Harvard University: A Sticky Wicket, Right, Old Chap?

April 22, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I know plastic recycling does not work. The garbage pick up outfit assures me it recycles. Yeah, sure. However, I know one place where recycling is alive and well. I watched a video about someone named Francesca Gino, a Harvard professor. A YouTuber named Pete Judo presents information showing that Ms. Gino did some recycling. He did not award her those little green Ouroboros symbols. Copying and pasting are out of bounds in the Land of Ivory Towers in which Harvard has allegedly the ivory-est. You can find his videos at https://www.youtube.com/@PeteJudo1.


The august group of academic scholars are struggling to decide which image best fits the 21st-century version of their prestigious university: The garbage recycling image representing reuse of trash generated by other scholars or the snake-eating-its-tail image of the Ouroboros. So many decisions have these elite thinkers. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Looking forward to your new minority stake in a company in a far off land?

As impressive a source as a YouTuber is, I think I found an even more prestigious organ of insight, the estimable New York Post. Navigate through the pop ups until you see the “real” news story “Harvard Medical School Professor Massively Plagiarized Report for Lockheed Martin Suit: Judge.” The thrust of this story is that a moonlighting scholar “plagiarized huge swaths of a report he submitted on carcinogenic chemicals, according to a federal judge, who agreed to remove it as evidence in a class action case against Lockheed Martin.”

Is this Medical School-related item spot on? I don’t know. Is the Gino-us activity on the money? For that matter, is a third Harvard professor of ethics guilty of an ethical violation in a journal article about — wait for it — ethics? I don’t know, and I don’t have the energy to figure out if plagiarism is the new Covid among academics in Boston.

However, based on the drift of these examples, I can offer several observations:

  1. Harvard University has a public relations problem. Judging from the coverage in outstanding information services as YouTube and the New York Post, the remarkable school needs to get its act together and do some “messaging.” When the plagiarism pandemic is real or fabricated by the type of adversary Microsoft continually says creates trouble, Harvard’s reputation is going to be worn down by a stream of digital bad news.
  2. The ways of a most Ivory Tower thing are mysterious. Nevertheless, it is clear that the mechanism for hiring, motivating, directing, and preventing academic superstars from sticking their hand in a pile of dog doo is not working. That falls into what I call “governance.” I want to use my best Harvard rhetoric now: “Hey, folks, you ain’t making good moves.”
  3. The top dog (president, CFO, bursar, whatever) you are on the path to an “F.” Imagine what a moral stick in the mud like William James would think of Harvard’s leadership if he were still waddling around, mumbling about radical pragmatism. Even more frightening is an AI version of this sporty chap doing a version of AI Jesus on Twitch. Instead of recycling Christian phrases, he would combine his thoughts about ethics, psychology, and Harvard with the possibly true stories about Harvard integrity herpes. Yikes.

Net net: What about educating tomorrow’s leaders. Should these young minds emulate what professors are doing, or should they be learning to pursue knowledge without shortcuts, cheating, plagiarism, and looking like characters from The Simpsons?

Stephen E Arnold, April 22, 2024

Google: The DMA Makes Us Harm Small Business

April 11, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I cannot estimate the number of hours Googlers invested in crafting the short essay “New Competition Rules Come with Trade-Offs.” I find it a work of art. Maybe not the equal of Dante’s La Divina Commedia, but is is darned close.


A deity, possibly associated with the quantumly supreme, reassures a human worried about life. Words are reality, at least to some fretful souls. Thanks MSFT Copilot. Good enough.

The essay pivots on unarticulated and assumed “truths.” Particularly charming are these:

  1. “We introduced these types of Google Search features to help consumers”
  2. “These businesses now have to connect with customers via a handful of intermediaries that typically charge large commissions…”
  3. “We’ve always been focused on improving Google Search….”

The first statement implies that Google’s efforts have been the “help.” Interesting: I find Google search often singularly unhelpful, returning results for malware, biased information, and Google itself.

The second statement indicates that “intermediaries” benefit. Isn’t Google an intermediary? Isn’t Google an alleged monopolist in online advertising?

The third statement is particularly quantumly supreme. Note the word “always.” John Milton uses such verbal efflorescence when describing God. Yes, “always” and improving. I am tremulous.

Consider this lyrical passage and the elegant logic of:

We’ll continue to be transparent about our DMA compliance obligations and the effects of overly rigid product mandates. In our view, the best approach would ensure consumers can continue to choose what services they want to use, rather than requiring us to redesign Search for the benefit of a handful of companies.

Transparent invokes an image of squeaky clean glass in a modern, aluminum-framed window, scientifically sealed to prevent its unauthorized opening or repair by anyone other than a specially trained transparency provider. I like the use of the adjective “rigid” because it implies a sturdiness which may cause the transparent window to break when inclement weather (blasts of hot and cold air from oratorical emissions) stress the see-through structures. The adult-father-knows-best reference in “In our view, the best approach”. Very parental. Does this suggest the EU is childish?

Net net: Has anyone compiled the Modern Book of Google Myths?

Stephen E Arnold, April 11, 2024

Tennessee Sends a Hunk of Burnin’ Love to AI Deep Fakery

April 11, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Leave it the state that houses Music City. NPR reports, “Tennessee Becomes the First State to Protect Musicians and Other Artists Against AI.” Courts have demonstrated existing copyright laws are inadequate in the face of generative AI. This update to the state’s existing law is named the Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security Act, or ELVIS Act for short. Clever. Reporter Rebecca Rosman writes:

“Tennessee made history on Thursday, becoming the first U.S. state to sign off on legislation to protect musicians from unauthorized artificial intelligence impersonation. ‘Tennessee is the music capital of the world, & we’re leading the nation with historic protections for TN artists & songwriters against emerging AI technology,’ Gov. Bill Lee announced on social media. While the old law protected an artist’s name, photograph or likeness, the new legislation includes AI-specific protections. Once the law takes effect on July 1, people will be prohibited from using AI to mimic an artist’s voice without permission.”

Prominent artists and music industry groups helped push the bill since it was introduced in January. Flanked by musicians and state representatives, Governor Bill Lee theatrically signed it into law on stage at the famous Robert’s Western World. But what now? In its write-up, “TN Gov. Lee Signs ELVIS Act Into Law in Honky-Tonk, Protects Musicians from AI Abuses,” The Tennessean briefly notes:

“The ELVIS Act adds artist’s voices to the state’s current Protection of Personal Rights law and can be criminally enforced by district attorneys as a Class A misdemeanor. Artists—and anyone else with exclusive licenses, like labels and distribution groups—can sue civilly for damages.”

While much of the music industry is located in and around Nashville, we imagine most AI mimicry does not take place within Tennessee. It is tricky to sue someone located elsewhere under state law. Perhaps this legislation’s primary value is as an example to lawmakers in other states and, ultimately, at the federal level. Will others be inspired to follow the Volunteer State’s example?

Cynthia Murrell, April 11, 2024

HP and Autonomy: The Long Tail of Search and Retrieval

April 8, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

The US justice system is flawed but when big money is at stake, it quickly works as it’s supposed to do. British tech entrepreneur is responsible for making the tech industry lose a lot of greenbacks and the BBC shares the details: “Mike Lynch: Autonomy Founder’s Fraud Trial Begins In The US.” Lynch, formerly called Britain’s equivalent of Bill Gates, was extradited to the US in 2023 after a British court found him guilty of a civil fraud cause. He is accused of over inflating the value of his former company Autonomy. Autonomy was sold to Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 2011 for $11 billion.

Lynch is facing sixteen charges and a possible twenty-five years in prison if convicted. Reid Weingarten, Lynch’s attorney, stated his client is prepared to take the stand. He also said that Lynch focused on Autonomy’s technology side and left the finances to others. After buying Autonomy, HP valued it at $2.2 billion and claimed Lynch duped them.

Lynch founded Autonomy in 1996 and it became a top 100 public companies in the United Kingdom. Autonomy was known for software that extracted information from unstructured content: video, emails, and phone calls.

HP is not mincing claims in this case:

“US prosecutors in San Francisco say Mr Lynch backdated agreements to mislead about the company’s sales; concealed the firm’s loss-making business reselling hardware; and intimidated or paid off people who raised concerns, among other claims. In court filings, his attorneys have argued that the "real reason for the write-down" was a failure by HP to manage the merger. ‘Then, with its stock price crumbling under the weight of its own mismanagement, circled the wagons to protect its new leaders and wantonly accused’ Mr Lynch of fraud, they wrote.”

London’s High Court convicted Lynch and Autonomy’s former CFO Sushovan Hussain of fraud. Hussain was imprisoned for five years and fined millions of dollars. The pair claimed HP’s case against them was buyer’s remorse and management failings.

Lynch should be held accountable for false claims, pay the fines, and be jailed if declared guilty. If the court does convict him, it will be time for more legal gymnastics.

Whitney Grace, April 8, 2024

Google: Practicing But Not Learning in France

March 22, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I had to comment on this Google synthetic gems. The online advertising company with the Cracker Jack management team is cranking out titbits every days or two. True, none of these rank with the Microsoft deal to hire some techno-management wizards with DeepMind experience, but I have to cope with what flows into rural Kentucky.


Those French snails are talkative — and tasty. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Are you going to license, hire, or buy DeepMind?

Google Fined $270 Million by French Regulatory Authority” delivers what strikes me a Lego block information about the estimable company. The write up presents yet another story about Google’s footloose and fancy free approach to French laws, rules, and regulations. The write up reports:

This latest fine is the result of Google’s artificial intelligence training practices. The [French regulatory] watchdog said in a statement that Google’s Bard chatbot — which has since been rebranded as Gemini —”used content from press agencies and publishers to train its foundation model, without notifying either them” or the Authority.

So what did the outstanding online advertising company do? The news story asserts:

The watchdog added that Google failed to provide a technical opt-out solution for publishers, obstructing their ability to “negotiate remuneration.”

The result? Another fine.

Google has had an interesting relationship with France. The country was the scene of the outstanding presentation of the Sundar and Prabhakar demonstration of the quantumly supreme Bard smart software. Google has written checks to France in the past. Now it is associated with flubbing what are relatively straightforward for France requirements to work with publishers.

Not surprisingly, the outfit based in far off California allegedly said, according to the cited news story:

Google criticized a “lack of clear regulatory guidance,” calling for greater clarity in the future from France’s regulatory bodies.  The fine is linked to a copyright case that began in 2020, when the French Authority found Google to be acting in violation of France’s copyright and related rights law of 2019.

My experience with France, French laws, and the ins and outs of working with French organizations is limited. Nevertheless, my son — who attended university in France — told me an anecdote which illustrates how French laws work. Here’s the tale which I assume is accurate. He is a reliable sort.

A young man was in the immigration office in Paris. He and his wife were trying to clarify a question related to her being a French citizen. The bureaucrat had not accepted her birth certificate from a municipal French government, assorted documents from her schooling from pre-school to university, and the oddments of electric bills, rental receipts, and medical records. The husband who was an American told me son, “This office does not think my wife is French. She is. And I think we have it nailed this time. My wife has a photograph of General De Gaulle awarding her father a medal.” My son told me, “Dad, it did not work. The husband and wife had to refile the paperwork to correct an error made on the original form.”

My takeaway from this anecdote is that Google may want to stay within the bright white lines in France. Getting entangled in the legacy of Napoleon’s red tape can be an expensive, frustrating experience. Perhaps the Google will learn? On the other hand, maybe not.

Stephen E Arnold,  March 22, 2023

Another Small Victory for OpenAI Against Authors

March 12, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

For those following the fight between human content creators and AI firms, score one for the algorithm engineers. TorrentFreak reports, “Court Dismisses Authors’ Copyright Infringement Claims Against OpenAI.” At issue is generative AI’s practice of feeding on humans’ work, without compensation, in order to mimic it. Multiple suits have been filed by record labels, writers, and visual artists. Reporter Ernesto Van der Sar writes:

“Several of the lawsuits filed by book authors include a piracy component. The cases allege that tech companies, including Meta and OpenAI, used the controversial Books3 dataset to train their models. The Books3 dataset was created by AI researcher Shawn Presser in 2020, who scraped the library of ‘pirate’ site Bibliotik. The general vision was that the plaintext collection of more than 195,000 books, which is nearly 37GB in size, could help AI enthusiasts build better models. The vision wasn’t wrong; large text archives are great training material for Large Language Models, but many authors disapprove of their works being used in this manner, without permission or compensation.”


A large group of rights holders have a football team. Those big folks are chasing the small but feisty opponent down the field. Which team will score? Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Keep up the good enough work.

Is that so unreasonable? Maybe not, but existing copyright law did not foresee this situation. We learn:

“After reviewing input from both sides, California District Judge Araceli Martínez-Olguín ruled on the matter. In her order, she largely sides with OpenAI. The vicarious copyright infringement claim fails because the court doesn’t agree that all output produced by OpenAI’s models can be seen as a derivative work. To survive, the infringement claim has to be more concrete.”

The plaintiffs are not out of moves, however. They can still file an amended complaint. But unless updated legislation is passed in the meantime, they may just be rebuffed again. So all they need is for Congress to act quickly to protect artists from tech firms. Any day now.

Cynthia Murrell, March 12, 2024

NSO Group: Pegasus Code Wings Its Way to Meta and Mr. Zuckerberg

March 7, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

NSO Group’s senior managers and legal eagles will have an opportunity to become familiar with an okay Brazilian restaurant and a waffle shop. That lovable leader of Facebook, Instagram, Threads, and WhatsApp may have put a stick in the now-ageing digital bicycle doing business as NSO Group. The company’s mark is pegasus, which is a flying horse. Pegasus’s dad was Poseidon, and his mom was the knock out Gorgon Medusa, who did some innovative hair treatments. The mythical pegasus helped out other gods until Zeus stepped in an acted with extreme prejudice. Quite a myth.


Poseidon decides to kill the mythical Pegasus, not for its software, but for its getting out of bounds. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Close enough.

Life imitates myth. “Court Orders Maker of Pegasus Spyware to Hand Over Code to WhatsApp” reports that the hand over decision:

is a major legal victory for WhatsApp, the Meta-owned communication app which has been embroiled in a lawsuit against NSO since 2019, when it alleged that the Israeli company’s spyware had been used against 1,400 WhatsApp users over a two-week period. NSO’s Pegasus code, and code for other surveillance products it sells, is seen as a closely and highly sought state secret. NSO is closely regulated by the Israeli ministry of defense, which must review and approve the sale of all licenses to foreign governments.

NSO Group hired former DHS and NSA official Stewart Baker to fix up NSO Group gyro compass. Mr. Baker, who is a podcaster and affiliated with the law firm Steptoe and Johnson. For more color about Mr. Baker, please scan “Former DHS/NSA Official Stewart Baker Decides He Can Help NSO Group Turn A Profit.”

A decade ago, Israel’s senior officials might have been able to prevent a social media company from getting a copy of the Pegasus source code. Not anymore. Israel’s home-grown intelware technology simply did not thwart, prevent, or warn about the Hamas attack in the autumn of 2023. If NSO Group were battling in court with Harris Corp., Textron, or Harris Corp., I would not worry. Mr. Zuckerberg’s companies are not directly involved with national security technology. From what I have heard at conferences, Mr. Zuckerberg’s commercial enterprises are responsive to law enforcement requests when a bad actor uses Facebook for an allegedly illegal activity. But Mr. Zuckerberg’s managers are really busy with higher priority tasks. Some folks engaged in investigations of serious crimes must be patient. Presumably the investigators can pass their time scrolling through #Shorts. If the Guardian’s article is accurate, now those Facebook employees can learn how Pegasus works. Will any of those learnings stick? One hopes not.

Several observations:

  1. Companies which make specialized software guard their systems and methods carefully. Well, that used to be true.
  2. The reorganization of NSO Group has not lowered the firm’s public relations profile. NSO Group can make headlines, which may not be desirable for those engaged in national security.
  3. Disclosure of the specific Pegasus systems and methods will get a warm, enthusiastic reception from those who exchange ideas for malware and related tools on private Telegram channels, Dark Web discussion groups, or via one of the “stealth” communication services which pop up like mushrooms after rain in rural Kentucky.

Will the software Pegasus be terminated? I remain concerned that source code revealing how to perform certain tasks may lead to downstream, unintended consequences. Specialized software companies try to operate with maximum security. Now Pegasus may be flying away unless another legal action prevents this.

Where is Zeus when one needs him?

Stephen E Arnold, March 7, 2024

A Xoogler Explains AI, News, Inevitability, and Real Business Life

February 13, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I read an essay providing a tiny bit of evidence that one can take the Googler out of the Google, but that Xoogler still retains some Googley DNA. The item appeared in the Bezos bulldozer’s estimable publication with the title “The Real Wolf Menacing the News Business? AI.” Absolutely. Obviously. Who does not understand that?


A high-technology sophist explains the facts of life to a group of listeners who are skeptical about artificial intelligence. The illustration was generated after three tries by Google’s own smart software. I love the miniature horse and the less-than-flattering representation of a sales professional. That individual looks like one who would be more comfortable eating the listeners than convincing them about AI’s value.

The essay contains a number of interesting points. I want to highlight three and then, as I quite enjoy doing, I will offer some observations.

The author is a Xoogler who served from 2017 to 2023 as the senior director of news ecosystem products. I quite like the idea of a “news ecosystem.” But ecosystems as some who follow the impact of man on environments can be destroyed or pushed to the edge of catastrophe. In the aftermath of devastation coming from indifferent decision makers, greed fueled entrepreneurs, or rhinoceros poachers, landscapes are often transformed.

First, the essay writer argues:

The news publishing industry has always reviled new technology, whether it was radio or television, the internet or, now, generative artificial intelligence.

I love the word “revile.” It suggests that ignorant individuals are unable to grasp the value of certain technologies. I also like the very clever use of the word “always.” Categorical affirmatives make the world of zeros and one so delightfully absolute. We’re off to a good start I think.

Second, we have a remarkable argument which invokes another zero and one type of thinking. Consider this passage:

The publishers’ complaints were premised on the idea that web platforms such as Google and Facebook were stealing from them by posting — or even allowing publishers to post — headlines and blurbs linking to their stories. This was always a silly complaint because of a universal truism of the internet: Everybody wants traffic!

I love those universal truisms. I think some at Google honestly believe that their insights, perceptions, and beliefs are the One True Path Forward. Confidence is good, but the implication that a universal truism exists strikes me as information about a psychological and intellectual aberration. Consider this truism offered by my uneducated great grandmother:

Always get a second opinion.

My great grandmother used the logically troublesome word “always.” But the idea seems reasonable, but the action may not be possible. Does Google get second opinions when it decides to kill one of its services, modify algorithms in its ad brokering system, or reorganize its contentious smart software units? “Always” opens the door to many issues.

Publishers (I assume “all” publishers)k want traffic. May I demonstrate the frailty of the Xoogler’s argument. I publish a blog called Beyond Search. I have done this since 2008. I do not care if I get traffic or not. My goal was and remains to present commentary about the antics of high-technology companies and related subjects. Why do I do this? First, I want to make sure that my views about such topics as Google search exist. Second, I have set up my estate so the content will remain online long after I am gone. I am a publisher, and I don’t want traffic, or at least the type of traffic that Google provides. One exception causes an argument like the Xoogler’s to be shown as false, even if it is self-serving.

Third, the essay points its self-righteous finger at “regulators.” The essay suggests that elected officials pursued “illegitimate complaints” from publishers. I noted this passage:

Prior to these laws, no one ever asked permission to link to a website or paid to do so. Quite the contrary, if anyone got paid, it was the party doing the linking. Why? Because everybody wants traffic! After all, this is why advertising businesses — publishers and platforms alike — can exist in the first place. They offer distribution to advertisers, and the advertisers pay them because distribution is valuable and seldom free.

Repetition is okay, but I am able to recall one of the key arguments in this Xoogler’s write up: “Everybody wants traffic.” Since it is false, I am not sure the essay’s argumentative trajectory is on the track of logic.

Now we come to the guts of the essay: Artificial intelligence. What’s interesting is that AI magnetically pulls regulators back to the casino. Smart software companies face techno-feudalists in a high-stakes game. I noted this passage about anchoring statements via verification and just training algorithms:

The courts might or might not find this distinction between training and grounding compelling. If they don’t, Congress must step in. By legislating copyright protection for content used by AI for grounding purposes, Congress has an opportunity to create a copyright framework that achieves many competing social goals. It would permit continued innovation in artificial intelligence via the training and testing of LLMs; it would require licensing of content that AI applications use to verify their statements or look up new facts; and those licensing payments would financially sustain and incentivize the news media’s most important work — the discovery and verification of new information — rather than forcing the tech industry to make blanket payments for rewrites of what is already long known.

Who owns the casino? At this time, I would suggest that lobbyists and certain non-governmental entities exert considerable influence over some elected and appointed officials. Furthermore, some AI firms are moving as quickly as reasonably possible to convert interest in AI into revenue streams with moats. The idea is that if regulations curtail AI companies, consumers would not be well served. No 20-something wants to read a newspaper. That individual wants convenience and, of course, advertising.

Now several observations:

  1. The Xoogler author believes in AI going fast. The technology serves users / customers what they want. The downsides are bleats and shrieks from an outmoded sector; that is, those engaged in news
  2. The logic of the technologist is not the logic of a person who prefers nuances. The broad statements are false to me, for example. But to the Xoogler, these are self-evident truths. Get with our program or get left to sleep on cardboard in the street.
  3. The schism smart software creates is palpable. On one hand, there are those who “get it.” On the other hand, there are those who fight a meaningless battle with the inevitable. There’s only one problem: Technology is not delivering better, faster, or cheaper social fabrics. Technology seems to have some downsides. Just ask a journalist trying to survive on YouTube earnings.

Net net: The attitude of the Xoogler suggests that one cannot shake the sense of being right, entitlement, and logic associated with a Googler even after leaving the firm. The essay makes me uncomfortable for two reasons: [1] I think the author means exactly what is expressed in the essay. News is going to be different. Get with the program or lose big time. And [2] the attitude is one which I find destructive because technology is assumed to “do good.” I am not too sure about that because the benefits of AI are not known and neither are AI’s downsides. Plus, there’s the “everybody wants traffic.” Monopolistic vendors of online ads want me to believe that obvious statement is ground truth. Sorry. I don’t.

Stephen E Arnold, February 13, 2024

Hewlett Packard and Autonomy: Search and $4 Billion

February 12, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

More than a decade ago, Hewlett Packard acquired Autonomy plc. Autonomy was one of the first companies to deploy what I call “smart software.” The system used Bayesian methods, still quite new to many in the information retrieval game in the 1990s. Autonomy kept its method in a black box assigned to a company from which Autonomy licensed the functions for information processing. Some experts in smart software overlook BAE Systems’ activity in the smart software game. That effort began in the late 1990s if my memory is working this morning. Few “experts” today care, but the dates are relevant.

Between the date Autonomy opened for business in 1996 and HP’s decision to purchase the company for about $8 billion in 2011, there was ample evidence that companies engaged in enterprise search and allied businesses like legal work processes or augmented magazine advertising were selling for much less. Most of the companies engaged in enterprise search simply went out of business after burning through their funds; for example, Delphes and Entopia. Others sold at what I thought we inflated or generous prices; for example, Vivisimo to IBM for about $28 million and Exalead to Dassault for 135 million euros.

Then along comes HP and its announcement that it purchased Autonomy for a staggering $8 billion. I attended a search-related event when one of the presenters showed this PowerPoint slide:


The idea was that Autonomy’s systems generated multiple lines of revenue, including a cloud service. The key fact on the presentation was that the search-and-retrieval unit was not the revenue rocket ship. Autonomy has shored up its search revenue by acquisition; for example, Soundsoft, Virage, and Zantaz. The company also experimented with bundling software, services, and hardware. But the Qatalyst slide depicted a rosy future because of Autonomy management’s vision and business strategy.

Did I believe the analysis prepared by Frank Quatrone’s team? I accepted some of the comments about the future, and I was skeptical about others. In the period from 2006 to 2012, it was becoming increasingly difficult to overcome some notable failures in enterprise search. The poster child from the problems was Fast Search & Transfer. In a nutshell, Fast Search retreated from Web search, shutting down its Google competitor AllTheWeb.com. The company’s engaging founder John Lervik told me that the future was enterprise search. But some Fast Search customers were slow in paying their bills because of the complexity of tailoring the Fast Search system to a client’s particular requirements. I recall being asked to comment about how to get the Fast Search system to work because my team used it for the FirstGov.gov site (now USA.gov) when the Inktomi solution was no longer viable due to procurement rule changes. Fast Search worked, but it required the same type of manual effort that the Vivisimo system required. Search-and-retrieval for an organization is not a one size fits all thing, a fact Google learned with its spectacular failure with its truly misguided Google Search Appliance product. Fast Search ended with an investigation related to financial missteps, and Microsoft stepped in in 2008 and bought the company for about $1.2 billion. I thought that was a wild and crazy number, but I was one of the lucky people who managed to get Fast Search to work and knew that most licensees would not have the resources or talent I had at my disposal. Working for the White House has some benefits, particularly when Fast Search for the US government was part of its tie up with AT&T. Thank goodness for my counterpart Ms. Coker. But $1.2 billion for Fast Search? That in my opinion was absolutely bonkers from my point of view. There were better and cheaper options, but Microsoft did not ask my opinion until after the deal was closed.


Everyone in the HP Autonomy matter keeps saying the same thing like an old-fashioned 78 RPM record stuck in a groove. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. You produced the image really “fast.” Plus, it is good enough like most search systems.

What is the Reuters’ news story adding to this background? Nothing. The reason is that the news story focuses on one factoid: “HP Claims $4 Billion Losses in London Lawsuit over Autonomy Deal.” Keep in mind that HP paid $11 billion for Autonomy plc. Keep in mind that was 10 times what Microsoft paid for Fast Search. Now HP wants $4 billion. Stripping away everything but enterprise search, I could accept that HP could reasonably pay $1.2 billion for Autonomy. But $11 billion made Microsoft’s purchase of Fast Search less nutso. Because, despite technical differences, Autonomy and Fast Search were two peas in a pod. The similarities were significant. The differences were technical. Neither company was poised to grow as rapidly as their stakeholders envisioned. 

When open source search options became available, these quickly became popular. Today if one wants serviceable search-and-retrieval for an enterprise application one can use a Lucene / Solr variant or pick one of a number of other viable open source systems.

But HP bought Autonomy and overpaid. Furthermore, Autonomy had potential, but the vision of Mike Lynch and the resources of HP were needed to convert the promise of Autonomy into a diversified information processing company. Autonomy could have provided high value solutions to the health and medical market; it could have become a key player in the policeware market; it could have leveraged its legal software into a knowledge pipeline for eDiscovery vendors to license and build upon; and it could have expanded its opportunities to license Autonomy stubs into broader OpenText enterprise integration solutions.

But what did HP do? It muffed the bunny. Mr. Lynch exited and set up a promising cyber security company and spent the rest of his time in courts. The Reuters’ article states:

Following one of the longest civil trials in English legal history, HP in 2022 substantially won its case, though a High Court judge said any damages would be significantly less than the $5 billion HP had claimed. HP’s lawyers argued on Monday that its losses resulting from the fraud entitle it to about $4 billion.

If I were younger and had not written three volumes of the Enterprise Search Report and a half dozen books about enterprise search, I would write about the wild and crazy years for enterprise search, its hits, its misses, and its spectacular failures (Yes, Google, I remember the Google Search Appliance quite well.) But I am a dinobaby.

The net net is HP made a poor decision and now years later it wants Mike Lynch to pay for HP’s lousy analysis of the company, its management missteps within its own Board of Directors, and its decision to pay $11 billion for a company in a sector in which at the time simply being profitable was a Herculean achievement. So this dinobaby says, “Caveat emptor.”

Stephen E Arnold, February 12, 2024

Regulators Shift into Gear to Investigate an AI Tie Up

January 19, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Solicitors, lawyers, and avocats want to mark the anniversary of the AI big bang. About one year ago, Microsoft pushed Google into hitting its Code Red button. Investment firms, developers, and wild-eyed entrepreneurs knew smart software was the real deal, not a digital file of a cartoon like that NFT baloney. In the last 12 months, AI went from jargon and eliciting yawns to the treasure map to the fabled city of El Dorado (even if it was a suburb of Grants, New Mexico. Google got the message quickly. The lawyers. Well, not too quickly.


Regulators look through the technological pile of 2023 gadgets. Despite being last year’s big thing, the law makers and justice deciders move into action mode. Exciting. Thanks, MSFT Copilot Bing thing. Good enough.

EU Joins UK in Scrutinizing OpenAI’s Relationship with Microsoft” documents what happens when lawyers — after decades of inaction — wake to do something constructive. Social media gutted the fabric of many cultural norms. AI isn’t going to be given a 20 year free pass. No way.

The write up reports:

Antitrust regulators in the EU have joined their British counterparts in scrutinizing Microsoft’s alliance with OpenAI.

What will happen now? Here’s my short list of actions:

  1. Legal eagles on both sides of the Atlantic will begin grooming their feathers in order to be selected to deal with the assorted forms, filings, hearings, and advisory meetings. Some of the lawyers will call Ferrari to make sure they are eligible to buy a supercar; others may cast an eye on an impounded oligarch-linked yacht. Yep, big bucks ahead.
  2. Microsoft and OpenAI will let loose an platoon of humanoid art history and business administration majors. These professionals will create a wide range of informative explainers. Smart software will be pressed into duty, and I anticipate some smart automation to provide Teflon the the flow of digital documentation.
  3. Firms — possibly some based in the EU and a few bold souls in the US — will present information making clear that competition is a good thing. Governments must regulate smart software
  4. Entities hostile to the EU and the US will also output information or disinformation. Which is what depends on one’s perspective.

In short, 2024 will be an interesting year because one of the major threat to the Google could be converted to the digital equivalent of a eunuch in an Assyrian ruler’s court. What will this mean? Google wins. Unanticipated consequence? Absolutely.

Stephen E Arnold, January 19, 2024

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