Vaporware: It Costs Little and May Pay Off Big

September 6, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Since ChatGPT and assorted AI image-creation tools burst onto the scene, it seems generative AI is all anyone in the tech world can talk about. Some AI companies have been valued in the billions by those who expect trillion-dollar markets. But, asks Gary Marcus of Marcus on AI, “What if Generative AI Turned Out To Be a Dud?

Might it be the industry has leapt before looking? Marcus points out generative AI revenues are estimated in just the hundreds of millions so far. He describes reasons the field may never satisfy expectations, like pervasive bias, that pesky hallucination problem, and the mediocrity of algorithmic prose. He also notes people seem to be confusing generative AI with theoretical Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), which is actually much further from being realized. See the write-up for those details.

As disastrous as unrealized AI dreams may be for investors, Marcus is more concerned about policy decisions being made on pure speculation. He writes:

“On the global front, the Biden administration has both limited access to high-end hardware chips that are (currently) essential for generative AI, and limited investment in China; China’s not exactly being warm towards global cooperation either. Tensions are extremely high, and a lot of it to revolve around dreams about who might ‘win the AI war.’ But what if it the winner was nobody, at least not any time soon?”

On the national level, Marcus observes, important efforts to protect consumers from bias, misinformation, and privacy violations are being hampered by a perceived need to develop the technology as soon as possible. The post continues:

“We might not get the consumer protections we need, because we are trying to foster something that may not grow as expected. I am not saying anyone’s particular policies are wrong, but if the premise that generative AI is going to be bigger than fire and electricity turns out to be mistaken, or at least doesn’t bear out in the next decade, it’s certainly possible that we could wind up with what in hindsight is a lot of needless extra tension with China, possibly even a war in Taiwan, over a mirage, along with a social-media level fiasco in which consumers are exploited in news, and misinformation rules the day because governments were afraid to clamp down hard enough.”


Cynthia Murrell, September 6, 2023

A Wonderful Romp through a Tech Graveyard

August 31, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I heard about a Web site called I took a look and what a walk down Memory Lane. You know Memory Lane. It runs close to the Information Superhighway. Are products smashed on the Info Highway? Some, not all.

The entry for ILoo, an innovation from the Softies was born and vaporized in 2003. Killedby describes the breakthrough this way:

iLoo was a smart portable toilet integrating the complete equipment to surf the Internet from inside and outside the cabinet.

I wonder how many van lifers would buy this product. Imagine the TikTok videos. That would keep the Oracle TikTok review team busy and probably provide some amusement for others as well.

And I had forgotten about Google’s weird response to failing to convince the US government to use the Googley search system for Ah, forward truncation — something Google would never ever do. The product/service was Google Public Service Search. Here’s what the tomb stone says:

Google Public Service Search provided governmental, non-profit and academic organizational search results without ads.

That idea bit the dust in 2006, which is the year I have pegged as the point at which Google went all-in on its cheerful, transparent business model. No ads! Imagine that!

I had forgotten about Google’s real time search play. Killedby says:

Google Real-Time Search provided live search results from Twitter, Facebook, and news websites.

I never learned why this was sent to the big digital dumpster behind the Google building on Shoreline. Rumor was that some news outfits and some social media Web sites were not impressed. Google — ever the trusted ad provider — hasta la vista to a social information metasearch.

Great site. I did not see Google Transformic, however. Killedby is quite good.

Stephen E Arnold, August 31, 2023

Google: Trapped in Its Own Walled Garden with Lots of Science Club Alums

August 30, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I read “MapReduce, TensorFlow, Vertex: Google’s Bet to Avoid Repeating History in AI.” I found the idea that Google gets in its own way a retelling of how high school science club management produces interesting consequences.


A young technology wizard finds himself in a Hall of Mirrors at the carnival. He is not sure what is real or in which direction to go. The world of the House of Mirrors is disorienting. The young luminary wants to return to the walled garden where life is more comfortable. Thanks, MidJourney. Four tries and I get this tired illustration. Gradient descent time?

The write up asserts:

Google is in the middle of trying to avoid repeating history when releasing its industry-altering technology.

I disagree. The methods defining Google produce with remarkable consistency a lack of informed control. The idea is that organizations have a culture. That cultural evolves over time, but it remains anchored in its past. Thus, as the organization appears to move forward in time, that organization behaves in a predictable way; for example, Google has an approach to management which guarantees friction. Examples range from the staff protests to the lateral arabesque used to move Dr. Jeff Dean out of the way of the DeepMind contingent.

The write up takes a different view; for example:

Run by engineers, the [Google MapReduce] team essentially did not foresee the coming wave of open-source technology to power the modern Web and the companies that would come to commercialize it.

Google lacks the ability to perceive its opportunities. The company is fenced by its dependence on online advertising. Thus, innovations are tough for the Googlers to put into perspective. One reason is the high school science club ethos of the outfit; the other is that the outside world is as foreign to many Googlers as the world beyond the goldfish’s bowl filled with water. The view is distorted, surreal, and unfamiliar.

How can a company innovate and make a commercially viable product with this in its walled garden? It cannot. Advertising at Google is a me-too product for which Google prior to its IPO settled a dispute with Yahoo over the “inspiration” for pay-to-play search. The cost of this “inspiration” was about $1 billion.

In a quarter century, Google remains what one Microsoftie called “a one-trick pony.” Will the Google Cloud emerge as a true innovation? Nope. There are lots of clouds. Google is the Enterprise Rent-a-Car to the Hertz and Avis cloud rental firms. Google’s innovation track record is closer to a high school science club which has been able to win the state science club content year after year. Other innovators win the National Science Club Award (once called the Westinghouse Award). The context-free innovations are useful to others who have more agility and market instinct.

My view is that Google has become predictable, lurching from one technical paper to legal battle like a sine wave in a Physics 101 class; that is, a continuous wave with a smooth periodic function.

Don’t get me wrong. Google is an important company. What is often overlooked is the cultural wall that keeps the 100,000 smartest people in the world locked down in the garden. Innovation is constrained, and the excitement exists off the virtual campus. Why do so many Xooglers innovate and create interesting things once freed from the walled garden? Culture has strengths and weaknesses. Google’s muffing the bunny, as the article points out, is one defining characteristic of a company which longs for high school science club meetings and competitions with those like themselves.

Tony Bennett won’t be singing in the main cafeteria any longer, but the Googlers don’t care. He was an outsider, interesting but not in the science club. If the thought process doesn’t fit, you must quit.

Stephen E Arnold, August 30. 2023

TikTok: Ever Innovative and Classy Too

July 21, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_t[1]Note: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I have no idea if the write up is accurate. Without doing any deep thinking or even cursory research, the story seems so appropriate for our media environment. (I almost typed medio ambiente. Yikes. The dinobaby is really old on this hot Friday afternoon.)

7 14 entrepreneur in money

“Of course, I share money from videos of destitute people crying in inclement weather. It is the least I can do. I am working on a feature film now,” says the brilliant innovator who has his finger on the pulse of the TikTok viewer. The image of this paragon popped out of the MidJourney microwave quickly.

Here’s the title: “People on TikTok Are Paying Elderly Women to Sit in Stagnant Mud for Hours and Cry.” Yes, that’s the story. The write up states as actual factual:

Over hours, sympathetic viewers send “coins” and gifts that can be exchanged for cash, amounting to several hundred dollars per stream, says Sultan Akhyar, the man credited with inventing the trend. Emojis of gifts, roses, and well-wishes float up gently from the bottom of the live feed. The viral phenomenon known as mandi lumpur, or “mud baths,” gained notoriety in January when several livestreams were posted from Setanggor village …

Three quick observations:

  1. The classy vehicle for this entertainment is TikTok.
  2. Money is involved and shared immediately. Yep, immediately.
  3. Live video, the entertainment of the here-and-now.

I am waiting for the next innovation that takes crying in the mud to another level.

Stephen E Arnold, July 21, 2023

Have You Heard the AI Joke about? Yeah, Over and Over Again

June 23, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_t[1]Note: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Developers have been unable to program one key facet of human intelligence into AI: a sense of humor. Oh, ChatGPT has jokes, but its repertoire is limited. And when asked to explain why something is or is not funny, it demonstrates it just doesn’t get it. Ars Technica informs us, “Researchers Discover that ChatGPT Prefers Repeating 25 Jokes Over and Over.”

6 17 jokes suck

A young person in the audience says to the standup comedian: “Hey, dude. Your jokes suck. Did an AI write them for you?” This illustration, despite my efforts to show the comedian getting bombarded with apple cores, bananas, and tomatoes, would only produce this sanitized image. It’s great, right? Thanks, MidJourney.

Reporter Benj Edwards writes:

“Two German researchers, Sophie Jentzsch and Kristian Kersting, released a paper that examines the ability of OpenAI’s ChatGPT-3.5 to understand and generate humor. In particular, they discovered that ChatGPT’s knowledge of jokes is fairly limited: During a test run, 90 percent of 1,008 generations were the same 25 jokes, leading them to conclude that the responses were likely learned and memorized during the AI model’s training rather than being newly generated.”

See the article, if curious, for the algorithm’s top 10 dad jokes and their frequencies within the 1,008 joke sample. There were a few unique jokes in the sample, but the AI seems to have created them by combining elements of others. And often, those mashups were pure nonsense. We learn:

“The researchers found that the language model’s original creations didn’t always make sense, such as, ‘Why did the man put his money in the blender? He wanted to make time fly.’ When asked to explain each of the 25 most frequent jokes, ChatGPT mostly provided valid explanations according to the researchers’ methodology, indicating an ‘understanding’ of stylistic elements such as wordplay and double meanings. However, it struggled with sequences that didn’t fit into learned patterns and couldn’t tell when a joke wasn’t funny. Instead, it would make up fictional yet plausible-sounding explanations.”

Plausible sounding, perhaps, but gibberish nonetheless. See the write-up for an example. ChatGPT simply does not understand what it means for something to be funny. Humor, after all, is a quintessentially human characteristic. Algorithms may get better at mimicking it, but we must never lose sight of the fact that AI is software, incapable of amusement. Or any other emotion. If we begin thinking of AI as human, we are in danger of forgetting the very real limits of machine learning as a lens on the world.

Cynthia Murrell, June 23, 2023

Neeva: Another Death from a Search Crash on the Information Highway

May 22, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_t[1]Note: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

What will forensic search experts find when they examine the remains of Neeva? The “gee, we failed” essay “Next Steps for Neeva” presents one side of what might be an interesting investigation for a bushy tailed and wide eyed Gen Z search influencer. I noted some statements which may have been plucked from speeches at the original Search Engine Conferences ginned up by an outfit in the UK or academic post mortems at the old International Online Meeting once held in the companionable  Olympia London.

I noted these statements from the cited document:

Statement 1: The users of a Web search system

We started Neeva with the mission to take search back to its users.

The reality is that 99 percent of people using a Web search engine are happy when sort of accurate information is provided free. Yep, no one wants to pay for search. That’s the reason that when a commercial online service like LexisNexis loses one big client, it is expensive, time consuming, and difficulty to replace the revenue. One former LexisNexis big wheel told me when we met in his limousine in the parking lot of the Cherry Hill Mall: “If one of the top 100 law firms goes belly up, we need a minimum of 200 new law firms to sign up for our service and pay for it.”

5 12 mommy I failed

“Mommy, I failed Search,” says Timmy Neeva. Mrs. Neeva says, “What caused your delusional state, Timmy.” The art work is a result of the smart software MidJourney.

Users don’t care about for fee search when those users wouldn’t know whether a hit in a results list was right, mostly right, mostly wrong, or stupidly crazy. Free is the fuel that pulls users, and without advertising, there’s no chance a free service will be able to generate enough cash to index, update the index, and develop new features. At the same time, the plumbing is leaking. Plumbing repairs are expensive: New machines, new ways to reduce power consumption, and oodles of new storage devices.

Users want free. Users don’t want to compare the results from a for fee service and a free service. Users want free. After 25 years, the Google is the champion of free search. Like the old Xoogler search system Search2, Neeva’s wizards never figured that most users don’t care about Fancy Dan yip yap about search.

Statement 2: An answer engine.

We rallied the Neeva team around the vision to create an answer engine.

Shades of DR-LINK: Users want answers. In 1981, a former Predicasts’ executive named Paul Owen told me, “Dialog users want answers.” That sounds logical, and it is to many who are expert informationists the Gospel according to Online. The reality is that users want crunchy, bite sized chunks of information which appear to answer the question or almost right answers that are “good enough” or “close enough for horseshoes.”

Users cannot differentiate from correct and incorrect information. Heck, some developers of search engines don’t know the difference between weaponized information and content produced by a middle school teacher about the school’s graduation ceremony. Why? Weaponized information is abundant; non-weaponized information may not pass the user’s sniff test. And the middle school graduation ceremony may have a typo about the start time or the principal of the school changed his mind due to an active shooter situation. Something output from a computer is believed to be credible, accurate, and “right.” An answer engine is what a free Web search engine spits out. The TikTok search spits out answers, and no one wonders if the results list are shaped by Chinese interests.

Search and retrieval has been defined by Google. The company has a 90 plus percent share of the Web search traffic in North America and Western Europe. (In Denmark, the company has 99 percent of Danish users’ search traffic. People in Denmark are happier, and it is not because Google search delivers better or more accurate results. Google is free and it answers questions.

The baloney about it takes one-click to change search engines sounds great. The reality is as Neeva found out, no one wants to click away from what is perceived to work for them. Neeva’s yip yap about smart software proves that the jazz about artificial intelligence is unlikely to change how free Web search works in Google’s backyard. Samsung did not embrace Bing because users would rebel.

Answer engine. Baloney. Users want something free that will make life easier; for example, a high school student looking for a quick way to crank out a 250 word essay about global warming or how to make a taco. ChatGPT is not answering questions; the application is delivering something that is highly desirable to a lazy student. By the way, at least the lazy student had the git up and go to use a system to spit out a bunch of recycled content that is good enough. But an answer engine? No, an online convenience store is closer to the truth.

Statement 3:

We are actively exploring how we can apply our search and LLM expertise in these settings, and we will provide updates on the future of our work and our team in the next few weeks.

My interpretation of this statement is that a couple of Neeva professionals will become venture centric. Others will become consultants. A few will join the handful of big companies which are feverishly trying to use “smart software” to generate more revenue. Will there be some who end up working at Philz Coffee. Yeah, some. Perhaps another company will buy the “code,” but valuing something that failed is likely to prove tricky. Who remembers who bought Entopia? No one, right?

Net net: The GenZ forensic search failure exercise will produce some spectacular Silicon Valley news reporting. Neeva is explaining its failure, but that failure presaged when Fast Search & Transfer pivoted from Web search to the enterprise, failed, and was acquired by Microsoft. Where is Fast Search now as the smart Bing is soon to be everywhere. The reality is that Google has had 25 years to do cement its search monopoly. Neeva did not read the email. So Neeva sucked up investment bucks with a song and dance about zapping the Big Bad Google with a death ray. Yep, another example of high school science club mentality touched by spreadsheet fever.

Well, the fever broke.

Stephen E Arnold, May 22, 2023

The Big Show from the Google: Meh

May 11, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I ran a query on, asking where I could view the Google Big Show* (no Tallulah Bankhead, just Sundar and friends). You replied as the show was airing on YouTube Live, “I don’t know where the program is.” Love that smart software, right? I clicked off because it was not as good as what Microsoft hit the slopes with in Davos. After Paris, I figured the Googlers would enlist its industry leading smart software and the really thrilled merged Google Brain and DeepMind wizards and roll out a killer program. I was thinking a digital Steve Jobs explaining killer innovations and an ending with “one more thing.” Alas, no reality distortion field, just me too, me too, me too.

sad juggler 5 11 23

A sad amateur vaudeville performer holds a tomato thrown at him when his song and dance act flopped. The art was created by the helpful and available MidJourney system. I wanted to use Bing, but I am not comfortable with the alleged surveillance characteristics of Credge.

How do I know my reaction is semi-valid. Today’s Murdochy Wall Street Journal ran the story about the Big Show on page three with the headline “Google Unveils Search Revamped for AI Era.” That’s like a vaudeville billing toward the bottom with the dog act and phrase “exotic animals.” Page three for the company that ignores the fact that it is selling online advertising with a system that generates oodles of cash yet not enough to keep a full complement of staff? That’s amazing!

I listened — briefly — to the This Week in Google podcast. I can’t understand how a program about Google can beat up on the firm with such gentle punches. I recall the phrase “a lack of strategic vision.” That was it. Navigate away to Lawfare, a program which actually discusses topics with some intellectual body blows.

I spoke with one of my research team. That person’s comment was:

I think Sundar is hitting the applause button and nothing is happening.

I though Google smart music could generate an applause track. Failing that, why not snip an applause track from one of Steve Jobs’s presentations. I like the one with the computer in the envelope or the roll out of the iPhone. I wonder if the AI infused Google search could not locate the video? couldn’t locate the Google in out or off on program, but that is understandable. It was definitely a “don’t fail to miss it” event.

And where was Prabhakar Raghavan, the head of search? Where was Danny Sullivan, Google’s “we deliver relevant results”. Where was the charming head of DeepMind, an executive beloved by his team? Where was Dr. Jeff Dean, the inventor of Chubby and champion of recipes?

I know that OpenAI has been enjoying the Google wizard who explained that Google cannot keep up. See this allegedly accurate report called “Google and OpenAI Will Lose the AI Arms Race to Open-Source Engineers, a Googler Said in a Leaked Document.” Microsoft is probably high fiving and holding Team meetings with happy faces on the Microsofties who are logged in.

* The Big Show was a big flop for NBC when it aired in the early 1950s. Ah, Tallulah and the endless recycling of Jimmy Durante, snippets of stage plays, and truly memorable performers whose talent is different from today’s rap and pop stars. Here’s a famous quote from Tallulah which may be appropriate for Google’s hurry and catch up approach to innovation:

“There’s less here than meets the eye.”

I love that Tallulah quote.

Stephen E Arnold, May 11, 2023

The Google Reorg. Will It Output Xooglers, Not Innovations?

April 25, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumbNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

My team and I have been talking about the Alphabet decision to merge DeepMind with Google Brain. Viewed from one angle, the decision reflects the type of efficiency favored by managers who value the idea of streamlining. The arguments for consolidation are logical; for example, the old tried-and-true buzzword synergy may be invoked to explain the realignment. The decision makes business sense, particularly for an engineer or a number-oriented MBA, accountant, or lawyer.

Arguing against the “one plus one equals three” viewpoint may be those who have experienced the friction generated when staff, business procedures, and projects get close, interact, and release energy. I use the term “energy” to explain the dormant forces unleashed as the reorganization evolves. When I worked at a nuclear consulting firm early in my career, I recall the acrimonious and irreconcilable differences between a smaller unit in Florida and a major division in Maryland. The fix was to reassign personnel and give up on the dream of one big, happy group.

googler for hire

This somewhat pathos-infused image was created using NightCafe Creator and Craiyon. The author (a dinobaby) added the caption which may appeal to large language model-centric start ups with money, ideas, and a “we can do this” vibe.

Over the years, my team and I have observed Google’s struggles to innovate. The successes have been notable. Before the Alphabet entity was constructed, the “old” Google purchased Keyhole, Inc. (a spin-off of the gaming company Intrinsic). That worked after the US government invested in the company. There have been some failures too. My team followed the Orkut product which evolved from a hire named Orkut Büyükkökten, who had developed an allegedly similar system while working at InCircle. Orkut was a success, particularly among users in Brazil and a handful of other countries. However, some Orkut users relied on the system for activities which some found unacceptable. Google killed the social networking system in 2014 as Facebook surged to global prominence as Google’s efforts fell to earth. The company was in a position to be a player in social media, and it botched the opportunity. Steve Ballmer allegedly described Google as a “one-trick pony.” Mr. Ballmer’s touch point was Google’s dependence on online advertising: One source of revenue; therefore, a circus pony able to do one thing. Mr. Ballmer’s quip illustrates the fact that over the firm’s 20-plus year history, Google has not been able to diversify its revenue. More than two-thirds of the company’s money comes directly or indirectly from advertising.

My team and I have watched Google struggle to accept adapt its free-wheeling style to a more traditional business approach to policies and procedures. In one notable incident, my team and I were involved in reviewing proposals to index the content of the US Federal government. Google was one of the bidders. The Google proposal did not follow the expected format of responding to each individual requirement in the request for proposal. In 2000, Google professionals made it clear its method did not require that the government’s statement of work be followed. Other vendors responded, provided the required technical commentary, and produced cost estimates in a format familiar to those involved in the contracting award process. Flash forward 23 years, and Google has figured out how to capture US government work.

The key point: The learning process took a long time.

Why is this example relevant to the Alphabet decision to blend the Brain and DeepMind units? Change — despite the myths of Silicon Valley — is difficult for Alphabet. The tensions at the company are well known. Employees and part-time workers grouse and sometimes carry signs and disturb traffic. Specific personnel matters become, rightly or wrongly, messages that say, Google is unfair. The Google management generated an international spectacle with its all-thumbs approach to human relations. Dr. Timnit Gebru was a co-author of a technical paper which identified a characteristic of smart software. She and several colleagues explained that bias in training data produces results which are skewed. Anyone who has used any of the search systems which used open source libraries created by Google know that outputs are variable, which is a charitable way of saying, “Dr. Gebru was correct.” She became a Xoogler, set up a new organization, and organized a conference to further explain her research — the same research which ruffled the feathers of some Alphabet big birds.

The pace of generative artificial intelligence is accelerating. Disruption can be smelled like ozone in an old-fashioned electric power generation station. My team and I attempt to continue tracking innovations in smart software. We cannot do it. I am prepared to suggest that the job is quite challenging because the flow of new ChatGPT-type products, services, applications, and features is astounding. I recall the early days of the Internet when in 1993 I could navigate to a list of new sites via Mosaic browser and click on the ones of interest. I recall that in a matter of months the list grew too long to scan and was eventually discontinued. Smart software is behaving in this way: Too many people are doing too many new things.

I want to close this short personal essay with several points.

First, mashing up different cultures and a history of differences will act like a brake and add friction to innovative work. Such reorganizations will generate “heat” in the form of disputes, overt or quiet quitting, and an increase in productivity killers like planning meetings, internal product pitches, and getting legal’s blessing on a proposed service.

Second, a revenue monoculture is in danger when one pest runs rampant. Alphabet does not have a mechanism to slow down what is happening in the generative AI space. In online advertising, Google has knobs and levers. In the world of creating applications and hooking them together to complete tasks, Alphabet management seems to lack a magic button. The pests just eat the monoculture’s crop.

Third, the unexpected consequence of merging Brain and DeepMind may be creating what I call a “Xoogler Manufacturing Machine.” Annoyed or “grass is greener” Google AI experts may go to one of the many promising generative AI startups. Note: A former Google employee is sometimes labeled a “Xoogler,” which is shorthand for ex-Google employee.

Net net: In a conversation in 2005 with a Google professional whom I cannot name due to the confidentiality agreement I signed with the firm, I asked, “Do you think people and government officials will figure out what Google is really doing?” This person, who was a senior manager, said to the best of my recollection, “Sure and when people do, it’s game.” My personal view is that Alphabet is in a game in which the clock is ticking. And in the process of underperforming, Alphabet’s advertisers and users of free and for-fee services will shift their attention elsewhere, probably to a new or more agile firm able to leverage smart software. Alphabet’s most recent innovation is the creation of a Xoogler manufacturing system. The product? Former Google employees who want to do something instead of playing in the Alphabet sandbox with argumentative wizards and several ill-behaved office pets.

Stephen E Arnold, April 24, 2023

Average and Smart Software

March 31, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumbNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I by pure serendipity clicked on a link to an essay called in true click-bait style “The Age of Average.” Snappy, eh?

The article by Alex Murrell presents compelling examples of “good enough.” Illustrations and explanations elaborate the idea; for example:

  • AirBnB interiors look similar for up-scale listings
  • Cities look the same
  • American apartments … the same
  • Automobiles … yep.

Other examples reinforce the point: Average, good enough, the big middle, blah.

My team and I have noticed several characteristics about the outputs of smart software.

  • Illustrations of clowns … similar
  • Explanations of technical concepts … like cheating college freshman in a dorm
  • Video outputs … mirrors of sample clips from low-ball video editing programs.

Good enough? Absolutely. Original, delightful, surprising, and innovative?

No, more like meh.

The buzz about Elon Musk and other luminaries sounding alarms about smart software are in my opinion “good enough.”

What’s this “good enough” revolution say about innovation in 2023? Here are my preliminary thoughts:

  • Me too products like smart software applied to a calendar are interesting but what? Certainly not innovative and not useful to me. This dinobaby uses a paper calendar, and it works well.
  • Calls to stop development because of fear that the technology will lead to the end of the world tell me something about those advocating absolutist behavior. Yeah, that is going to work well today.
  • The lemming like behavior, which if Mr. Murrell’s argument is to be believed, is innate. The idea is that we are more alike than different is troubling. Everyone gets a ribbon, Mr. Murrell, even losers in the sixth grade relay race.

Net net: I am troubled by the notion of “good enough.” Whether innate or imposed by existing cultural or technical forces, progress is a result of the exception. “Good enough” means that the unique is unacceptable. What’s more frightening, smart software that suggests a search result or a loss of outlier thinking?

Stephen E Arnold, March 31, 2023

Google: Poked Painfully in Its Snout

March 15, 2023

The essay “Why Didn’t DeepMind Build GPT3?” identifies three reasons for Google getting poked in its snout. According to the author, the reasons were [a] no specific problem to solve, [b] less academic hoo haa at OpenAI, and [c] less perceived risk. My personal view is that Googlers’ intelligence is directed at understanding their navels, not jumping that familiar Silicon Valley chasm. (Microsoft marketers spotted an opportunity and grabbed it. Boom. Score one for the Softies.)


Google’s management team reacting to ChatGPT’s marketing success. The art was created via who owns the creative juices required to fabricate this interesting depiction of Google caught in a moment of management decision making.

These reasons make sense to me. I would suggest that several other Google characteristics played a role, probably bit parts, but roles nevertheless.

Since 2006, Google fragmented; that is, the idea of Google providing great benefit as an heir to the world of IBM and Microsoft gave Google senior managers a Droit du seigneur. However, the revenue for the company came from the less elevated world of online advertising. Thus, there was a disconnect after the fraught early years, the legal battle prior to the IPO, and the development of the mostly automated systems to make sure Google captured revenue in the buying and selling and brokering of online advertising. After 2006, the split between what Google management believed it had created and the reality of the business was institutionalized. Google and smart software was perceived as the one right way. Period. That way was a weird blend of group think and elite academic methods.

Also, Google failed to bring direction and focus to its products. I no longer remember how many messaging services Google offered. I cannot keep track of the company’s different and increasingly oblique investment arms. I have given up trying to recall the many new product and service incubators the company launched. I do remember that Google wanted to solve death. That, I believe, proved to be a difficult problem as if Loon balloons, digital games, and dealing with revenue challengers like Amazon and Facebook were no big deal. The fragmentation struck me as similar to the colored particles tossed during Holi, just with a more negative environmental effect. Googlers were vision impaired when it came to seeing what priorities to set.

Plus, from my point of view Google professionals lacked the ability to focus beyond getting more money, influence, and access to the senior managers. In short, Google demonstrated the inability to manage its people and the company. The last few years have been characterized by employee issues and other legal swamps. The management method has reminded me of my high school science club. Every member was a top student. Every member believed their view was correct. Every member believed that the traditional methods of teaching were stupid, boring, and irrelevant. The problem was that instead of chasing money and closeness to the “senior managers”, my high school science club was chasing validation and manifestation of superiority. That was baloney, of course, but what do 16 year olds actually understand. Google’s management is similar to my high school science club.

Are there other factors? Sure, and these include a wildly fluctuating moral compass, confusing personal objectives with ethical objectives, and giving into base instincts (baby making in the legal department, heroin on a yacht with a specialized contractor, and March Madness fun in Las Vegas).

Who will chronicle these Google gaffes? Perhaps someone will input a text string into ChatGPT to get the information many have either ignored, forgotten, or did not understand.

Stephen E Arnold, March xx, 2022

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