Facebook: Not Happy

September 20, 2021

“What the Wall Street Journal Got Wrong” is interesting, and you may want to read it. My synopsis is: “We’re doing good.”

I noted this passage from the firm’s top PR dog:

Facebook understands the significant responsibility that comes with operating a global platform. We take it seriously, and we don’t shy away from scrutiny and criticism. But we fundamentally reject this mischaracterization of our work and impugning of the company’s motives.

I like this statement. It’s bold. It ignores the criticism. It sidesteps tricky issues like human trafficking. Very nice.

What makes me happy is the commitment to excellence. I do wonder where the Zuck is in this brutal rejoinder to leaked company info. Is he “leaning in”? Is his leaning out? Practicing a dose doe?

Stephen E Arnold, September 20, 2021

Will Life Become Directed Nudges?

September 17, 2021

I read an article with a thought provoking message. The write up is “Changing Customer Behavior in the Next New Normal.” How do these changes come about? The article is about insurance, which has seemed like a Ponzi pie dolloped with weird assurances when disaster strikes. And when disaster strikes where are the insurance companies? Some work like beavers to avoid fulfilling their end of the financial deal policy holders thought was a sure thing. House burn up in California? Ida nuke your trailer? Yeah, happy customers.

But what’s interesting about the write up is that it advocates manipulation, nudges, and weaponized digital experiences to get people to buy insurance. I learned:

The experience of living through the pandemic has changed the way people live and behave. Changes which offered positive experiences will last longer, especially the ones driven by well-being, convenience, and simplicity. Thereby, digital adoption, value-based personalized purchasing, and increased health awareness will be the customer behaviors that will shape the next new normal. This will be a game-changer for the life insurance industry and provide an opportunity for the industry to think beyond the usual, innovate, and offer granular, value-based and integrated products to meet customer needs. The focus will be on insurance offerings, which will combine risk transfer with proactive and value-added services and emerge as a differentiator.

Not even the murky writing of insurance professionals can completely hide the message. Manipulation is the digital future. If people selling death insurance have figured it out, other business sectors will as well.

The future will be full of directed experiences.

That’s super.

Stephen E Arnold, September 17, 2021

Mythic Search: Yext Introduces the Phoenix with Summer Updates

September 15, 2021

Enterprise search firm Yext is launching new features and a revamped algorithm, poetically named “Phoenix.” We learn about the updates from the press release, “New Yext Features and Algorithm Update Bring AI Search Optimizations to Businesses” at PR Newswire. We learn:

“In addition to features powered by Phoenix like dynamic reranking, the release introduces revamped test search and experience training, as well as a reimagining of Yext’s data connector and app frameworks — all to equip businesses with modern and powerful search solutions.”

The dynamic reranking feature sounds promising. Phoenix analyzes user behavior to push the most relevant results to the top. We are given an example:

“If customers consistently click on a blog post when searching for vaccine information on a healthcare organization’s website, dynamic reranking will push that content to the top of the search results page so it appears first any time someone searches about vaccines. The Phoenix update also introduces more relevant results for queries about locations that are ‘open now’ and rich text fields, like lists, in featured snippets.”

Another feature is the ability to build Yext platform configurations and package them into installable apps. The update also makes it easy to test search experiences from the customer’s point of view. But Yext may promise a bit much with its updates to data connectors:

“With the new update to Yext’s data connectors framework, businesses can use a low-code ‘extract, transform, load’ (ETL) tool that extracts all of their data and transforms it into the same format for easy integration into their knowledge graph (a unique brain-like database of facts).”

We do not want to be critical, but we are skeptical when a vendor of search and retrieval uses the word “all.” Certain types of data are notoriously difficult to access, like chemical structures, audio, video, images, and product-management quality assurance data, to name a few. Retrieving “all” data is unlikely at prices most organizations can afford. Still, it does sound like Phoenix is a step forward from the company that promises “Search made for today. Not 1999.” Today’s “search” dates back a half century, but who is interested in history?

Cynthia Murrell, September 15, 2021

Are Mainframes Still Numero Uno?

September 15, 2021

Mainframes are robust, powerful, and cost-effective computing tools, but they still have their doubters. Planet Mainframe explores why mainframes are the best option with statistical data to verify their claim: “The IBM Mainframe: The Most Powerful And Cost-Effective Computing Platform For Business.”

It is true that Microsoft, Google, and Amazon do not use mainframes, instead they use commodity servers. Hardware is cheaper on commodity servers, but maintenance, software, and operational costs are cheaper in the long run on mainframes. IT expenses are an increasing part of ongoing business costs. Different industries have different operating costs and technology needs, but mainframes still prove to be the cheaper option.

Mainframes also offer a competitive advantage:

“Any large company interested in maximizing computing power AND controlling cost will clearly enjoy a competitive advantage over a similar company that just seeks to avoid mainframe technology in favor of server farms. This advantage translates directly to the bottom line, shareholders and investors. And for a company considering a mainframe migration project as a means for cutting costs, this information could be seen as “found money.””

Anyone who claims that a mainframe is not the superior system is simply ignorant or biased towards commodity servers. Organizations that could benefit from a mainframe system are not upgrading, because they are told it is not cost-effective and it is easier to continue using their older systems.

So Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have not upgraded to a mainframe system, because they do have the money, because they do not want to take the time to change. The “logical” approach is too much trouble.

Wow, I want a mainframe in my home office which is a small closet.

Whitney Grace, September 15, 2021

Facebook: A Curious Weakness and a Microsoft Strength

September 7, 2021

I read “The Irony of Facebook’s VR Collaboration Debacle” authored by a wizard whom I associate with IBM. I am not sure why the author’s observations trigger images of Big Blue, mainframes, and blazing history of Watson.

The angle in this essay is:

Collaboration is a social process where people get together to collectively solve problems. But Facebook sucks at social. A more accurate descriptor is that Facebook is a gossip platform at scale, which has done considerable harm to several countries and put them at considerable existential risk.

Yikes. “Sucks.” “Gossip platform.” And “harm to several countries.”

The write up zips into Zoom-land which Facebook allegedly wants to reimagine as a virtual reality metaverse.

Where is the analysis of “Facebook sucks” heading? Here’s a clue:

Facebook’s Horizon Workrooms is not collaboration. Microsoft Teams would be a better solution for information sharing because you’d see Zuckerberg, not an avatar that looks nothing like him.

I think I have it. The write up is a rah-rah for Teams. I was hoping that the conclusion would point to IBM video services.

Nope, it’s Microsoft a company I presume which does not suck, is not a gossip platform, and has not done harm to several countries?

Stephen E Arnold, September 7, 2021

Intel: The Horse Collar/Ridge Whatever Outfit Does Alder Lake

August 30, 2021

I read “Intel Unveils Details of 100B-Transistor AI Chip and Alder Lake Hybrid Processor.” Interesting. The write up explains a chip with 100 billion transistors. Like IBM’s latest, the chip will include artificial intelligence. Like Lego blocks, “plates” can be snapped together.

Here’s the passage in “Alder Lake Extravaganza: Intel Unloads Details on its Next-Gen CPU” I found somewhat sobering

After six years stuck on 14nm, Intel needs to demonstrate that it can recapture process and performance leadership.

Who will fab these chips? Intel’s planned facilities in water-starved Arizona. TSMC? Existing facilities owned by Intel? An acquisition’s facilities?

When will these chips become available? After Horse chip leaves the stable?

Stephen E Arnold, August 30, 2021

99 Percent Accurate: Close Enough for PR Output

August 24, 2021

I am not entering a horse in this race, a dog in this fight, or a pigeon in this race. I want to point to a write up in a newspaper in some way very tenuously connected to the former driver of the Bezos bulldozer. That write is “Opinion: Apple’s New Child Safety Tool Comes with Privacy Trade-Offs — Just Like All the Others.”

Right off the bat I noted the word “all.” Okay, categorical affirmatives put my teeth edge the same way Miss Blackburn’s fingernails scraping on the blackboard in calculus class did. “All”. Very tidy.

The write up contains an interesting statement or two. I circled this one in Bezos bulldozer orange:

The practice of on-device flagging may sound unusually violative. Yet Apple has a strong argument that it’s actually more protective of privacy than the industry standard. The company will learn about the existence of CSAM only when the quantity of matches hits a certain threshold, indicating a collection.

The operative word is threshold. Like “all”, threshold sparks a few questions in my mind. Does it yours? Let me provide a hint: Who or what sets a threshold? And under what conditions is a threshold changed? There are others, but I want to make this post readable to my TikTok-like readers.

I liked the conundrum angle too:

The benefit of nabbing abusers in this case may outweigh these hypothetical harms, especially if Apple holds itself to account — and the public keeps on the pressure. Yet the company’s conundrum emphasizes an unpleasant truth: Doing something to protect public safety in the Internet age is better than doing nothing — yet every “something” introduces issues of its own.

Fascinating. I am curious how Apple PR and marketing will respond. Hopefully with fewer unsupported assertions, info about thresholds, and the logician’s bane: A categorical affirmative.

Stephen E Arnold, August 24, 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 Google Wants to Be Sciencey

August 19, 2021

This write up is not about time crystals. This write up is about being sciencey or more sciencey than any other online advertising company is at this time. Freeze that thought, please.

The Next Web exclaims, “Google’s ‘Time Crystals’ Could Be the Greatest Scientific Achievement of our Lifetimes: EurekaEurekaEurekaEureka!” We are told Google researchers and their partners “may” have created time crystals, which were hypothesized nine years ago. We also learn the research has yet to survive a full peer-review process. At the very least, this represents quite a leap for the company’s marketing department, which has been trying to position the company as the quantum leader for years. To say writer Tristan Greene is excited about the (potential) triumph is an understatement. He declares:

“Eureka! A research team featuring dozens of scientists working in partnership with Google‘s quantum computing labs may have created the world’s first time crystal inside a quantum computer. … These scientists may have produced an entirely new phase of matter.”

Greene notes that it is difficult to understand exactly what time crystals are, but he tries his best to explain it to us. See the write-up for his attempt, and/or turn to one of these alternate explanations for more details. The quantum-computing enthusiast goes on to explain why he is so excited:

“Literally everyone should care. As I wrote back in 2018, time crystals could be the miracle quantum computing needs. Time crystals have always been theoretical. And by ‘always,’ I mean: since 2012 when they were first hypothesized. If Google‘s actually created time-crystals, it could accelerate the timeline for quantum computing breakthroughs from ‘maybe never’ to ‘maybe within a few decades.’ At the far-fetched, super-optimistic end of things – we could see the creation of a working warp drive in our lifetimes. Imagine taking a trip to Mars or the edge of our solar system, and being back home on Earth in time to catch the evening news. And, even on the conservative end with more realistic expectations, it’s not hard to imagine quantum computing-based chemical and drug discovery leading to universally-effective cancer treatments. This could be the big eureka we’ve all been waiting for. I can’t wait to see what happens in peer-review.”

Yes, we too would like to see the outcome of that process. Will Google be trumpeting the results from the rooftops? Or will it quietly move on as with some previous Google endeavors?

It’s more likely that Google wants to generate some sciencey stuff to muffle the antitrust investigations, the Timnit Gebru matter, and the company’s data collection services which support online advertising.

Freeze that with a time crystal, please.

Cynthia Murrell, August 19, 2021

Is MIT Dissing Its CompSci Grads, Maybe the Google, IBM, and Possibly AI in General

August 3, 2021

Hey, what does one expect from an outfit which did some Fancy Dancing with alleged human trafficker Jeffrey Epstein? I don’t expect much. It was amusing to me to read “Hundreds of AI Tools Have Been Built to Catch Covid. None of Them Helped.” Why am I laughing? Well, there are the MIT spawned smart software systems populating architecturally disappointing structures in the Boston area. There is also the really nifty teaming with IBM Watson (yep, the smart software systems which is less exciting that RedHat when it comes to tickling shareholders’ fancies). Watson, as you may recall, is allegedly the first artificial intelligence system to be placed on a patient trolley and bustled out of the emergency room exit by a clutch of cancer docs.

The referenced write up makes clear that Covid is either smarter than the smartest people in the world, or the smartest people in the world are dumber than their résumés suggest. The truth, I admit, might be somewhere in the middle of tenure squabbles, non-reproducible results, and good old PT Barnun malarkey.

The write up states:

The AI community, in particular, rushed to develop software that many believed would allow hospitals to diagnose or triage patients faster, bringing much-needed support to the front lines—in theory. In the end, many hundreds of predictive tools were developed. None of them made a real difference, and some were potentially harmful.

Yo, what’s this harm thing? Like Google’s brilliant progress on solving death, the hubris and rah rah about what a PhD demonstration implies, and what those Rube Goldberg constructions of downloadable code deliver are quite different.

The write up drags a reader through case examples of baloney. The write up documents failure. Yep, F. Failure for whiz kids who never experienced a set back which a helicopter mom or proud PhD mentor couldn’t address. A phone call from donors like Mr. Epstein probably helped too.

So the big question is posed by the estimable MIT cuddled write up: What went wrong?

What’s the answer?

Guess what. Lots. Bad data, wonky algorithms, statistical drift, grant crazed researchers.

This is a surprise?

Nope. In a nutshell, the entire confection of smart software’s capabilities is deconstructed in my opinion:

In a sense, this is an old problem with research. Academic researchers have few career incentives to share work or validate existing results. There’s no reward for pushing through the last mile that takes tech from “lab bench to bedside,”.

Should I bring up Mr. Epstein’s penchant for bedside activities. History will have to judge which is the more problematic social behavior.

Stephen E Arnold, August 3, 2021

Next Page »

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta