Google Rivets: Strong or Brittle?

June 14, 2019

An app that helps kids learn to read sounds like a great Googley idea. And (concerns about potential advertising to or tracking of minors aside) it would be—if only it were easy to access. One frustrated father at Ausdroid reports, “Google’s New Kid-Focused Reading App Revit is Incompatible with Their Kid-Focused Family Link Accounts.” After checking out the app for himself, writer Duncan Jaffrey decided it was worthy of setting up for his daughter. He had no problems using the parent-side setup from his Google account. But when he got to the tablet’s Family Link account, things went awry. He writes:

“Surely this app – an educational app for kids – should be able to work nicely with Family Link. Well, no, it doesn’t. It appears there’s no way for me to sign into Rivet using my Google account, using its authorization process on an Android device running a kids Family Link profile, unless I happen to have a Google for Education account myself. Which I don’t.

We noted this statement:

“So, I figure it’s a reading app, it’s not that bad if I just allow complete access for this app, so I try to sign into Rivet with my daughter’s Google Family Link account … you guessed it a child’s Family Link account is not allowed to be used to sign into Rivet. Agrahhhhhhh.

The article added:

“So, what was I left with? I had to run the app not signed in, which means you’re not getting the progress and usage tracking, it also means that when your child accidentally hits the persistent LOG IN button that’s always on screen it pulls them out of the story their reading with the resulting tech-inspired outrage you’d expect from a child.”

Jaffrey does note that Rivet was created by one of Google’s labs, Area 120, which operates more or less independently. Perhaps, he grants, that is why the apps do not play well together. Whatever the reason, the author has asked Google about a work-around; there are no updates, though, as of this writing.

Cynthia Murrell, June 14, 2019

A Brief Explanation of Google Knowledge Graph

June 3, 2019

A “knowledge graph” maps series of connected items, like links or people, and Google has based its search results upon this concept for several years. Analytics India Magazine explains the technology in the write-up, “Knowledge Graphs Are the Reason Why You See Mona Lisa when You Google da Vinci.” Writer Disha Misal specifies:

“Based on the meta description, title, keywords and content, the meanings of the words that you search for is understood with the help of Knowledge Graphs. The results that follow the search is linked to the intent of the user. According to Google, this information is retrieved from many sources, including the CIA World Factbook, Wikidata, and Wikipedia. In October 2016, Google announced that the Knowledge Graph held over 70 billion facts. For instance, if you try to search the IAF pilot and Astronaut Rakesh Sharma on the internet, you will see that the Knowledge Graphs, which is a panel next to the web results, show suggestions that you might be interested in. Since he is an Indian and the user entering his name in the search box, you are probably interested in Indian astronauts so the Knowledge Graphs gives you pages like Kalpana Chawla, Sunita Williams and Ravish Malhotra.”

Of course, such conclusions require massive amounts of data to draw from, and part of Knowledge Graph is a framework for organizing and communicating that data. Misal notes the benefits of this technology go beyond search functionality—it is also being used to inform research on AI and machine learning. For more information, the article links to a video Google put out in 2012 introducing its Knowledge Graph.

Cynthia Murrell, June 3, 2019

Books and Learning: Go Mobile, Stay Clueless

May 27, 2019

I read “The Books of College Libraries Are Turning into Wallpaper.” The main idea is that today’s students are not using libraries to locate books which are then read, thought about, and analyzed in order to:

  1. Learn
  2. Find useful facts
  3. Exploit serendipity
  4. Figure out which source or sources is relevant to a particular issue or topic.

The Atlantic states about Yale University:

There has been a 64 percent decline in the number of books checked out by undergraduates from Bass Library over the past decade.

News flash.

Once online information systems found their way into libraries in the 1980s, the shift from books to online information access was underway. How do I know? I worked at the database unit of the Courier Journal & Louisville Times. Greg Payne and Dennis Auld acquired the Abstracted Business Information product and converted it to an online research source for those interested in the major journal articles about commercial enterprises. The Courier Journal acquired the database product and marketed ABI/INFORM to university libraries with some success. Many people rowed the boat that raced to become one of the most widely accessed business information databases in the world in the period from 1980 to 1986 when other online products nibbled into ABI/INFORM’s position.

The point is that 1980 to 2019 is the period in which the shift from journals and books to online for certain types of research has been chugging along.

Net net: The decline in the use of books has been underway for more than 39 years. The consequence is less informed people who routinely tell me, “I am an expert researcher.” What these individuals lost in a cloud of unknowing do not comprehend is that someone is deciding for them what is relevant and important. You may call atrophied thinking an oddity. I call it “deep stupid.” In a well stocked library one can become deeply informed.

Stephen E Arnold, May 27, 2019

BBC Explains the End of the Open Internet After It Ended

May 18, 2019

A 3,500 word story from the BBC explains the end of the open Internet. The main idea is that the US approach of sending anything to anyone is not what China, Russia, and other countries will accept. “The Global Internet Is Disintegrating. What Comes Next?” is not news. The essay is a pinch of intelligence agency analysis (a small pinch I might add), some business school semantics, and the routine quotes from experts.

The “what comes next” is mostly ignored. The reason is that the actions taken by a number of countries over the last decade represent the construction of a series of walled gardens. Blocking access is old hat in Iran. China and Russia have stepped up their efforts with political hand waving. Russia has laws which make the US companies either roll over or shut down. How about LinkedIn in Russia?

China is doing the system administrator squeeze. The twist is that Chinese high technology companies are lending a helping hand. Last time I was in China it took only a few minutes for my mobile phone to become a less than helpful gizmo. Five years earlier it took a couple of days to achieve the near useless state.

The BBC explains:

A separate internet for some, Facebook-mediated sovereignty for others: whether the information borders are drawn up by individual countries, coalitions, or global internet platforms, one thing is clear – the open internet that its early creators dreamed of is already gone.

With the business school jargon “digital deciders” wafting through the article, the question “what comes next” is not answered. The reason is that the reality is unpalatable to many in what China and Russia think of as the West.

The actions of countries attempting to prevent unfettered flows of information are designed to protect the government and commercial sector from the difficulties that arise when using US technology without an old fashioned speed limiter. Smaller countries are not keen on having Facebook and Twitter users coordinate protests and disrupt what these countries’ governments see as “normal” processes.

The so called digital deciders have already decided. The future is in place, and what needs to be described and understood include:

  • The actions of China and Russia are designed to control US influence. The future is a shift from control to more aggressive actions.
  • The alignment of nation states will be a decision by those countries to sign on for either the China approach or the Russia approach. In short, new blocs are now taking shape.
  • The behaviors of US high technology companies are designed to increase the power of these firms. Therefore, the companies will find themselves sued and hassled because some thinkers in China and Russia believe it is their duty to step in and reign in the actions of unregulated US firms.

The future of the Internet is, in my opinion, a battle ground. Bad things can happen in such a place even if it is digital.

Stephen E Arnold, May 18, 2019

digital deciders

HPE: The Acquisition Champ Makes a Move

May 17, 2019

I read “HP Enterprise Nears Deal to Buy Supercomputer Pioneer Cray.” The article reports the allegedly accurate rumor that the former owner of Autonomy is poised to snap up another outfit. The idea is that by purchasing a fast growing, high potential company, HPE will increase its revenues.

I noted this statement:

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. has agreed to buy U.S. supercomputer maker Cray Inc. in a deal valued at about $1.4 billion as the firm works to become more competitive in high-end computing.

The market for high end computing is changing. Cray, founded in 1972, has bounced from owner to owner in the last 47 years. Yep, almost a half century. In the world of computers, that strikes me as a long, long time.

Years ago I worked with a Cray engineer. I recall one comment about her former employer:

It was fun. We mostly solved problems the Cray way.

What was the Cray way? Usually sophisticated, quite original, and very expensive to manufacture.

How much of that tradition persists after 47 years?

HPE’s financial results. There may be some useful comparative data on Top500.org. Cray held down the number 5 spot in November 2018. IBM an China offer solutions which are a bit more zippy. But for tens of millions of dollars, the stakes are high when competing with a country and IBM.

What about Amazon, Google, and Microsoft? These outfits have systems which are not “super”. The companies do generate some hefty revenues.

Stephen E Arnold, May 17, 2019

Smart Software: Not a US Sandbox

May 9, 2019

In case you were wondering how AI is progressing in other parts of the world, TechRadar tells us, “Report Revealed at Ai Everything Summit in Dubai Shows Middle East On Pace with Global Counterparts.” Writer Naushad K. Cherrayil discusses a survey that was revealed at the recent summit:

“Middle East companies are on pace with their global counterparts when it comes to the adoption of artificial intelligence but have some distinct differences, such as how management views AI and their trust in the technology, industry experts said. According to a survey conducted by Forbes Insights, about 62 percent of the executives believe that AI is emerging rapidly in their industry and executives in the region look to AI as just one part of digital transformation, and slightly more than half see themselves as being only at the start of executing that plan.”

Elaborating on how Middle East companies tend to view AI differently, Cherrayil writes:

“The top three reasons Middle East executives are implementing AI are to improve efficiency, enhance customer acquisition, and improve the customer experience, while globally, companies appear less concerned about using AI with customers and find that the most important business value is improved produce and services innovation.”

Researchers at International Data Corporation expect AI investment in the region to grow between 25% and 30% a year. They note at least a quarter of that comes from the UAE, which aims to dominate the market by 2031. Companies in the Middle East consider AI a key to success, but they apparently have a shortage of appropriate experts. Funding, on the other hand, seems to be less of an issue.

Cynthia Murrell, May 9, 2019

Animatronics: The Impact of Digital

May 6, 2019

DarkCyber noted these statements from “Gold Coast Animatronic Marvels Up for Auction, Rendered Redundant by CGI.” The found of Creature Workshop, John Cox, made these observations:

  • CGI had reached the point of photo realism.
  • Today with some of the effects we are seeing it is very hard to tell what is real and what is computer-generated
  • 3D animation and visual effects are now able to create realistic characters, realistic environments, realistic vehicles all created within the computer.

There was one statement which suggests that human actors may be replaced as well.

We are even seeing in some of the big movies now they are de-aging actors, or totally replacing them with a CGI character, so you have to wonder where it will end.

It is a short step from de-aging to replacing. Now about the accuracy of videos. What’s real and what’s fake? Good questions, particularly if asked by a legal eagle when video footage is evidence assumed to be “real” and there are gaps between an event and “finding” relevant video data.

Stephen E Arnold, May 5, 2019

Background Music: Working Well

May 2, 2019

Crank up the death metal. Chill.

Classical music composed by Bach, Beethoven, Strauss, and, especially, Mozart is supposed to stimulate the creative and cognitive centers of the brain. Supposedly listening to this music while studying or working also facilitates better retention of information and skills. That information has been slung around schools and daycare centers for decades, but according to Neuro Science News it is false: “How Listening To Music ‘Significantly Impairs’ Creativity.”

Swedish and British psychologists, respectively from the University of Gävle and University of Central Lancashire conducted tests on how music impacts people’s performance when they worked on creative verbal insight problems. Contrary to the popular belief, the psychologists discovered that background music “significantly impaired,” but performed well with regular library background noise. The experiment was described as follows with the following conditions:

“For example, a participant was shown three words (e.g., dress, dial, flower), with the requirement being to find a single associated word (in this case “sun”) that can be combined to make a common word or phrase (i.e., sundress, sundial and sunflower). The researchers used three experiments involving verbal tasks in either a quiet environment or while exposed to:

Background music with foreign (unfamiliar) lyrics
Instrumental music without lyrics
Music with familiar lyrics”

When exposed to music, the participants’ struggled, but did much better when they had regular quiet or library background noises. The regular quiet or library background noises were not disruptive, because it created a steady state environment that is not disruptive. It does not matter what type of music people listen to during creative activities, because apparently it is inhibits ideal function.

Bummer. Music is bad for creativity. What are all the iGens and millennials supposed to do when they concentrate. Maybe check their mobile phones?

Whitney Grace, May 2, 2019

AI: Another Crisis!

April 25, 2019

Science, in today’s post modern world, seems to face crisis after crisis. Religious zealots, political fanboyz, and talking head news are often the triggers, but lack of funding and support are a modern cause. Machine learning is creating a new crisis in science says BBC article, “AAAS: Machine Learning ‘Causing Science Crisis.’”

According to Dr. Genevera Allen from Rice University that an increased reliance on machine learning in scientific studies has led to a crisis. She presented her research on this topic at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where she warned scientists that if they did not improve their techniques they were wasting precious time and money. More scientific studies rely on machine learning to digest and gather results from data. The data sets are huge and are also expensive.

“But, according to Dr. Allen, the answers they come up with are likely to be inaccurate or wrong because the software is identifying patterns that exist only in that data set and not the real world. ‘Often these studies are not found out to be inaccurate until there’s another real big dataset that someone applies these techniques to and says ‘oh my goodness, the results of these two studies don’t overlap’ she said. ‘There is general recognition of a reproducibility crisis in science right now. I would venture to argue that a huge part of that does come from the use of machine learning techniques in science.’”

The reproducibility crisis means that when an experiment is repeated, scientists cannot replicate the results. Being able to reproduce results is a core practice in the scientific method, a tried and true method that annoys school children but ensures accuracy. When the results cannot be reproduced, it means the first set of results are wrong. It is possible that up to 85% of biomedical research done in the world is not accurate. Is machine learning making scientists lazy? If these results are applied in the real world, it could be worse than lack of funding and possibly religious zealots…possibly.

Whitney Grace, April 25, 2019

Quantum Search: Consultants, Rev Your Engines

April 18, 2019

Search is a utility function. A number of companies have tried to make it into a platform upon which a business or a government agency’s mission rests. Nope.

In fact, for a decade I published “Beyond Search” and just got tired of repeating myself. Search works if one has a bounded domain, controlled vocabularies, consistent indexing, and technology which embraces precision and recall.

Today, not so much. People talk about search and lose their grip on the accuracy, relevance, and verifiability of the information retrieved. It’s not just wonky psycho-economic studies which cannot be replicated. Just try running the same query on two different mobile phones owned by two different people.

Against this background, please, read “How the Quantum Search Algorithm Works.” The paper contains some interesting ideas; for example:

It’s incredible that you need only examine an NN-item search space on the order of \sqrt{N}N?times in order to find what you’re looking for. And, from a practical point of view, we so often use brute search algorithms that it’s exciting we can get this quadratic speedup. It seems almost like a free lunch. Of course, quantum computers still being theoretical, it’s not quite a free lunch – more like a multi-billion dollar, multi-decade lunch!

Yes, incredible.

However, the real impact of this quantum search write up will be upon the search engine optimization crowd. How quickly will methods for undermining relevance be found.

Net net: Quantum or not, search seems destined to repeat its 50 year history in a more technically sophisticated computational environment. Consultants, abandon your tired explanations of federated search. Forget mere geo-tagging. Drill right into the heart of quantum possibilities. I am eagerly awaiting a Forrester wave report on quantum search and a Gartner magic quadrant, filled with subjective possibilities.

Stephen E Arnold, April 18, 2019

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