporation. Will IBM support that?

Let’s ask Watson.

Stephen E Arnold, October 4, 2019

The Register Rings the Bell on IBM

September 29, 2019

DarkCyber noted “Analyze This: IBM Punts Off Algorithm Risk Biz.” The main idea is that IBM is exiting the financial risk business. Smart finance and associated analytics is a hot business sector. Even Amazon, the online bookstore, has some capabilities in this area. IBM? Not so much.

We noted this statement:

IBM originally purchased the analytics products from Toronto-based Algorithmics in 2011 for $387m.

The article explains that IBM wants to focus.

One interesting point in the write up struck DarkCyber as:

Kate Hanaghan, chief research officer at TechMarketView, said buying into new areas and selling off legacy ones are part of IBM’s turnaround plan. “The point is that IBM has to make some choices about where it should place its bets and sink its investment spend. Divestments are crucial and will without doubt continue – as will acquisitions.”

Sounds good, but this factoid explains the IBM problem:

IBM CEO, president and chairman Ginni Rometty took to the hot seat in 2011 when revenues came in at $106.9bn. At the end of 2018, revenues stood at $79.6bn.

There you go. Watson, what do you think?

Stephen E Arnold, September 29, 2019

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