Google High Schools It Again

May 4, 2022

Dr. Satrajit Chatterjee may have been kicked out of the Google High School Science Club. The shame!

The alleged truth appears in “Another Firing Among Google’s AI Brain Trust and More Discord.” The venerable New York Times, owner of Wordle, states:

Less than two years after Google dismissed two researchers who criticized the biases built into artificial intelligence systems, the company has fired a researcher who questioned a paper it published on the abilities of a specialized type of artificial intelligence used in making computer chips.

Googzilla has been eager to make clear that its approach to smart software is the one best way. Sure, some may disagree — Just don’t complain too loudly or work at Google are a couple of tips. I have pointed out that the nifty approach used by the online ad company can demonstrate “drift”. I call this tendency the “close enough for horseshoes” approach. I mean that if something is good enough for ad matching, then the same system will work for other Googley things. Do you want to stand in front of a Waymo or let the Google output your health index? Sure you will. You just don’t know it yet.

Dr. Chatterjee was concerned that the information presented in the delightful, easy-to-read article “A Graph Placement Methodology for Fast Chip Design” added some flair to the write up. (Like most real science, this allegedly accurate paper is behind a paywall; however, you may be able to view it. Good luck!) Here’s the summary of the Googlers’ assertions about its smart software platform:

In this work, we propose an RL-based approach to chip floorplanning that enables domain adaptation. The RL agent becomes better and faster at floorplanning optimization as it places a greater number of chip netlists. We show that our method can generate chip floorplans that are comparable or superior to human experts in under six hours, whereas humans take months to produce acceptable floorplans for modern accelerators. Our method has been used in production to design the next generation of Google TPU.

Got that. The translation is that the Google can design chips without too many humans: Cheaper, better, faster and don’t push back with “Pick two”.

Dr. Chatterjee did and he allegedly has an opportunity to find his future elsewhere; for example, working at Dr. Timnit Gebru’s organization, a home for some Xooglers who crossed mental swords with Dr. Jeffrey Dean and his acolytes.

The New York Times, in Gray Lady fashion, asserted:

Dr. Chatterjee’s dismissal was the latest example of discord in and around Google Brain, an A.I. research group considered to be a key to the company’s future. After spending billions of dollars to hire top researchers and create new kinds of computer automation, Google has struggled with a wide variety of complaints about how it builds, uses and portrays those technologies. Tension among Google’s A.I. researchers reflects much larger struggles across the tech industry, which faces myriad questions over new A.I. technologies and the thorny social issues that have entangled these technologies and the people who build them.

Googlers can fiddle with mobiles in meetings, wear torn T shirts, and sleep on the floor under their workstation mini-desk. Just don’t disagree with the One True Way.

What if Drs. Chatterjee and Gebru are a little bit correct in their assertions that the GOOG’s smart software is dorky in many ways. What if these little dorkies add up to delivering 60 confidence in the outputs.

As I said, “close enough for horseshoes” works when burning through ad inventory. However, applied to other domains that horseshoe might land in the crowd and knock a two year old for a loop. Not good unless someone in the Google High School Science Club can address a cranial fracture.

Stephen E Arnold, May 4, 2022

Does Apple Have a High School Management Precept: We Are Entitled Because We Are Smarter Than You

April 19, 2022

The story “Ex-Apple Employee Takes Face ID Privacy Complaint to Europe” contains information about an Apple employee’s complaint to the “privacy watchdogs outside the US.” I have no insight into the accuracy or pervasiveness of Apple’s alleged abuses of privacy. The write up states:

Gjøvik [the former Apple employee blowing the privacy horn] urges the regulators to “investigate the matters I raised and open a larger investigation into these topics within Apple’s corporate offices globally”, further alleging: “Apple claims that human rights do not differ based on geographic location, yet Apple also admits that French and German governments would never allow it to do what it is doing in Cupertino, California and elsewhere.”

What I find interesting is that employees who go to work for a company with trade secrets is uncomfortable with practices designed to maintain secrecy. When I went to work for a nuclear engineering company, I understood what the products of the firm could do. Did I protest the risks some of those products might pose? Nope. I took the money and talked about computers and youth soccer.

Employees who sign secrecy agreements (the Snowden approach) and then ignore them baffle me. I think I understand discomfort with some procedures within a commercial enterprise. A new employee often does not know how to listen or read between the lines of the official documents. My view is that an employee who finds an organization a bad fit should quit. The litigation benefits attorneys. I am not confident that the rulings will significantly alter how some companies operate. The ethos of an organization can persist even as the staff turns over and the managerial wizards go through the revolving doors.

As the complaint winds along, the legal eagles will benefit. Disenchanted employees? Perhaps not too much. The article makes clear that when high school science club management precepts are operational, some of the managers’ actions manifest hubris and a sense of entitlement. These are admirable qualities for a clever 16 year old. For a company which is altering the social fabric of societies, those high school concepts draw attention to what may be a serious flaw. Should companies operate without meaningful consequences for their systems and methods? Sure. Why not?

Stephen E Arnold, April 19, 2022

The Google: What Is the Problem? We Protect Puppies?

April 19, 2022

I read a paywalled write up with the title “A Former Employee at Google’s AI Lab DeepMind Says the Firm Seems Obsessed with Saving ITs Own Reputation after She Went Public with Claims of Sexual Harassment and Assault.” No talk about puppies, which Google wants to save. Now that’s a headline which tells the story in my opinion. So rather than summarizing the rather troubling allegations in the write up, I want to call attention to the management aspects of this alleged misstep.

One key point is the speed with which the Google responds to employee inputs. The article points out that the whistle blower found that the Google moved slowly. Google wants Web sites to respond quickly. Management appears to have a different time scale if the allegations are accurate. The managerial review process was “drawn out.”

Another interesting item is that after a management shuffle, the new Top Googler at DeepMind admitted that the “case” was “complex.” That’s not surprising. It is quite difficult to figure out why a query like “search and retrieval” returns information about “information retrieval.” I do not want information about “information.” With a fundamental issue with providing on point results to a simple query about a topic of interest to a company providing Web search results, Google misses the mark. Has the company missed the mark with personnel lingo? I noted that the management lingo in use at the Google is P&C which stands for people and culture. What? Does this mean personnel?

And finally, the write up includes this anecdote about a certain mobile phone whiz at the Google:

The New York Times had reported that Google had “protected” senior executives accused of misconduct over the past decade, such as Android creator Andy Rubin. Rubin denied the claims. Google subsequently changed its policies on dealing with sexual harassment claims.

Management change. No mention of an attempted suicide, baby making in the legal department, or the Dr. Timnit Gebru matter.

Net net: The management methods in use at Google are, to use a favorite word of the Google founders, “interesting.” This word is, however, less compelling than harassment, sexual violence, self-harm, and similar terms which add zest to the interactions of a manager and an employee. Alleged interactions, of course. P&C does not appear to be an acronym for politically correct at the Google. I associate P&C with other words, which I am not comfortable mentioning. Puppies? I am okay with puppies. So is the GOOG.

Stephen E Arnold, April 19, 2022

Teams Tracking: Are You Working at Triple Peak?

April 14, 2022

I installed a new version of Microsoft Office. I had to spend some time disabling the Microsoft Cloud, Outlook, and Teams, plus a number of other odds and ends. Who in my office uses Publisher? Sorry, not me. In fact, I knew only one client who used Publisher and that was years ago. We converted that lucky person to an easier to use and more stable product.

We have tried to participate in Teams meetings. Unfortunately the system crashes on my Mac Mini, my Intel workstation, and my AMD workstation. I know the problem is obviously the fault of Apple, Intel, and AMD, but it would be nice if the Teams software would allow me to participate in a meeting. The workaround in my office is to use Zoom. It plays nice with my machines, my mostly secure set up, and the clumsy finger of my 77 year old self.

I provide the context so that you will understand my reaction to “Microsoft Discovers Triple Peak Work Day for Its Remote Employees.” As you may know, Microsoft has been adding features to Teams since the pandemic lit a fire under what was once a software service reserved for financial meetings and some companies that wanted everyone no matter what to be in a digital face to face meeting. Those were super. I did some work for an early video conferencing player. I think it was called Databeam. Yep, perfect for kids who wanted to take a virtual class, not a presentation about the turbine problems at Lockheed Martin.

Microsoft’s featuritis has embraced surveillance. I won’t run down the tools available to an “administrator” with appropriate access to a Teams’ set up for a company. I want to highlight the fact that Microsoft shared with ExtremeTech some information I find fascinating; to wit:

… when employees were in the office, it found “knowledge workers” usually had two periods of peak productivity: before lunch and after lunch. However, with everyone working from home there’s now a third period: late at night, right before bedtime.

My workday has for years begun about 6 am. I chug along until lunch. I then chug along until dinner. Then I chug along until I go to sleep at 10 pm. I like to think that my peak times are from 6 am to 9 am, from 10 am to noon, from 1 30 pm to 3 pm, and from 330 to 6 pm. I have been working for more than 50 years, and I am happy to admit that I am an old fashioned Type A person. Obviously Microsoft does not have many people like me in its sample. The morning, as I recall from my Booz, Allen & Hamilton days, the productive in the morning crowd was a large cohort, thousands in fact. But not in the MSFT sample. These are lazy dogs its seems.

Let’s imagine your are a Type A manager. You have some employees who work from home or from a remote location like a client’s office in Transnistia which you may know as the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic. How do you know your remotes are working at their peak times? You monitor the wily creatures: Before lunch, after lunch, and before bed or maybe to a disco in downtown Tiraspol.

How does this finding connect with Teams? With everyone plugged in from morning to night, the Type A manager can look at meeting attendance, participation, side talks, and other detritus sucked up by Teams’ log files. Match up the work with the times. Check to see if there are three ringing bells for each employee. Bingo. Another HR metric to use to reward or marginalize a human personnel asset.

I will just use Zoom and forget about people who do not work when I do.

Stephen E Arnold, April 14, 2022

Zuckerberg and Management: The Eye of What?

April 12, 2022

I am not familiar with (I know. I am a lazy phat, phaux, phrench bulldog.) Plus I assume that everything I read on the Internet is actual factual. (One of my helpers clued me into that phrase. I am so grateful for young person speak.)

I spotted this article: “Mark Zuckerberg Says Meta Employees Lovingly Refer to Him as The Eye of Sauron.” The hook was the word “lovingly.” The article reported that the Zuck said on a very energetic, somewhat orthogonal podcast:

“Some of the folks I work with at the company — they say this lovingly — but I think that they sometimes refer to my attention as the Eye of Sauron. You have this unending amount of energy to go work on something, and if you point that at any given team, you will just burn them.”

My recollection of the eye in question is that the Lord of the Rings crowd is recycling the long Wikipedia article about looking at someone and causing no end of grief. Mr. Zuck cause grief? Not possible. A “Zuck up” means in Harrod’s Creek a sensitive, ethical action. A “Zuck eye”, therefore, suggests the look of love, understanding, and compassion. I have seen those eyes in printed motion picture posters; for example, the film “Evil Eye” released in the Time of Covid.

The article points out:

Without delving too deeply into fantasy lore, it is canonically nefarious, and bad things happen when it notices you. Zuckerberg’s computer nerd demeanor doesn’t quite scream “Dark Lord” to us, but we don’t deny that Meta employees would compare his semi-autocratic mode of operation to that of the Eye.

Interesting management method.

Stephen E Arnold, April 12, 2022

If True, This Google Story Is Like a Stuck 45 RPM Disc

April 8, 2022

I don’t know if the information in “DeepMind Accused of Mishandling Sexual Misconduct Allegations” is spot on. The source is supposed to be one of those unimpeachable bastions of high brow journalism. (I won’t hold the Endeca search implementation up as evidence of making interesting decisions.) You will have to pay to read the source article unless you have access at the local news stand to a fungible copy of the orange thing.

The main idea in the write up is like the old hit Rag Mop stuck in a groove. You know, Rag Mop, Rag Mop, R A G G M O P P, Rag Mop? An ear worm with piranha teeth. Not a Candiru, but nasty nevertheless.

I noted this assertion:

A former DeepMind employee has accused the artificial intelligence group’s leadership of mishandling multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment, raising concerns over how grievances are dealt with at the Google-acquired company.

Juicy details are not included. The approach parallels the lack of color related to the attempted suicide by a Xoogler. This particular female hooked up with Google’s Icarus, burned a family, and suicidally unlatched her safety belt. Gravity, not the Thomas Pynchon type of rainbow, presented itself.

I spotted some hint of Google’s management tactics; to wit:

Julia [this is a fake name to protect the individual making the assertion of wonky behavior] has argued that there are major flaws in how grievances such as hers are handled at DeepMind. Alleged failures include extended delays in workplace investigations and insufficient safeguarding of sexual assault victims.

Are these characteristics of a Silicon Valley type company channeling the decision making of adolescent high school science club members?

The orange newspaper slipped in some thought provoking comments; for instance:

She was also emailed a six-page confessional document by the researcher, written in the third person, on August 18 2019. The document detailed suicidal tendencies, allusions to raping unconscious women, and sex addiction indicated by reference to a string of affairs with sex workers during work hours, and with colleagues on and off DeepMind premises. Another document sent to her on September 19 2019 included graphic and degrading sexual depictions of her.

I like the use of email by an alleged Google DeepMind individual. I wonder if this particular wizard understands the concept of legal discovery?

The write up includes some details about Google DeepMind’s administrative procedures and the alacrity which some issues are addressed. If I understand the source article, we’re not talking millisecond response time. Weeks seems to be the basic unit of time.

One may want to keep in mind that one of DeepMind’s founders moved on in the time period about which the Julia persona encountered some science club analyses of outlier work behavior.

Same repetitive phrases. Here’s an example my tin ear caught:

DeepMind said it was unable to comment on that latter case but added: “Any incident of sexual assault or harassment is abhorrent and it’s unacceptable that anyone at DeepMind or in the world should experience it.”

R A G G M O P P, Rag Mop. Do doo doo, dah dee ah dah Rag Mop.

Stephen E Arnold, April 8, 2022

What about the Alphabet Google DeepMind Personnel Zeitgeist? The What?

April 5, 2022

Ah, has, do you remember that zeitgeist (a popular word among some college student embroiled in German philosophy)? Zeitgeist apparently means “to a form of supraindividual mind at work in the world and developed in the cultural world view which pervades the ideas, outlooks, and emotions of a specific culture in a particular historical period.” But you knew that, right? Supraindividual. Cultural world. Pervasive in a specific culture. Let’s accept this Psychology Dictionary definition and move forward, shall we?

Google AI Unit’s High Ideals Are Tainted With Secrecy” captures the spirit of Alphabet Google DeepMind implicit systems and methods for personnel management. (You may have to pay to view this story. The collection of money befits the cowboy-hatted Big Dog who has an interest in the real news outputs of the Washington Post.) The main idea in the write up is less that Google is secretive and more that Google makes situational decisions and refused to talk about the thought process behind them. Surprise? Nope.

The write up states:

The former DeepMind employee wrote that she was threatened with disciplinary action if she spoke about her complaint with her manager or other colleagues. And the process of the company’s sending her notes and responding to her allegations took several months, during which time the person she reported was promoted and received a company award. DeepMind said in a statement that while it “could have communicated better throughout the grievance process,” a number of factors including the Covid pandemic and the availability of the parties involved contributed to delays.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda — perfect in grade school explanations about a failure, less impressive from a very large, super sophisticated outfit with smart software and wizards occupying hip workspaces. (What about those cubbies for people which allow a door to be closed? Privacy, please!)

The write up includes another of those “we don’t want to remember that” moments. This is the Mustafa Suleyman lateral arabesque. You can visit the real news source for the apparently interesting details. I must admit this incident is cut from the same fabric as the baby making in Google legal and the hooker/drug matter on a yacht called Escape. For some color around this matter, see this CBS report.

I loved this passage about one allegedly harassed Googler’s alleged interactions with co workers:

DeepMind said it is “digesting” its former employee’s open letter to understand what further action it should take. A bold and positive step would be to remove the confidentiality clauses in harassment settlements.

Consequences? Presumably authorities are letting the information work through their bureaucratic intestines. The good news: No attempted suicide, no heroin, no divorces and fatherless children, and no death — this time. Alphabet Google DeepMind want to benefit humanity. That’s great. But the Googley zeitgeist reveals the spirit of the firm in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, April 5, 2022

Ethical Behavior and the Ivy League: Redefinition by Example

April 5, 2022

First, MIT and its dalliance with the sophisticated Jeffrey Epstein. Then there was Harvard and its indifference to an allegation of improper interpersonal behavior. Sordid details abound in this allegedly accurate report. Now Yale. The bastion of “the dog”, the football game, Skull and Bones, etc., etc.

A Former Yale Employee Admits She Stole $40 Million in Electronics from the University” makes clear that auditing, resource management, and personnel supervision are not the esteemed institution greatest strengths.

I gave a talk at Yale a decade ago. The subject was Google, sparked because one of the Yale brain trust found my analysis interesting. Strange, I thought, at the time. No one else cares about my research about Google’s systems and methods. I showed up and was greeted as though I was one of the gang. (I wasn’t.)

At dinner someone asked me, “Where did you get your PhD?” I replied with my standard line: “I don’t have a PhD. I quit to take a job at Halliburton Nuclear.” As you might imagine, the others at the dinner were not impressed.

I gave my lecture and no one — absolutely none of the 100 people in the room — asked a question. No big deal. I am familiar with the impact some of my work has elicited. One investment banker big wheel threw an empty Diet Pepsi can at me after I explained how the technology of CrossZ (a non US analytics company) preceded in invention the outfit the banked just pumped millions into. Ignorance is bliss. Same at Yale during and after my lecture.

Has Yale changed? Seems to be remarkably consistent: Detached from the actions of mere humans, convinced of a particular world view, and into the zeitgeist of being of Yale.

But $40 million?

An ethical wake up call? Nope, hit the snooze button.

Stephen E Arnold, April 5, 2022

Uber Plays Algorithm Roulette With Driver Pay

March 25, 2022

A fuel surcharge which is in the $0.50 range may not keep Uber drivers in the chips. Uber remains a major player in the gig economy. Some of their drivers love the flexibility, while others are fed up with how the company treats them. Uber is a revolutionary company that flipped the transportation industry on its head. The drive share company is about to do it again, reports the Markup in, “Secretive Algorithm Will Determine Uber Pay In Many Cities.”

Uber released a new feature called “Upfront Fares” that allows user to pay an upfront fee for rides. It replaces fees that are based on trips’ time and distance. An algorithm relies on several factors to determine the upfront fare. Uber explains it offers drivers more transparency, because it allows them to see the fare, drop-off, and pick-up locations. Drivers have asked for the this information, especially since locations are not revealed until they accept a job.

Since the change, drivers say they have seen lower earnings. Before the new feature, drivers could calculate fares. It appears that Uber is shaving more off the top from drivers. Other gig economy companies like Instacart, DoorDash, and Shipt instituted pay algorithms and their pay has steadily declined. Gig economy companies could purposely be doing this to confuse workers and take more money:

“The more opaque the fare calculations, the more drivers, regulators, and the public have a hard time holding the gig companies accountable to fair and transparent pay standards, said Amos Toh, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch who studies the effects of artificial intelligence and algorithms on gig work.”

The gig economy is beneficial to many, but it has a downside. Workers can easily be exploited and based on their contracts they have little recourse. No matter the company, workers should be paid a decent wage with transparency on how it is determined.

Whitney Grace, March 25, 2022

Google: Managing with Flair

March 24, 2022

I had forgotten there was a Google employee survey. I read “Googlegeist Survey Reveals That Google Workers Are Increasingly Unhappy about Compensation, Promotion, and More.” Unhappy employees suggest that the Google zeitgeist is out of joint if the information in the write up is accurate.

I noted this passage:

In the latest Googlegeist or the annual Google survey, the company noticed that there was a growing trend of “increasingly unhappy” workers over compensation and other key issues.

How could those admitted to the Walt Disney Wonderland of technology and doing good be unhappy? How could the senior managers craft an artificial environment at odds with the needs of humanoids?

Is there a silver lining to the clouds hanging over the Google? Yes. I learned:

The survey which took place two months ago, yielded the most desirable results when it comes to advertisements, cloud, and searches. Moreover, the highest score came from the values and mission of the company. However, it should be noted that the lowest remark tackled the context of execution and compensation on the part of the labor force.

And how did the management of the firm respond? According to the write up:

Addressing the survey results is considered to be “one of the most important ways” for evaluation, as CEO Sundar Pichai said during an announcement via email. This would help the company assess the willingness and desirability of the workers to work inside the firm.

There you go. Management insight. Be happy or begone.

Stephen E Arnold, March 24, 2022

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