Computing: Things Go Better with Light

January 22, 2021

Electricity is too slow at matrix math for IBM. Now, announces ZDNet, “IBM Is Using Light, Instead of Electricity, to Create Ultra-Fast Computing.” The shift could be especially important to the future of self-driving automobiles, where ultra-fast processing is needed to avoid collisions at high travel speeds. Reporter Daphne Leprince-Ringuet writes:

“Although the device has only been tested at a small scale, the report suggests that as the processor develops, it could achieve one thousand trillion multiply-accumulate (MAC) operations per second and per square-millimeter – according to the scientists, that is two to three orders more than ‘state-of-the-art AI processors’ that rely on electrical signals.”

IBM researchers have been working toward this goal for some time. Last year, the company demonstrated the tech’s potential through in-memory computing with devices that performed computational tasks using light. Now they have created what they call a photonic tensor core they say is particularly suited for deep-learning applications. The article continues:

“The most significant advantage that light-based circuits have over their electronic counterparts is never-before-seen speed. Leveraging optical physics, the technology developed by IBM can run complex operations in parallel in a single core, using different optical wavelengths for each calculation. Combined with in-memory computing, IBM’s scientists achieved ultra-low latency that is yet to be matched by electrical circuits. For applications that require very low latency, therefore, the speed of photonic processing could make a big difference. … With its ability to perform several operations simultaneously, the light-based processor developed by IBM also requires much less compute density.”

That is another consideration for self-driving vehicles—the smaller the hardware the better. But this technology is far from ready for the road. IBM still must evaluate how it can be integrated for end-to-end performance. The potential to trade electricity for light is an interesting development; we are curious to see how this unfolds.

Cynthia Murrell, January 22, 2021

A Vaccine Passport: Digital or Old Fashioned Rubber Stamp?

January 20, 2021

Vaccination papers, commonly a yellow immunization card, are required for entry into many foreign countries. The World Health Organization created the International Certificate of Inoculation and Vaccination (aka ICV, carte jaune, or yellow card) in 1935.

The COVID-19 may require all international travelers to carry a vaccination passport along with their usual paper, except it might be digital. IBM’s Watson is developing these passports says AFAR in the article, “How Vaccine Passports Will Actually Work.”

Currently, a COVID-19 consists of a piece of paper from the CDC with an individual’s personal information, date of first vaccine, who administrated it, and room for the next dose. Since the COVID-19 vaccination record is only a piece of paper it could be lost and it does not help when most paperwork is digital.

IBM is working on a platform called the IBM Digital Health Pass, where pharmacy and healthcare workers can upload vaccination information that the government will verify. It will take time to deploy the IBM platform, but individuals can be proactive by downloading an approved health app and uploading their information. There are problems with rolling out the platform, especially those who do not have access to smartphones:

“When it comes to digital health passes, ‘How do we make sure that we head in that direction in the most transparent way, and in a way that also provides the greatest amount of access that doesn’t shut people out?’ says Michele Goodwin, director for the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy at the University of California in Irvine, School of Law.

She adds,

‘Not everybody has access to sophisticated smartphones. These are very expensive phones. Or if they have a phone, they may not have the data plan. What you don’t want to do is to deny individuals things that are looking to become a societal privilege or right simply based on their socioeconomic status.’”

Fierce Biotech explains that IBM is working with Salesforce to rollout its IBM Digital Health Pass: “IBM Links With Salesforce To Offer Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Passports.”

The IBM Digital Health Pass is part of the IBM Watson Health endeavor. By teaming with Salesforce, IBM plans to help organizations expand the availability of COVID-19 vaccination verifications.

Salesforce will assist organizations by adding IBM’s technology to its platform:

“ ‘Our partnership with IBM will give organizations a single platform designed to provide safe and continuous operations, deepen trust with customers and employees and do everything possible to support their health and wellbeing,’ said Bill Patterson, executive vice president and general manager of customer relationship management applications at Salesforce.”

IBM is a technology company, so their resources are limited when it comes to distributing a health platform internationally. By combining its technology with Salesforce’s CRM platform, IBM can focus on perfecting its health system will Salesforce work on the distribution.

IBM and health. A match made in a synthetic biology lab located near Armonk.

Lucky Armonk.

Whitney Grace, January 20, 2021

KPMG: Ignoring the HR Block Case Example or That Will Not Happen at the Exceptional KPMG

January 19, 2021

Here’s a fact of life at allegedly blue chip consulting and service firms. Miss those billability goal, and you are invited to find your future elsewhere.

I read “KPMG’s Marisa Ferrara Boston embraces Auditing Disruption with Watson.” My immediate reaction was id the capable, dutiful Marisa Ferrara Boston overlook this article in Beyond Search: “Watson and Block: Tax Preparation and Watson.” Probably. Business analysis from rural Kentucky is not on the KPMG list of suggested readings.

The point of my write up was in early 2017:

The idea is that H&R Block paid cash money to IBM to integrate Watson into the H&R Block proprietary tax preparation system.

The problem, based on information available to me, the Block Watson service added complexity to the tax workflow.

Oh, oh.

Here’s what KPMG has in mind:

KPMG has partnered with IBM to integrate Watson Discovery and Watson Machine Learning into the auditing workflow. KPMG uses Watson as a backbone to a question-answering pipeline for auditors and risk analysts, enabling KPMG audit professionals to better review, classify, and search across documents to extract important attribute values.

Interesting idea. Replace billable humans with super smart, reliable, fast IBM software.

What could go wrong?

If the Block IBM deal went nowhere, the resistance came from the tax professionals the system was supposed to help. Block and IBM parted company.

At KPMG, the litmus test will be billability. Unless the smart software generates more billable hours (regardless of how the bean counters fiddle the calculations), the KPMG IBM deal is likely to be found wanting. Nothing creates more waves in a blue chip professional services firm than a partner responsible for a number who misses his/her bonus. Nothing.

This quote from the IBM blog misses the point for a big time consulting firm. IBM writes:

“I feel really lucky to be able to be in a position where I’m still in the fight to be able to help push these things along,” says Marisa. But deployment is only half the battle. When it comes to maintaining innovation in automation over time, “it’s never over,” she says. “These AIs are living. They need to be nurtured in an appropriate environment. They’re not just something that you create and consider the job to be done. If so, you have failed, and probably in a very expensive way.”

Notice that employee revenue is not mentioned. Cost control is not mentioned. The partner bonuses are not mentioned. The ire of an unhappy KPMG client who is “surprised” is not mentioned. What about the managing partner who learns that a baby Enron or Autonomy has been birthed by the energetic Watson? Exciting? Yep. Very.

Perhaps some KPMG wizards who will find themselves working at HR Block will be able to ask their new colleagues, “What did you think of that IBM Watson integration?”

Stephen E Arnold, January 19, 2021

Tape for Back Ups: What about Restore and a Few Other Trivial Questions?

December 31, 2020

I read “Fujifilm Created a Magnetic Tape That Can Restore 580 Terabytes.” Amazing. Remarkable. Incredible. Tape!

The write up reports:

The breakthrough, developed jointly with IBM Research, uses a new magnetic particle called Strontium Ferrite (SrFe), commonly used as a raw material for making motor magnets. Fujifilm has been investigating Strontium Ferrite as a possible successor to Barium Ferrite (BaFe), which is the leading material today.

Yep, strontium. Definitely a favorite among some laboring at LANL, Oak Ridge, and Argonne as well as among home experimenters with highly chemical reactive substances. Plus, there’s IBM in the mix. Yep, the Watson folk. Greetings, Blue folk.

I learned:

To put 580 terabytes in perspective, it’s roughly the equivalent of 120,000 DVDs or 786,977 CDs — IBM notes that stacking that many CDs would result in a tower 3,097 feet (944m) tall, or taller than Burj Kalifa, the world’s tallest building. All that data can now fit in a tape cartridge in the palm of your hand.

And how long will this wonder persist as usable media? 30 years.

I do have a couple of questions:

  • Write speed?
  • Read speed?
  • Actual restore speed for 500 terabytes (there is overhead on these puppies, right?)?
  • Mechanism to locate the specific blocks required for the restore?
  • In use error rate?
  • Storage environment required? (Faraday room, cavern in Kansas, in a pile on a metal rack in the junk closet?)
  • What’s the cost in fully loaded dollars for the software, device, and staff time for write and restore?
  • What’s the tensile strength of the medium in 29 years?

Ah, but there are no answers in the write up.

There you go. Let’s ask Watson or someone who has reported to a client, “Your tape backups are unreadable.” Ever heard that before? I sure have.

Stephen E Arnold, December 31, 2020

IBM Watson: More Promises after Previous Promises. Will IBM Deliver This Time?

December 23, 2020

Wow, I had almost forgotten that IBM Watson was going to be a $1 billion business back in 2014. How quickly some forget that Lucene, home brew code, and acquisitions blended with science fiction? In 2017, the former Big Blue executive said in the Harvard Business Review:

“Watson will touch one billion people by the end of this year.”

Touch is not generate $1 billion and more in sustainable revenues. Nope, Watson failed in cancer, did zippo to fight Covid, and did create some memorable full page ads like the weird chemical structure thing in 2015:

ibm chem structure

Yeah, building blocks of cognitive software.

IBM Sets Its NLP Ambitions High With New Capabilities In Watson” explains that IBM is making progress. Note this statement:

While recent announcements by IBM focus around language, explainability, and workplace automation, the update around its language capabilities include reading comprehension, FAQ extraction and improving interactions in Watson Assistant. All these products aim to bring resilience, productivity and value for enterprises.

I like the explainability. Why not explain why the supercomputer Covid drug analysis did not generate a usable output, defaulting to a long list of “maybe these will work drugs” for humans to figure out what would work and what would not. Helpful in a time of crisis.

I don’t want to dwell on the implications that IBM Watson can now understand what humanoids write, particularly in short, cryptic WhatsApp messages about an illegal transaction. Let me quote one dollop of pink confectioner’s sugar paste:

…the company also announced a new intent classification model in IBM Watson Assistant, which is aimed at understanding an end user’s goal or intent behind engaging with the virtual assistant. It will then be used to train the systems accordingly while enabling greater accuracy in virtual assistants.

With a new president, I thought that the old IBM over hyped cognitive PR squibs had been retired for Ms. Rometty to oversee.


IBM is back in the hyperbole game. Let’s ask Watson. On second thought, nah.

Stephen E Arnold, December 23, 2020

IBM: Smashing an Elbow Then a Choke. Tap Out!

November 13, 2020

I read a darned interesting article called “Professional Fighters League to Leverage IBM Technologies to Innovate Next-Gen Proprietary SmartCage.” The write up explains:

The Professional Fighters League (PFL), the fastest growing and most innovative sports league in the world, today announced it will be leveraging Flagship’s capabilities to deliver IBM’s suite of advanced cloud and AI products to enhance the league’s delivery of next-gen SmartCage data and analytics, both live in-broadcast and via the league’s OTT platform, Fight Central.

I think this means that the “boxing ring” becomes intelligent. Boxing is the “sweet science.” I did not know that boxing lacked intelligence. Hmmm.

The goal of harming an opponent will benefit from the tough minded IBM Watson. The article points out:

PFL’s proprietary SmartCage measures real-time MMA fighter performance analytics along with biometric and positional data providing fans with an elevated viewing experience. Moving forward, SmartCage fight data, called Cagenomics, will be enhanced with Watson machine learning to scour data points and uncover new insights for MMA fans, bringing them inside the cage like never before.

I thought IBM’s use of Watson to create a recipe book was a high water point for the high-technology giant. I have been stunned by Watson’s machoness. I am not even in the SmartCage.

Stephen E Arnold, November 13, 2020

IBM Watson: Going Back to the Jeopardy Thing

October 28, 2020

IEEE Spectrum ran an interview which I thought was a trifle unusual. Watson is going to modernize legacy code. How much of the legacy code is the work of IBM programmers and acolytes trained in the ways of Big Blue: JCL incantations, chants for PL/I, and abracadabra for Assembler? What about the code for the US air traffic control system? What about the code for the AS/400, a machine series I have lost in the mists of marketing? I remember rocking on with RPG.

The article has a killer SEO-centric title; to wit:

IBM Watson’s Next Challenge: Modernize Legacy Code. IBM Research’s Chief Scientist Ruchir Puri says Watson AIOps can take on the tedious tasks of software maintenance so human coders can innovate

What, pray tell, was the first challenge IBM Watson successfully resolved? Maybe winning the Jeopardy game show. I keep thinking about the wonders of television post-production for programs which shoot a week’s worth of goodness in one day. The behind the scenes Avid users labor away to produce a “real” TV show. Sorry. I remain skeptical.

The article presents five questions. These are not exactly colloquial. The wording is similar to that used in semi-scripted reality TV programs. The answers are IBM-ish. Please, read and enjoy the original document. I will focus on two of the questions. Yes, I selected the ones with the most Watson goodness based on my experience with the giant of White Plains.

The first question probes the darned exciting history of IBM Watson and cancer. As I recall, some of the oncologists in Houston’s medical community were not thrilled with the time required to explain cancer to IBM analysts and slightly less thrilled with the outputs. Hasta la vista, Watson. The article explains IBM Watson and healthcare using wordage like this:

The use of AI in healthcare is still evolving, and it’s a journey. To expect AI to be able to give the right answer in all diagnosis scenarios is expecting too much. The technology has not reached that level yet. However, that’s precisely why we say it’s more about augmenting the healthcare experts than it is about replacing in many ways.

My, “yeah, but” is a memory of an IBM Watson presentation which asserted that Watson could deliver actionable diagnoses. I know I am getting old, but I recall those assurances. That presentation gave me the idea for the “Weakly Watson” series of articles in this blog. There were some crazy attempts to make IBM Watson relevant: Free to use model, build an application to match dogs with dog owners for a festival in Mexico, etc. etc.

The second question I want to highlight is natural language processing (!) and content processing. Here’s the snippet from the IBMer’s answer I circled with my Big Blue pen:

Roughly speaking, rule-based systems will be successful in translating somewhere between 50 to 60 percent of a program. It is true that part of the program can be translated reasonably well, however, that still leaves half of the program to be translated manually, and that remaining 50 percent is the hardest part, typically involving very complex rules. And that’s exactly where AI kicks in because it can act like humans.

There you go. AI “can act like humans.” Tell that to the people shafted by AI systems as documented in Weapons of Math Destruction.

Net net: Where’s IBM going with Watson? I think anywhere money can be generated. Game shows are probably less complex than addressing encrypted text messages and figuring out what’s in a streaming video in real time.

Who knows? Maybe Lucene, acquired technology from outfits like Vivisimo, and home brew code from IBM Almaden can work miracles.

Stephen E Arnold, October 28, 2020

IBM: The Great Entertainer

October 25, 2020

The media never stops reporting news and technology never stops revolutionizing the media. The newest upgrade for media brands and publishers is AI says Advanced Television in the article: “IBM Brings AI At Scale To The Media Industry.” IBM wants to remain one of the leading AI developers and suppliers, especially when they have Watson to do the scaling. As part of IBM’s easy array of industry solutions, the company now offers three new products for brands and publishers. The new products focus on reaching consumers while respecting their privacy. IBM already has an all star client list for its new AI product line, including Beeswax, MediaMath, Nielsen, LiveRamp, Xandr/AT&T, and Magnite.

IBM SVP of Cognitive Applications and Blockchain Bob Lord stated that the advertising industry is undergoing a major transformation when it comes to consumer privacy. Major changes are elimination of some third party cookies, mobile identity, and increased demand in transparency, and increased compliance and regulatory shifts. In order for the advertising agency to respect consumer privacy, but also generate revenue Lord explained AI will be invaluable:

“He added: ‘We believe AI will be the ‘backbone’ of the new era as the industry prepares for the next generation of advertising. We’re using AI to help solve problems across the advertising industry, just like IBM has in countless other industries like Healthcare, Financial Services and Retail. Our work will be a step forward in our evolution to meet the advertising industry’s upheaval, and we are proud to help the advertising industry advance with the value of AI.’”

The newest AI upgrades are for IBM’s Watson Advertising Accelerator, Watson Advertising Social Targeting with Influential, and Watson Advertising Weather Targeting. IBM developed these tools for the advertising industry to regain consumer trust. Consumers are upset about the amount of spying and selling of their personal data, not to mention the amount of targeted ads that reach them through their phones, computers, tablets, and televisions.

IBM is using AI to help brands and publishers make sense of the amount of data in the digital space to make wise business decisions. The other goal is to regain consumer trust and respect individuals’ privacy as technology becomes more entwined in society.

IBM, AI, and declining revenues: Take the show on the road.

Whitney Grace, October 25, 2020

IBM Watson: Can AI Have Trouble Finding a True Friend?

October 19, 2020

It appears that IBM’s super computer Watson is dealing with loneliness during the global pandemic, because the Daily Mail shares: “Artificial Intelligence Can Detect How Lonely You Are With 94 Percent Accuracy Just By Analyzing Your Speech Patterns.”

Researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine studied the speech patterns of older adults when they discussed loneliness. Using AI that included IBM’s Watson, the researchers analyzed how participants spoke including words, phrases, and silence gaps. They discovered that AI algorithms were almost as accurate as self-reports and questionnaires.

The researchers discovered that lonely people usually have long respires when discussing loneliness and express more sadness in their responses. The problem with self-reports and questionnaires (also completed by individuals) are often biased, because of stigma associated with loneliness.

To avoid bias, the researchers used natural language processing specially designed as a quantitative assessment of expressed emotion and sentiment combined with the usual loneliness diagnostic tools. The project did the following:

“Participants were also interviewed during personal conversations, which were taped and manually transcribed. Transcripts were then examined using natural language processing tools, including IBM’s Watson Natural Language Understanding (WNLU) software, to quantify sentiment and expressed emotions.  WNLU uses deep learning to extract metadata from keywords, categories, sentiment, emotion and syntax. ‘Natural language patterns and machine learning allow us to systematically examine long interviews from many individuals and explore how subtle speech features like emotions may indicate loneliness,’ said first author Varsha Badal at UCSD. ‘Similar emotion analyses by humans would be open to bias, lack consistency and require extensive training to standardize.’”

The AI predicted with 94% accuracy self-acknowledged loneliness and quantitative loneliness with 76%. In the future, mental health professionals may use AI algorithms with natural language processing to diagnosis and record loneliness. It would be more accurate without the self-bias and could lead to better treatment.

Whitney Grace, October 18, 2020

IBM Watson: Some Old People Like Me Are Lonely and AI Will Not Reveal the Depths of My Despair at Crazy Marketing

October 9, 2020

Forbes, the capitalist tool and the fave read of AOC, reports that smart software can identify old people who are lonely. “Artificial Intelligence Used to Predict Loneliness in Senior Citizens” breaks this heart-stopping news:

the study by researchers from the University of California, IBM and elsewhere could prove vital in helping society assess and address widespread loneliness.

Apparently the experts have never visited a warehouse for elders (aka “nursing home” or “retirement community”). Some old people appear to be lonely. I am qualified to make this observation based on personal experience because I am going to be 77 in a few weeks.

Ask me, “Are you lonely?”

I will reply, “Where’s IBM Watson? That’s the technology I need to figure out if I am going to die of heartbreak while wearing an adult diaper, sitting in a lime gray green room, watching a flickering cathode ray heart monitor.

The write up points out:

For the purposes of the study, the researchers interviewed 80 residents at an independent living sector of a senior housing community in San Diego County. They asked questions intended to gauge various aspects of loneliness, with the answers being transcribed and then analyzed using the IBM Watson NLU (natural language understanding) iv program, which could “quantify sentiment and expressed emotions.”

Some old people are deaf; others are lost in misfiring neuronal noise.

But IBM Watson can figure out that some old people are lonely.

The write up pulls back from pure balderdash by asserting:

But while AI, virtual reality, and other technologies can certainly be used to detect problems, we need to remember that most of our problems aren’t caused by a lack of tech.

Right, pacemakers and electric wheelchairs cannot do it all. Not even the ever cheerful and uplifting Facebook can make some people not lonely. No bowling alone, please.

It’s great that IBM Watson has moved from matching people to stray dogs. Progress. But what about those Covid treatments facilitated by IBM Watson. Remember? Even oldsters like me recall that IBM Watson assertion.

Stephen E Arnold, October 9, 2020

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