Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

AI On A Friday

leave a comment »

Well this week went fast.

I was scanning the tech headlines and saw a number of tidbits on AI in the news.

First, from ZDNet: Qualcomm and Baidu have formed a strategic collaboration to optimize Baidu’s DuerOS conversational AI system and create a better AI voice and smart assistant solution for smartphones and IoT devices. More details here.

CNBC is reporting that Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, was talking up the company’s work to develop custom hardware for AI on Thursday during a talk at a company party for academic and industry researchers.

The specialized hardware could one day be used inside Tesla vehicles to do the computing work necessary for autonomous driving.

And just yesterday, IBM unveiled its next-generation Power Systems Servers incorporating its newly designed POWER9 processor that is built specifically for compute-intensive AI workloads.

The new POWER9 systems are capable of improving the training times of deep learning frameworks by nearly 4X, allowing enterprises to build more accurate AI applications faster.

Written by turbotodd

December 8, 2017 at 9:25 am

CVS to Buy Aetna in $69 Billion Deal

leave a comment »

CVS Health said on Sunday that it had agreed to buy Aetna for about $69 billion, in a deal that would combine the drugstore with one of the biggest health insurers in the United States, according to a report from The New York Times.

The merger comes at a time of turbulent transformation in health care. Insurers, hospitals and pharmacy companies are bracing for a possible disruption in government programs like Medicare as a result of the Republicans’ plan to cut taxes. Congress remains at an impasse over the future of the Affordable Care Act, while employers and consumers are struggling under the weight of rising medical costs, including the soaring price of prescription drugs. And rapid changes in technology have raised the specter of new competitors — most notably Amazon. A combined CVS-Aetna could position itself as a formidable figure in this changing landscape. Together, the companies touch most of the basic health services that people regularly use, providing an opportunity to benefit consumers. CVS operates a chain of pharmacies and retail clinics that could be used by Aetna to provide care directly to patients, while the merged company could be better able to offer employers one-stop shopping for health insurance for their workers.
– via www.nytimes.com

 

But as the Times goes on to observe, critics worry customers could find their healthcare choices sharply limited (i.e., less choice of where to fill a prescription or get care if so many roads lead through a combined CVS/Aetna.

But in the announcement, the companies pointed out clear synergies that would benefit patients:

the two companies emphasized their ability to transform CVS’s 10,000 pharmacy and clinic locations into community-based sites of care that would be far less expensive for patients. “We think of it as creating a new front door to health care in America,” CVS Health’s chief executive, Larry J. Merlo, said in an interview. The merger would establish a new way of delivering care, with nurses, pharmacists and others available to counsel people about their diabetes or do the lab work necessary to diagnose a condition, Mr. Merlo said. “We know we can make health care more affordable and less expensive.”
– via www.nytimes.com

Looming in the background, the Times observes, a lingering Amazon and Jeff Bezos, rumored to be preparing for an entry into the pharmacy business.

As to antitrust considerations, both companies played down the prospect of regulation, arguing that the takeover is a “vertical merger” combining companies in two different industries.

Written by turbotodd

December 4, 2017 at 9:21 am

Tiger’s Back

leave a comment »

Happy Monday.

It certainly is if you’re a golf fan, and a Tiger Woods fan in particular.

Woods returned to tournament golf for the first time in 300+ days, and after his fourth back surgery back in April of this year, as well as a DUI arrest in May.

Woods’ fans had much to be encouraged by. He turned in a respectable nine under for his own Hero World Challenge tournament in Albany, Bahamas, and was said to be regularly hitting drives 300+ yards (i.e., no back issues were holding back his power).

His long irons were pretty accurate, and his putting aggressive. Not unlike most amateurs, his touch around the greens pitching and chipping was rough around the edges, but even there Tiger turned in some beautiful shots.

Whether or not he’ll be able to keep it up, and whether or not his back will hold up, time will tell. But it was nice to see some of the old Tiger playing among this new generation of golfers, many of whom he inspired to take up the game.

Written by turbotodd

December 4, 2017 at 9:07 am

Posted in 2017, golf, pga tour, tiger woods

Facebook Targeting Discrimination

leave a comment »

Facebook’s multicultural challenges continue.

USA Today is reporting that Facebook is responding to criticism from black lawmakers in the U.S., and has indicated it will temporarily block advertisers from excluding racial and ethnic groups when placing ads on the social network:

The move is the most serious response yet to concerns Facebook’s “multicultural affinity marketing” feature can be used to discriminate against minorities, particularly in sensitive areas where historically they have faced discrimination such as housing, credit and employment.
– via USA TODAY

Facebook says it’s suspending the targeting capability while conducting an audit of how advertisers exclude groups. The audit will include groups beyond multicultural affinity such as the LGBT community and religious groups, the company said.
– via USA TODAY

USA Today goes on to report that the results will be shared with the groups focused on discrimination in ads, and will work with those groups to make improvements and also publish the measures it’s taking.

In an unrelated report from Facebook, TechCrunch is reporting that Facebook unveiled a “slew” of philanthropy-minded features at the second Facebook Social Good Forum yesterday in NYC.

Facebook is eliminating its 5% fee on donations so 100% of money sent through its Donate buttons go to the desired non-profit. Previously it took 5% to pay for credit card processing and verifying the 750,000 charities on its platform, but will now nobly eat that cost. However, personal fundraisers can still incur fees from 6.9% to 8.8%. It’s setting up a $50 million per year Facebook Donations Fund to match giving on its app to causes like natural disaster relief. Facebook is expanding charitable giving tools to 13 countries in Europe plus Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. It’s launching a Fundraiser API to sync Facebook fundraisers to offsite campaigns, starting with Susan G. Komen, JDRF, National Multiple Sclerosis Society and Movember, with plans to connect to 500 non-profits by end of Spring 2018. Its new Community Help API delivers data from Facebook’s crisis volunteering feature to disaster response organizations to assist them with routing resources. After signing up 4 million blood donors in India, Facebook will expand the program to Bangladesh in 2018.
– via TechCrunch

Also…

Finally, it’s launching a new Mentorship feature through partnered non-profits starting with iMentor for education and The International Rescue Committee for crisis recovery. People over 18 in need of addiction recovery, career advancement or other personal help will be matched with vetted mentors who will guide them through an on-Facebook curriculum of education materials.
– via TechCrunch

Written by turbotodd

November 30, 2017 at 8:48 am

Posted in 2017, facebook, philanthropy

WeWork to Acquire Meetup

leave a comment »

Crunchbase is reporting that WeWork continues with its acquisition spree in a planned acquisition of community meeting platform, Meetup.

Meetup declined to comment. WeWork declined to comment. Meetup hasn’t taken part in a funding event since 2014, and it has, over the years, only taken about $19 million in investments according to Crunchbase. Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ) led two of its rounds, participating in the rest, also according to Crunchbase. CEO Heiferman also said the acquisition would allow the firm to double in size. In the same meeting, he mentioned a $30 million figure. It was not clear if that was an acquisition price, or a reference to expected investment into his company from the acquiring entity. The startup, which has 35 million Meetup members and over 300,000 “IRL” community meetups to date, is still hiring for several jobs, according to its website. However, the acquisition also comes on the heels of several Meetup employees being asked to voluntarily resign, which was confirmed to Crunchbase News by an internal source on condition of anonymity.
– via Crunchbase News

And this from The Wall Street Journal:

With the deal, WeWork hopes to increase its usage rate during non-working hours. Most traditional clients use spaces on weekdays while Meetup-organized events mostly happen on nights and weekends. Meetup helps organizations and clubs host events and grow membership. More than 100,000 people have attended meetups at WeWork locations so far this year, the companies said Tuesday.
– via WSJ

The Journal article goes on to point out that Meetup has indicated more than 15,000 events are held each day thorugh its platform.

Written by turbotodd

November 28, 2017 at 9:44 am

Posted in 2017, meetings, meetup

Cyber Monday Record Breaker

leave a comment »

TechCrunch is reporting that Cyber Monday was the largest-ever single day of online sales in the U.S., coming in at $6.59 billion purchased online.

Purchases made by smartphone also broke a new record, coming in at $1.59 billion in sales.

The figures come from Adobe, which has been tracking shopping online in the last few days as retailers officially kick-off of holiday shopping season, the most important time of the year for their businesses. These early days are seen by many as a bellwether for how the next six weeks will play out.
– via TechCrunch

Overall, Adobe said traffic was up 11.9 percent for the day (season average: 5.7 percent). As with other days in the long weekend, mobile has been very much a part of the story: 47.4 percent of visits (39.9 percent smartphones, the rest tablets), and 33.1 percent of revenues. Notable in the mobile story is that of smartphone-based browsing and purchases. The record-high of $1.59 billion in sales made via smartphones was a whopping 39.2 percent year-on-year increase: an outsized number compared to the rest of the increases across the board that ran between 10 and 20 percent.
– via TechCrunch

And Amazon accounted for the most sales of any single platform:

According to Hitwise, the e-commerce giant accounted for 45.1 percent and 54.9 percent of all transactions respectively on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Hitwise puts the actual numbers at 5.6 million and 7.1 million transactions.
– via TechCrunch

Written by turbotodd

November 28, 2017 at 8:57 am

Facebook AI to Detect Suicidal Posts

with 2 comments

TechCrunch is reporting on Facebook’s new “proactive detection” artificial intelligence technology which will scan all posts for patterns of suicidal thoughts, and when necessary send mental health resources to the user at risk or their friends, or even contact local first-responders.

Facebook also will use AI to prioritize particularly risky or urgent user reports so they’re more quickly addressed by moderators, and tools to instantly surface local language resources and first-responder contact info. It’s also dedicating more moderators to suicide prevention, training them to deal with the cases 24/7, and now has 80 local partners like Save.org, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Forefront from which to provide resources to at-risk users and their networks.
– via TechCrunch

TechCrunch’s Josh Constine goes on to observe that this evolution could trigger “some dystopian fears about how else the technology could be applied” (scanning for political dissent or petty crimes, for example), but that Facebook had no comment on the possibility of such scans.

So how did they get to this point?

Facebook trained the AI by finding patterns in the words and imagery used in posts that have been manually reported for suicide risk in the past. It also looks for comments like “are you OK?” and “Do you need help?” “We’ve talked to mental health experts, and one of the best ways to help prevent suicide is for people in need to hear from friends or family that care about them,” Rosen says. “This puts Facebook in a really unique position. We can help connect people who are in distress connect to friends and to organizations that can help them.”
– via TechCrunch

Written by turbotodd

November 27, 2017 at 4:46 pm

%d bloggers like this: