Facial Recognition: Accuracy in Marketing

March 10, 2019

Measurements of accuracy in search and retrieval, image recognition, and tagging human behavior are variable. Results wander from evaluation to evaluation. One can break a text retrieval system by including emojis or explicit cues that  a statement belongs to a specific context. What does “cool” mean?

Recognition of images is equally tricky. Toss in low contrast images with individuals wearing hats, sun glasses, and motorcycle gang style bandanas. How accurate are these systems?

The way to work around the problem is to craft test sets of content or images. The idea is that a well formed test set will provide a level playing field.

The problem is, of course, that life is not a level playing field.

I read summaries of the NIST image recognition tests, the subsequent calls for control by Microsoft (the fading monopolist), and some of the comments about facial recognition (FR) systems having difficulty with certain ethnic groups.

When I read these, I recall the image from a hotel opening, I wonder if today’s systems can ID these individuals “accurately”:


The write up “Why Chinese Companies Plug a US Test for Facial Recognition” summarizes the results of a NIST test and references other FR bake offs. The results are variable.

My view is that the Chinese systems’ performance is less about accuracy and more about sending a message; namely,

China is in the game.

The point of FR may be that accuracy is less important than reminding those interested in FR that Chinese technology has caught up and may surpass US smart software.

Will FR be 100 percent accurate? Not as long as photos like this have to be figured out:


FR is making progress. Progress is incremental. That applies to the US and other countries’ systems.

Stephen E Arnold, March 10, 2019

Simple Ways Intelligence is Fighting Cyber Crimes

March 8, 2019

Our world has never been more technologically advanced, that’s a fact. That also means that the digital threats have never been more dire, right? Yes and no, according to one source, who says that the technology might change but humans never do. We learned more from a recent CNBC story, “Google Infosec Head Heather Adkins: Ignore Scare Stories.”

According to the story:

“Adkins said sometimes the marketplace suffers from a “proliferation of cybersecurity professionals” offering conflicting advice on passwords, antivirus software, safety practices and so on…But the best rules for individuals looking to secure their personal information are the classics, Adkins said…Keep your software up to date, and don’t re-use the same password.”

This and many other examples show that good old fashioned foresight and detective work can still help fight cybercrime, even in this world of machine learning and nanotech. As Adkins says, let’s look forward in regards to security, but also not forget our past.

However, fear, uncertainty, and doubt sell—particularly to some executives uncomfortable with today’s business environment.

Patrick Roland, March 8, 2019

IBM at the Consumer Electronic Show

January 6, 2019

Yep, IBM is a consumer product company. I know this because I read “LA Sues Weather Channel App Over Stealthy Data Collection.” Consumer centric outfits like Facebook and Google may operate this way. If IBM is indeed sucking and selling data from is Weather Channel App, it too must be a consumer products’ company.

I noted “Struggling IBM Uses CES to Reinvent Itself.” I assumed that that reinvention was selling data. But, no, once again I was incorrect, a common failing.

I learned from the write up:

At CES, Rometty is expected to emphasize IBM’s (NYSE: IBM) undisputed AI chops along with its aggressive moves into the hybrid cloud market and quantum computing. But the underlying theme will be what the company characterizes as “new data,” and using AI and cloud platforms to “refine” data into something useful.

I thought it was a somewhat squishy marketing opportunity, a way to disappoint stakeholders, and a cloud of fog generated about mainframes actually selling.

No CES for me. My hunch is that those seeking gadgets will have a tough time hauling away Watson on a laptop or a desktop IBM quantum computer.

See, IBM does do consumer products as long as one defines consumer in a somewhat narrow sense.

But that sneaky app thing is promising. Isn’t the former head of the Weather Channel now head of Watson. The IBM revolving door makes me dizzy.

Stephen E Arnold, January 6, 2019

IBM: Sharing Wisdom

January 3, 2019

Apparently, it does not take just one white paper to convince people that IBM is number one—it takes 10. That is the number of publications the company shares on its AI Research page, “The New Frontiers of AI: Selected IBM Research AI Publications from 2018.” The introduction to the collection reads:

“Much of the recent progress in AI has relied on data-driven techniques like deep learning and artificial neural networks. Given sufficiently large labeled training data sets and enough computation, these approaches are achieving unprecedented results. As a result, there has been a rapid gain on ‘narrow AI’ – tasks in areas such as computer vision, speech recognition, and language translation. However, a broader set of AI capabilities is needed to progress AI towards solving real-world challenges. In practice, AI systems need to learn effectively and efficiently without large amounts of data. They need to be robust, fair and explainable. They need to integrate knowledge and reasoning together with learning to improve performance and enable more sophisticated capabilities.

We also noted:

“Where are we in this evolution? While ‘general AI’ – AI that can truly think, learn, and reason like a human- is still within the realm of science fiction, ‘broad AI’ that can learn more generally and work across different disciplines is within our reach. IBM Research is driving this evolution. We have been a pioneer of artificial intelligence since the inception of the field, and we continue to expand its frontiers through our portfolio of research focused on three areas: Advancing AI, Scaling AI, and Trusting AI.”

As the echoes of IBM tooting its own horn linger, one can glean some interesting information from the documents presented. The papers are broken into color-coded categories—Advancing AI, Scaling AI, and Trusting AI. A couple of the simpler titles include “Listening Comprehension over Argumentative Content” and “Training Deep Neural Networks with 8-bit Floating Point Numbers.” Navigate to the post for all the (very) technical wisdom.

Cynthia Murrell, January 3, 2019

Life with a Digital Father: An Interesting View of Employee Protests at Google

December 14, 2018

I noted “The ‘father of the internet’ says that Google employee backlash to its defense work was just ‘a lot of misunderstanding’.” Someone told me that I should locate this article.

I did.

Here’s the paragraph I circled in very bright yellow:

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the positive benefits of working with [and] in the public sector, the military being a part of that.

The speaker is Vint Cerf, the chief evangelist for Google.

The “that” is a contract with the Department of Defense.

The misunderstanding is or was in the minds of Googlers.

The “positive benefit” may be selling more work to the US government, that is, the military with an interest in smart drones to do the find, fix, and finish business.

After watching most of Google’s testimony before a committee of US elected officials, I do not understand how any Google level person could misunderstand what Google’s senior management says.

Crystal. Clear.

Stephen E Arnold, December 14, 2018

Quantum Computing: Rah, Rah, Rah

November 16, 2018

I don’t pay much attention to quantum computing. I gave a lecture at Yale, a fine institution a decade ago. At lunch, one of the lights of intellectual insight was yammering about quantum computing. I listened and offered, “Quantum. Think about light. Photon lensing maybe?” Wow, quite a reaction to the wave/particle thing that my former employer Halliburton Nuclear found interesting. I fell silent and listened to explanations of low temperatures, states, and the end of encryption as we know it. Believe me, I was glad to get to the train station and head back to rural Kentucky.

Over the years, I have noted the increasing interest in quantum computing. The idea is that the barriers or limitations of today’s computing methods are not doing the job. You know. Predicting the weather, figuring out what bond to buy or sell, and solving cancer or maybe even solving death. (That’s a Google thing, by the way.)

I read “The Case Against Quantum Computing.” I want to highlight a couple of statements in the write up. After the dust settles, you may be a believer in quantum computing or own a chunk of D-Wave Systems or some other forward leaning quantum computing outfit.


The D-Wave 2000Q is perfect for use on the run, in your home office, or on the beach.

The first statement I marked was:

It has gotten to the point where many researchers in various fields of physics feel obliged to justify whatever work they are doing by claiming that it has some relevance to quantum computing.

This is the everybody’s doing it approach. I am waiting for some bright spark to suggest that quantum computing enterprise search will make it possible to find the most recent version of a PowerPoint a sales manager used in a presentation yesterday after a wine infused lunch.

The second statement I noted was:

When will useful quantum computers be constructed? The most optimistic experts estimate it will take 5 to 10 years. More cautious ones predict 20 to 30 years. (Similar predictions have been voiced, by the way, for the last 20 years.) I belong to a tiny minority that answers, “Not in the foreseeable future.”

Roger that.

I found this statement interesting as well:

A useful quantum computer needs to process a set of continuous parameters that is larger than the number of subatomic particles in the observable universe.

My hunch is that the wizard at Yale thinks that quantum computing will be the next big thing. That’s useful.

Stephen E Arnold, November 16, 2018

IBM Watson: Now Tackling Travel Costs

November 13, 2018

Machine learning and artificial intelligence is really making a dent on corporate waste. Those interested in the bottom line are sitting up and taking notice. We discovered one inventive way to shed a few pounds of corporate flab from a recent IT News Africa story, “TravelPort, IBM Launch AI Travel Platform.”

According to the story:

“Delivered via the IBM Cloud, the platform uses IBM Watson capabilities to intelligently track, manage, predict and analyze travel costs in one place to fundamentally change how companies manage and optimize their travel programs… The new platform features advanced artificial intelligence, and provides cognitive computing, predictive data analytics using “what-if” type scenarios, and integrated travel and expense data.”

While corporate travel might not seem like it will change your life personally, unless you own a globetrotting company, it provides insight into a bigger picture. Take, for example, how oncology is slashing costs with AI with technology that detects cancer more accurately than human eyes. There is seemingly no end to ways in which AI can help pull a company from the red to the black. Even public services, like courtrooms, have begun using this tech to speed up the sentencing process. Watch for this to seep into your world, even if you don’t expect it.

Those surprising IBM Watson folks. Talented.

Patrick Roland, November 13, 2018

IBM Inventor A Minority, Female, And An Anomaly

October 27, 2018

Women and minorities in the technology industry are underrepresented and often white whales, purple giraffes, pink elephants, and even black swans. The Dallas News reports on one of these colorful creatures in the article, “Star IBM Inventor Fears Emails Can Be Brutal, So She Built A Tool To Fix It.”

Romelia Flores is Latina, female, and one of IBM’s top worldwide technologists. She holds 38 patents, including several “high-value patents” that have impacted IBM’s revenue stream, and she has 30 more pending. Flores works with clients to help design products and solutions to their problems in imaginative and innovative ways.

IBM has named Flores an IBM master inventor and she is extremely proud of that title. One of her favorite inventions is an email tone checker. Flores said that email is often impersonal and brutal, so her tone analyzer. She designed it after she was criticized for being too blunt in her communications.

The tone analyzer is apparently very smart:

“‘So before I hit send on my email, it flags to me, ‘Hey, Romelia, you didn’t put any courtesy verbiage at the front,’ or ‘Gee, Romelia, you were pretty direct at giving orders, so you might want to add a please here.’ “It even factors in the personality traits of the IBM recipient. ‘It’ll say, ‘Hey, she doesn’t respond well to directness, so maybe you should be a little nicer and lighten up your email.’ It’ll even propose verbiage for me. Is that cool or what?’”

The rest of the article is an empowering puff piece about an extremely intelligent female and minority engineer at IBM. It makes you wonder if this piece was written to demonstrate how progressive IBM is. Is Flores an anomaly at IBM? Let’s ask Watson? Well, Watson seems to be a male. Is that an issue?

Whitney Grace, October 27, 2018

IBM Watson: Amping Up Its Marketing with Hockey Harmony, Earthquake Coping, and World Surf League Insights

October 25, 2018

IBM’s dip in revenues may have contributed to the step up in IBM Watson marketing. The Beyond Search goose noted several interesting examples. These are long on assertions and short on facts about training time, cost, and support. But, hey, this is marketing in 2018, so the approach can be a bit like the two step on Dancing with the Stars.

ITEM ONE: Influential, a company using IBM Watson to power its revenues, has hired a new business officer. Andrew Pelosi (does the name sound familiar?) will be go to smart software champion. His preparation for the job? VP of biz dev at the World Surf League. Sounds like a good fit.

ITEM TWO: What do you do when an earthquake strikes your child’s school? The correct answer, “Trust IBM Watson.” Yep, IBM is in the earthquake amelioration business. “When an Earthquake Hits, Watson Solution Helps Schools Cope” reveals:

“Frida [a Watson powered solution] mitigates natural disasters by combining emergency data with AI technology using IBM IoT platform, Watson Studio, and Watson Services,” said Lin Ju, Watson Studio senior development manager at IBM Canada Lab who led the team. “For our proof of concept, we focused on earthquakes in schools, but this solution can be applied to other areas.”

Rest easy. Frida Watson will help schools cope. Parents? Maybe.

ITEM THREE: How will a company manufacturing athletic gear find a sports personality? The answer, as you might have guessed, is IBM Watson. According to “Fizziology Employs Watson Linguistic Analysis to Match Endorsing Athletes”:

In Fizziology’s endeavor, which it says is the first brand-to-celebrity matching employing the supercomputer’s linguistic analysis, Watson examines the social media posts of a given brand’s fans to determine the personality traits they assign to the brand, as well as the traits indicated by the athletes’ own posts. In both cases, the posts were made to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Do athletes write their own social media posts? My hunch is, “Maybe.” If this is true, Watson will extract from a PR person’s posts the data needed to perform a match. Watson has many talents, including figuring out an athlete’s Closeness, Curiosity, Self Expression, and Harmony score. Yep, hockey players in the Harmony department.

Ah, IBM Watson. Interesting stuff.

Stephen E Arnold, October 24, 2018

Advice for High School Science Club Type Managers

October 25, 2018

I spotted an interesting quote in “Aramark Exec: ‘Trying to Explain AI and Machine Learning to the C-Suite Is a Waste of Time’”.

Here it is:

“Trying to explain AI and machine learning to the C-suite is a waste of time,” said Pavan Arora, Chief AI Officer at Aramark. “Instead, show them what you can do. In doing so, you need to figure out your metric for this work. For example, if you’re looking at labor and optimization, the metric is about reducing over time and data optimization.”

Is this attitude one of the reasons companies like Facebook and Google take a more general approach to explaining exactly what their systems are doing?

High school science club management theory: Explaining why one puts a motorcycle on the roof of the high school is a waste of time. “They” would not understand. Now about those MIT pranks?

Stephen E Arnold, October 25, 2018

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