Google Management: Technology and Managment Wobbles

October 17, 2017

Bloomberg has another “Google is a bum” story. Remember the cheerful days of 2002 when Google was the cat’s pajamas. 23 skidoo now invokes the bum’s rush.

Navigate to “Google Has Made a Mess of Robotics.” Google bought robotics companies. Bloomberg seems to delight is offering this observation:

None of the acquired companies have robots in use beyond the offices of Google’s now-parent company, Alphabet Inc. At least three key robotics chiefs who joined in that 2013 wave left the company in the last few months…

I must admit I like the Boston Dynamics robot reindeer. Tiny children marveled at these devices. Ho ho ho. Santa uses “Terminators” to deliver goodies.

Google may not be doing robots designed the “thrill” children. Bloomberg notes:

For the last year it’s [Google has] also operated what has come to be referred to as the “arm farm,” a room somewhere at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters where at least 10 robotic limbs are being refined to grasp and manipulate various objects.

Yes, a disembodied limb. Perfect for a K-3 field trip.

The subtext to the Bloomberg write up is that Google’s management is not very good at managing. Come on. It’s the Google. Ease off.

Stephen E Arnold, October 17, 2017

Google Home: A Content Vacuum?

October 12, 2017

i read “Google Is Nerfing All Home Minis Because Mine Spied on Everything I Said.” The write up is interesting because it documents a Google product which has a flaw; that is, the Google Home device in question acts like a content vacuum cleaner. The device allegedly copies what it hears without the user’s permission. Google continues to assume me that it wants to do “better”. I think that doing better is a great idea, particularly when a smart assistant functions as a listening and recording device in a way that surprises a user. The original post cited above contains some nice words for Google, screenshots, and a gentle presentation of the alleged spy function. The European Union may find this device an interesting one to evaluate for privacy regulation compliance. I think “nerf” as a verb means “kill” or more colloquially “brick”; that is, the digital equivalent of shooting a horse. Alexa, what does nerfing mean? I think it means that Google is killing this “great idea”.

Stephen E Arnold, October 12, 2017

When Business Models Fail, Hit the Startup Casino

September 13, 2017

I read “Searching for the Next Facebook or Google: Bloomberg Helps Launch Tech Incubator.” On the surface, the write up is not too newsy. Bloomberg (the terminal folks that Thomson Reuters has not been able to kill off with hundreds of millions in cash pumped into its “innovation” efforts) is getting into the startup casino. The idea is that Bloomberg (the former mayor) is bringing incubators to New York City. The hook for the story is that Cornell University is the big fish which has been landed on Roosevelt Island, the one with the tram thing. With Bloomberg beaching Cornell and Technion (the MIT of Israel) ensnared, I have some questions floating in my rural Kentucky mind:

  1. When an innovation occurs, who will get access to that technology? The universities, the professors, the students, or Bloomberg?
  2. What will Thomson Reuters do to counter this play by the inventor of the famed and incredibly cluttered terminal for MBA clutching Red Bulls and mocha lattes?
  3. Who will be able to hire the bright sprouts who flock via tram to Roosevelt Island?
  4. Has IBM’s MIT play been “trumped” (no pun intended) because Bloomberg can play most of the numbers on the startup casino’s roulette wheel?
  5. Will Facebook and Google just buy Stanford University and leave the old school companies to the backwaters on the East coast?
  6. Which big company will fund the High Technology High School in New Jersey? (Strike that. New Jersey?)

Worth watching?

Stephen E Arnold, September 13, 2017

Me Too Innovation Is Real News. Is It?

August 14, 2017

I saw links to a Wall Street Journal write up titled “In Tech, Imitation Is the New Innovation.” To view the document, you will have to [a] buy a dead tree version of the paper, [b] borrow one from a friendly neighbor or a low rise office building with newspapers scattered inside the entrance because who arrives when one can be on vacation, or [c] pay for an online subscription to one of the outfits wanting the US government to bail the newspaper companies out. (Is this an imitation of the Chrysler and GM bailouts? May be, may be.) You can find the story on page A-1 with a jump to page A-8 in the August 10, 2017 edition.

The main point of the write up is that the titans of Silicon Valley have run out of ideas. In order to get new ideas, the companies copy other companies. If the task of copying is tough, the big company may buy the outfit with the idea. Think how well that has worked out for Dodge Ball.

The focus of the write up is the general inability of the titans to come up with new ideas that capture eyeballs. Facebook is the focus, but I think of Google as one of the premier companies using piggyback innovation.

An interesting example of quasi innovation is the Google patent application 2017/0228436 A1, which is a continuation of a patent series reaching back seven years to 2019. The seven year old patent itself nods its head to a Korean patent dating from 2002. The August 2017 patent application reaches back 15 years.

The idea of “standing on the shoulders of giants” romanticizes the fact that coming up with something that captures users is difficult. Very difficult.

What strikes me as “Providing Results to Parameterless Search Queries” is that Google’s “invention” is similar to the “me too” approach to creating something new referenced in the Wall Street Journal write up. Facebook is doing what seems “natural.” Imitation is natural because the original “good idea” cooked up at Harvard needs oomph. Data enables refinement of ideas that may be decades old.

Innovation is less about innovation by copying or acquiring. Innovation is now a way to exploit comprehensive data.

Stephen E Arnold, August 14, 2017

The Secret to Success for Apple and Google

July 25, 2017

What makes them so special? As part of their 10 Lessons from 10 Years of The World’s Most Innovative Companies series, Fast Company explains “Why Apple and Google Are Titans.” The article examines what these two historically very different companies hold in common. In a nutshell, each was built around purposeful innovation at breakneck speeds. Writer Robert Safin observes:

Innovation is not a onetime activity. It is a philosophy and culture. The fruits of innovation do not unfold on schedule, in a single year, along a straight line. To stay up with—and ahead of—the changes in today’s world, you need to be always moving, trying new things, fueled by an internal restlessness. This is at the heart of both Apple and Google. …

The critical corollary, then, to that need-for-speed: a need for purpose. Having a clearly understood mission behind an enterprise allows everyone to prioritize, in real time, to quickly assess which changes are worth responding to and what lens to use in addressing them. Apple and Google have always had this framework, from Steve Jobs’s mission of ‘making tools for the mind that advance humankind’ to Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s pledge to ‘do no evil’ while ‘organizing the world’s information.’

It is easy to underestimate each of these companies, Safin notes. It can seem as though Apple has been simply riding the connectivity wave in its iPhone surfboard, but we’re reminded how Apple has had to evolve and pivot to get and stay, at the fore. As for Google, one might think it has simply been lucky that internet search has become ubiquitous. However, Google has actually taken risk after risk, many of which turned out to be valuable only for their lessons. See the article for more examples about each company.

Cynthia Murrell, July 25, 2017

IBM (The Great Innovator) Tells India: You Are Not Innovative

May 22, 2017

I don’t know much about India. I have interacted with a handful of Indian entrepreneurs over the years. I owned a bit of a company set up and managed by a fellow from India. He struck me as bright and, I suppose, the word “innovative” suits him. I also spent a little time with the entrepreneur who created Aglaya. This is an outfit which has some technology which struck me as innovative if you think performing wireless intercepts when a person of interest is going about their daily routine innovative. I have had other bump ups over the last 40 years. These ranged from bright nuclear engineers at Halliburton Nuclear to chipper MBAS with good idea when I worked at the fun factory Booz, Allen & Hamilton to the assorted engineers I encountered in my other work.

To sum up, Indian engineers are not much different from engineers from other countries. I assume that parental guidance, curiosity, and being intelligent were the common factor. Country of origin was not exactly a predictor in my experience.

Well, gentle reader, that’s not how IBM perceives innovation from an entire country if the data in “New Study Finds 90% Of Indian Startups Will Fail Because Of Lack Of Innovation” is on the money. IBM allegedly learned that because India (now that’s a generalization) is not innovative, Indian start ups will fail. Pretty remarkable finding from the company which has tallied five years of declining revenue and the wonky Watson Lucene-based confection.


Innovative? IBM and its researchers are convinced that their work is changing the world. Don’t believe me? Ask Watson. I would not ask a shareholder.

I learned from the report about IBM’s research:

India might have become the third largest startup ecosystem, but it lacks successful innovation.

India is a big country. Doesn’t it seem likely that some individuals would attempt to start new firms instead of trying to get a job at the local bank?

IBM and Oxford Economics found that

90% of Indian startups fail within the first five years. And the most common reason for failure is lack of innovation — 77% of venture capitalists surveyed believe that Indian startups lack new technologies or unique business models.

Yeah, but don’t startups have a high mortality rate? Don’t the business models track with legal ways to generate revenue widely used by other countries’ entrepreneurs? Heck, most patents are stuffed with references to prior art? The innovation is the cuteness of the wording in the claims in many cases, right?


You think this is innovative? You are uninformed. IBM’s study verifies the lack of innovation in India. Tear this allegedly innovative building down. Go with an IBM glass “instant building.”

Not only are those Indian entrepreneurs unimaginative when it comes to making money, IBM’s study reports:

Other reasons cited for failure include lack of skilled workforce and funding, inadequate formal mentoring and poor business ethics, according to the study. It’s well known that most Indian startups are prone to emulate successful global ideas, by and large fine tuning an existing model to serve the local need…

With more than a billion people, it seems logical to focus on the market at hand.

But IBM’s data seems to impugn India for other faults; for example:

India doesn’t have meta level startups such as Google, Facebook or Twitter….Unsurprisingly, in 2016, Asian Paints was the only Indian organization in Forbes’ 25 most innovative companies, and Gillette India was among Forbes Top 25 Innovative Growth companies.

Ah, ha. The capitalist tool Forbes includes only one company called by the surprisingly American moniker Gillette India (very creative indeed) is on the Forbes Top 25 innovative growth companies.

A guru may be the source of this insightful comment:

Even in evolving AI technology, Indian entrepreneurs are not pioneers.

But IBM sees the sun peeking through the heavy Indian clouds:

The IBM report adds that while strong government promotion of entrepreneurship has strengthened the startup culture, India’s economic openness and large domestic market are significant advantages.

What’s with IBM and its somewhat negative discussion of India? Is there an IBM Watson skeleton in the Big Blue closet wearing an IBM Watson t shirt? Did IBM’s own initiatives in India fail? Did a senior IBM executive have a bad experience at the decidedly non creative Taj Mahal? Maybe an Indian rug did not match the interior designer’s vision for Armonk carpetland?

That odd ball digit zero. I had a math professor or maybe it was my half crazy relative who may have contributed some non creative ideas to the Kolmogorov Arnold Moser theorem who told me that some Indian number crunchers cooked up the idea of a zero. IBM’s report suggests that Brahmagupta’s use of computation with the zero was definitely not innovative. I assume that means my crazed relative was innovative, not autistic, anti social, and usually lost in mathematical wonderland.

IBM is familiar with zeros. That’s the symbol I associate with IBM Watson’s contribution to IBM financial future. IBM is, of course, more innovative. It has lots of patents. Revenue growth? Nah, just money to spend proving that India’s start ups work pretty much like any other country’s start ups. Lots of failures.

Final thought: Why didn’t IBM just ask Watson about India. Why involve humans at all? By the way, where’s IBM’s Alexa, its Pixel phone, or its Facebook social network? Watson, Watson, are you there or just pondering life as an non innovative zero?

Stephen E Arnold, May 22, 2017

Quote to Note: The Role of US AI Innovators

March 24, 2017

I read “Opening a New Chapter of My Work in AI.” After working through the non-AI output, I concluded that money beckons the fearless leader, Andrew Ng. However, I did note one interesting quotation in the apologia:

The U.S. is very good at inventing new technology ideas. China is very good at inventing and quickly shipping AI products.

What this suggests to me is that the wizard of AI sees the US as good at “ideas”, and China an implementer. A quick implementer at that.

My take is that China sucks up intangibles like information and ideas. Then China cranks out products. Easy to monetize things, avoiding the question, “What’s the value of that idea, pal?”

Ouch. On the other hand, software is the new electricity. So who is Thomas Edison? I wish I “knew”.

Stephen E Arnold, March 24, 2017

Innovation: Dots and Boundary Crossing

February 18, 2017

I stumbled across a tweet with this graphic in it:


Perhaps a drawing by Sandy Carter.

Another tweeter person posted the graphic with these changes:


Perhaps a modification by Mike the Fish.

Without being a pedant, I would point out that the chestnut of connecting dots operates in a slightly more complex environment. This illustration is not perfect, but it is closer to the real world:

Related image

A tip of the hat to Ring Realms.

Stephen E Arnold, February 18, 2017

Artificial Intelligence: Is More Better? China Thinks So

October 26, 2016

I read “China Overtakes US in Quantity of AI Research.” The idea seems to be that more is better. We know that China has more table tennis players than most countries. China wins more tournaments than most countries. Therefore, more is better. Does the same spinny logic apply to artificial intelligence or smart software?

The write up states:

The Obama administration has a new strategic plan aimed at spurring US development of artificial intelligence. What’s striking is that while the US was an early leader on deep learning research, China has effectively eclipsed it in terms of the number of papers published annually on the subject. The rate of increase is remarkably steep, reflecting how China’s research priorities have changed. The quality of China’s research is also striking.

As  HonkinNews pointed out on October 18, 2016, the White House plan calls for standards. Companies are, however, moving forward and unlikely to be slowed down by a standards setting process. Researchers outside the United States will pay attention to standards, but in the meantime, China and other nation states are pressing forward. As HonkinNews pointed out, the White House end of term paper about artificial intelligence was handed in late.

The article cited above says:

The American government is pushing for a major role for itself in AI research, because becoming a leader in artificial intelligence R&D puts the US in a better position to establish global norms on how AI should be safely used.

Nice idea for a discipline which has been chugging along for a half century.

Stephen E Arnold, October 26, 2016

Improvements in News and Military Technology Coming

September 23, 2016

I read two stories. These stories seem unrelated. The first is “Defense Department Reaffirms Its Commitment to Venture Investing.” The second is “Facebook and Twitter Join Coalition to Improve Social Media Newsgathering.”

Let’s look at the short item about the US Department of Defense reaffirming its interest in funding new technology. In my forthcoming, Dark Web Notebook, I point to a Web page which contains a run down of more than 100 open source software components. The software does information collection and processing functions. But the main point is that the organizations creating the code is one of the more interesting lists of entities performing next generation innovation for the Department of Defense. The write up cited above states:

Not everyone is comfortable with a government entity backing what can be sensitive technologies (not to mention the privacy issues wrought by the NSA’s practices and deployment of new tech tools).

My view is that In-Q-Tel is a more visible entity than some of the Department of Defense activities. DoD, in fact, has been in the innovation far longer than In-Q-Tel. One might suggest that substantive innovation emerges from the DoD programs; for example, the DoD is the progenitor of the Internet. My view is that more disruption may be evident in what the DoD is funding than in what the In-Q-Tel organization is funding. The write up misses an important point in my opinion. DoD looks out the windshield of innovation and In-Q-Tel looks at the world via a rear view mirror. Case in point: funding open source software related to Dark Web actions. In-Q-Tel funding companies which often have been in existence for years prior to receiving an infusion of cash and some help making sales calls in the US government.

The second write up also underscores a need for change. The idea is that old fashioned approaches are not needed. New fangled approaches are the cat’s pajamas. The problem is that the new fangled methods make some interesting errors. To fix this, high profile social media companies are going to invent a fix via a coalition.

A method with practiced for news gathering exists. Traditional newspapers illustrate the method. The process works reasonably well. More accurately, the process worked when resources were available to employ individuals who conducted interviews and performed research.

The traditional method changed with software able to count who clicked on what, people with many digital friends, and systems which collect information and figure out what is important.

Now after some interesting mistakes, Internet giants are eager to improve what I call the millennial news method:

Channel 4 News, the Telegraph, the New York Times, Washington Post, BuzzFeed News, ABC News in Australia and Agence France-Presse are among more than 20 news organizations to have signed up to the partner network, which is being organized through Google-backed First Draft.

Now Facebook (big dog) and Twitter (starving dog) are in the game. The point is that the millennial methods appear to work. Unfortunately fake news and other oddities creep into the smart systems. The new methods also help foster tension between the remaining traditional news outfits and the comparative newcomers or disruptors.

The idea of teaming up to improve smart software is interesting. The goal, of course, is to obtain high value information at the lowest possible cost; that is, with the fewest number of humans as possible.

When I read these two articles, I noted three ideas which struck me as worth thinking about:

  1. Methods exist which work yet interest gravitates away from what works to a need to find a better, more innovative process
  2. The perception that traditional methods practiced by the Department of Defense and old school newspapers are less useful than “new” approach may slow down innovation or, even worse, get the focus fuzzy.
  3. The Silicon Valley fascination with the bright and shiny may produce wasteful, duplicate efforts.

Stephen E Arnold, September 23, 2016

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