Forgotten IBM Watson? Despite Quantum Supremacy, IBM Loves Its AI Too

December 1, 2021

IBM continues to upgrade Watson; this time it is new natural language processing software. IBM’s Newsroom details the upgrade: “IBM To Add New Natural Language Processing Enhancements To Watson Discovery.” The enhancements will assist industries elevate customer care, accelerate business processes by discovering insights and synthesizing information.

Companies are using more NLP software to review their data and its varying formats. AI allows companies to discover insights, save research time, and help employees make more fact-driven decisions. Customization for different industries is a key determinant in the Watson Discovery upgrade:

“The new planned features that IBM announced today are designed to make it easier for Watson Discovery users to quickly customize the underlying NLP models on the unique language of their business. Stemming from NLP advancements developed by IBM Research, business users can train Watson Discovery to help read, understand and surface more precise insights from large sets of complex, industry-specific documents even if they don’t have significant data science skills.”

Among the new features are: advanced NLP customization capabilities, automatic text pattern detection, and pre-trained document structure understanding. NLP will change how the law, financial, insurance, and other industries conduct business.

While NLP upgrades are relatively new, but they will eventually become industry standards as the software becomes cheaper and more ingrained. NLP might actually become mandatory to combat inaccuracy and poor business practices.

Whitney Grace, December 1, 2021

Quantum Supremacy Is a Thing and IBM Now Has It

November 18, 2021

I read “IBM Achieves Quantum Supremacy: Announces 127-qubit “Eagle” Quantum Processor at Quantum Summit 2021.” Maybe this is indeed accurate. I would like to ask IBM Watson, “Is this IBM marketing talk, or has Big Blue aced the Google and legions of Chinese quantum engineers?”

The write up reports:

IBM expects to achieve a 1,121-qubit quantum processor – and quantum advantage – by 2023.

This statement seems different from the headline. In fact, I expect to be named the next 77 year old analyst flying into space in 2023. The problem is that “expect” and “do” are quite different things to me.

Not to IBM, at least according to the article which quotes and IBM’er as saying:

“The arrival of the ‘Eagle’ processor is a major step towards the day when quantum computers can outperform classical computers at meaningful levels,” said Dr. Darío Gil, Senior Vice President, IBM and Director of Research. “Quantum computing has the power to transform nearly every sector and help us tackle the biggest problems of our time. This is why IBM continues to rapidly innovate quantum hardware design, build ways for quantum and classical workloads to empower each other, and create a global ecosystem that is imperative to the adoption of quantum computing.”

Yep, marketing talk based on some lab experiments. That means no quantum computer on your desk in the near future. Quantum supremacy is here at least in IBM’s view of its capabilities.

Okay, Google and Chinese engineers. Back to work. The amusing but somewhat bittersweet IBM news has been lost in the endless flow of content marketing.

Stephen E Arnold, November 18, 2021

IBM: The Company Will Telum Like It Could Be

August 25, 2021

I read “The Other IBM Big Iron That Is On The Horizon.” The write up mentions that the Telum processor is for System z mainframes. The outfit making the chip is … Samsung.

I also noted “IBM Unveils New Chip Designed to Detect Fraud with AI.” The article explains:

The chip is built to enable applications to run efficiently where the data resides, helping to overcome traditional enterprise AI approaches that tend to require significant memory and data movement capabilities. Telum’s on-chip acceleration is capable of running AI models during a transaction. This improves fraud detection in industries that hold valuable customer and business information.

The “is built” is interesting because the “IBM Big Iron” article makes this point:

We happen to think IBM had hoped to be able to ship the Telum processors and their System z16 machines before the end of 2021 and the transition from 10 nanometer to 7 nanometer processes at former foundry partner GlobalFoundries to 7 nanometer processes at current foundry partner Samsung has delayed the z16 introduction from its usual cadence. As it stands, the z16 chip will come out in early 2022, after the Power10 chips with fat cores (meaning eight threads per core and only 15 cores per chip) come to market. The skinny Power10 cores (four threads per core but 30 cores on a die) used in so-called “scale out” systems are not expected until the second quarter of 2022. It is rough to change foundries and processes and microarchitectures all at the same time, so a delay from the original plan for both z16 and Power10 are to be expected.

An AI chip. Really good at fraud detection. Requires a System z mainframe. Shipping in the future, maybe next year.

The new IBM outsources. The new IBM pre-announces. But what’s interesting is that as tasty as the descriptions are, the platform requires the “old” IBM; that is, a mainframe. Interesting because neither write up mentions Watson.

Stephen E Arnold, August 25, 2021

Yes, IBM Watson in Zoom Type Sessions

August 23, 2021

Zoom type meetings are not my fave. Your mileage may vary, but I miss the whole travel to meeting, small talk over crappy snacks, and watching the humanoids in action or inaction as the case may be.

I read “3 Smart Video Collaboration Features We Still Need.” The royal “we” is a nice touch for a consultant to IBM. The write up suggests that IBM Watson can tag along and monitor Zoom type meetings. When the hapless group of disinterested Zoom type participants needs “strategy” or “policy” information, good, old Watson will provide that input.

Here’s a comment from the write up:

There’s even something like IBM’s Watson Assistant, which could answer policy and strategy questions during a meeting. (Disclosure: IBM is a client of the author.) Many times, questions aren’t answered by the most knowledgeable person at the table, but by either the most obnoxious or most senior leader. Watson could steer the conversation toward the best outcome. We are on the cusp of taking collaboration systems much farther than they have ever gone. It’s time to turn them into the productivity engines they can be.

I like the disclosure at the end of the write up. Plus, the expert concludes with his strongest marketing pitch. The notion that staring at a camera and monitor will become a productivity engine is amusing. Sci fi fans will love the suggestion.

Oh, wait! Facebook has announced its next big thing. Slap on the virtual reality hood and have an almost real meeting. Stir in some Watson and we will have a winner.

A few observations:

  • Smart software can demonstrate bias and incorrect outputs; providing high value strategy and policy outputs not so much
  • IBM Watson is, as far as I know, the only smart software to fail in the cancer and Covid amelioration trial runs. Isn’t that zero for two?
  • Zoom type interactions have not slowed some companies in their attempt to get employees back into a setting in which those very same humanoids can be monitored, involved in meetings, and pulled into a conversation without the all-to-common “I can’t connect.”

Content marketing is interesting. Unfortunately it is too easy to spot the messaging. No Watson needed because that smart software struggles to deliver more than opportunities for cheerleading for an ageing amalgam of open source, home brew code, and acquired technology.

And the other features? A smart moderator for Zoom type meetings? Err. What? A mom? An Adam Carolla? Plus, another Zoom type meeting at the same time? Yikes. Gee whiz, Computerworld.

Stephen E Arnold, August 23, 2021

The Gray Lady Grinds on Big Blue

July 20, 2021

The New York Times may not be successful in selling ad space to IBM in the next few months. The estimable “real” news outfit published an entertaining discussion of Watson. Navigate to “What Ever Happened to IBM’s Watson.” Pay up. Read the 2,000 word business school, essay, opinion piece. Then check your portfolio to verify that IBM stock is down again, has new executives in new roles, and the tenacity to keep on with the “little engine that could” approach to dealing with the likes of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft as well as start ups offering everything from i2 Analyst Notebook clones to federating data systems to consulting services at a discount.

Yikes. Big Blue. The New York Times.

The write up has a number of zingers; for example:

  • “Beware what you promise” about the “future of knowing.”  Winking smile
  • “Watson has not remade any industries. And it hasn’t lifted IBM’s fortunes.”
  • [Watson] “was not realistic.”
  • [Watson was] “a learning journey.”
  • “… The grand visions of the past are gone.”
  • “Watson is no longer the next big thing, but it may become a solid business for IBM.”

Yep, that is a conditional and instead of an Amazon AWS Sagemaker gusher of cash, a “solid business.” The wonderfulness of the NYT article omits a couple of minor points:

  • The “cognitive computing” pitch. Baloney in my opinion.
  • The manual effort required to train the mash up of home brew code, open source, and stuff acquired from outfits like Vivisimo takes time and subject matter experts. The result? Expensive stuff for sure. And once the system is trained, one has to keep on training whilst optimizing.
  • The complexity of taking a bunch of parts and implementing them as “smart software” is very difficult. Amazon seems to be going for the “off the shelf” approach and “ready to roll” models.

Net net: Let’s ask Watson how about those AI start ups as acquisition targets. Marketing, not innovation, seems to be the go to strength of IBM. What do you say, Watson? Watson, are you there? Wow, that latency is a killer isn’t it?

Stephen E Arnold, July 20, 2021

China, Quantum Computing; IBM, Heifers

July 15, 2021

This is probably an unfair comparison but, why not? Navigate to “Chinese Quantum Computer Sets Record in Processing Test.” The write up states:

Scientists in China have claimed another benchmark in computing, saying their quantum device takes just 72 minutes to do a task that would take the most powerful supercomputer at least eight years.

Is this true? Maybe, maybe not. But the PR is fantastic. China, a technology leader. Beating Google and other US quantum wannabes. I can almost hear the applause in the Chinese National People’s Congress.

The write up added:

The Chinese scientists said they used random quantum circuit sampling as a metric to evaluate the power of their quantum processor.

Shortly after spotting this Chinese marketing-centric item, I read “Heifer International and IBM Work with Coffee and Cocoa Farmers in Honduras to Increase Access to Data and Global Markets.” That write up reports:

Heifer International and IBM, together with CATIE, an international organization focused on sustainable and inclusive human well-being in Latin America, are also working with farmers to deploy the Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture. The system combines predictive AI technology with geospatial, weather, environmental and IoT field data in a comprehensive dashboard tailored to a farmer’s land. It delivers weather alerts and other information, such as optimal planting patterns and expected yields linked to market pricing. These insights can help farmers and agribusinesses make more informed decisions for improving crop yield and value, as well as food safety and sustainability. The technology is expected to play an important role in increasing the incomes of coffee and cocoa farmers.

Quite a juxtaposition. A marketing push from China for quantum computing. IBM pushes with the Heifer tie up with good old Watson.

Stephen E Arnold, July 15, 2021

Predicting Behavior from Videos: A New Frontier for Touts

July 13, 2021

I spotted “AI Learns to Predict Human Behavior from Videos.” Sounds good, sounds promising, sounds like IBM. The idea is that Watson (open source software, home grown IBM code, and software from acquisitions) can foretell the future. Feed Watson videos, and Watson can figure out what happens next.

The write up states:

In a new study, Columbia Engineering researchers unveil a computer vision technique for giving machines a more intuitive sense for what will happen next by leveraging higher-level associations between people, animals, and objects.

What’s the time horizon? Answer: Several minutes in the future.

What’s the accuracy? Answer: Uh, well.

What’s actually predicted? Answer: A higher level that links concepts.

What’s this means? Answer: Uh, well.

IBM, which like Google declared quantum supremacy-ness, is working overtime to demonstrate that Watson can deliver high value payoffs to those who embrace the IBM approach to smart software.

One of the researchers/students allegedly said, “Prediction is the basis of human intelligence.”

Okay, I will make a prediction: This watching videos angle smacks of marketing hoo hah based on the efforts of students with access to Watsony stuff and an environment which is hungry for evidence of the quantum supremacy-ness.

Confidence level: 99.999999

Stephen E Arnold, July 13, 2021

IBM: Watson, What Email Service Should Big Blue Use?

July 6, 2021

Watson, yes, you, IBM Watson. What mail system should IBM use? I am waiting… in the meantime:

This is a one liner offered at lunch by one of my DarkCyber researchers. This individual finds IBM amusing. I, on the other hand, feel for the company.

IBM’s 18 Month Company Wide Email System Migration Has Been a Disaster, Sources Say” may not be 100 percent spot on. However, I believe it is indeed possible that the former Big Dog of computing may have itself swimming in an Olympic sized pool filled with Schwartzs Kosher Dill Pickles.

The write up reports:

“Outlook won’t work with the new system, IBM Notes won’t work and the online email called Verse has now gone down,” a tipster told us. “Everyone has been affected and no fix is in sight.”

The write up adds:

a blog post to IBM’s internal network w3 said the migration had been planned for 18 months and that everything should go fine provided everyone follows the instructions emailed to them. Evidently, this did not happen.

Now back to my question: Watson, what email service should Big Blue user?

Answer: Proton Mail. Are you sure?

Stephen E Arnold, July 6, 2021

IBM and Watson: A More Focused Journey to Rediscover Relevance and Find More Revenue

May 21, 2021

Nope, this is not an episode of “Star Trek.” Think of “IBM’s CEO Says It’s Leaving Consumer AI Like Facial Recognition to Other Companies, As It Doubles Down on Pitching Watson to Business” as a new version of the 1904 film “Le Voyage à travers l’impossible.” Here’s the idea: A vendor of services, mainframes, and intellectual property like a two nanometer chip concept blasts off to a new world. The mission is:

enterprise AI. Watson will be “learning from small amounts of data” and utilizing natural language processing to answer specific business questions for

IBM will continue to embrace Watson. Granted Watson has an interesting track record. The write up states:

IBM shut down its AI tool for drug discovery in 2019 after sluggish sales, and reportedly encountered hesitancy from banks when trying to sell into the financial sector.

Learn from one’s mistakes, my grandmother used to say.

The article points out:

Using natural language processing to understand communications like chat and email, building an AI that is trustworthy and free from bias, and automating business
functions like customer service and IT operations.

With the cloud propelling Watson to the Land of Enchanted Revenues, Big Blue will rely on innovations like Turbonomic and Instana. If you don’t know, Turbonomic is one of the leaders in AIOps. You don’t need to wait for Forrester or Gartner to explain this very advanced concept of Artificial Intelligence Operations. Turbonomic is one of the leaders in this nova like market, and IBM acquired the company. Instana, now swallowed by a Big Blue gulp delivers APM. Okay, I will clue to you in: APM means Application Performance Monitoring. The idea is that when smart software behaves in a stupid way and the cloud centric app won’t work, IBM can help you out. The idea makes sense for the IBM cloud, but I am not sure how some of IBM’s cloud competitors will perceive this change. Thunderstorms perhaps?

When will the revenues be discovered? Yeah, probably in a Rometty (that’s a unit of time used by a former Big Blue pure bred to describe Watson’s earlier pursuit of revenues in Houston, pardner. No tar and feathers from the cancer docs in them there parts, but it was suggested that some of the IBM Watson leave town before sundown. And what about using IBM Watson to discover drugs applicable to the Covid pandemic? (Cough, cough.) Is there a metaphor to describe the bold new direction in which the IBM Watson starship is headed? Yes, there it. Electrification, specifically “at the turn of the last century” electrification.

Will stakeholders wait for 19th century time to mark what has to happen in the zip zip real time world of the 21st century? Sure. Keep in mind the plot of the 1904 film which told the story of a journey through mountains to the sun and ended up under water. Yikes. Underwater! This is not a good word for shareholders and stakeholders to hear in a metaphorical context.

Stephen E Arnold, May 21, 2021

What Happens when an AI Debates Politics?

April 20, 2021

IBM machine-learning researcher Noam Slonim spent years developing a version of IBM’s Watson that he hoped could win a formal debate. The New Yorker describes his journey and the results in, “The Limits of Political Debate.” We learn of the scientist’s inspiration following Watson’s Jeopardy win and his request that the AI be given Scarlett Johansson’s voice (and why it was not). Writer Benjamin Wallace-Wells also tells us:

“The young machine learned by scanning the electronic library of LexisNexis Academic, composed of news stories and academic journal articles—a vast account of the details of human experience. One engine searched for claims, another for evidence, and two more engines characterized and sorted everything that the first two turned up. If Slonim’s team could get the design right, then, in the short amount of time that debaters are given to prepare, the machine could organize a mountain of empirical information. It could win on evidence.”

Ah, but evidence is just one part. Upon consulting with a debate champion, Slonim learned more about the very human art of argument. Wallace-Wells continues:

“Slonim realized that there were a limited number of ‘types of argumentation,’ and these were patterns that the machine would need to learn. How many? Dan Lahav, a computer scientist on the team who had also been a champion debater, estimated that there were between fifty and seventy types of argumentation that could be applied to just about every possible debate question. For I.B.M., that wasn’t so many. Slonim described the second phase of Project Debater’s education, which was somewhat handmade: Slonim’s experts wrote their own modular arguments, relying in part on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and other texts. They were trying to train the machine to reason like a human.”

Did they succeed? That is (ahem) debatable. The system was put to the test against experienced debater Harish Natarajan in front of a human audience. See the article for the details, but in the end the human won—sort of. The audience sided with him, but the more Slonim listened to the debate the more he realized the AI had made the better case by far. Natarajan, in short, was better at manipulating his listeners.

Since this experience, Slonim has turned to using Project Debater’s algorithms to analyze arguments being made in the virtual public square. Perhaps, Wallace-Wells speculates, his efforts will grow into an “argument checker” tool much like the grammar checkers that are now common. Would this make for political debates that are more empirical and rational than the polarized arguments that now dominate the news? That would be a welcome change.

Cynthia Murrell, April 20, 2021

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