Turbotodd

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

AI Funding and Talent

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I was too busy to blog yesterday, but a couple of stories about AI funding did hit my radar that I wanted to mention.

TechCrunch reported first that a startup out of London, BenevolventAI, announced that it had raised $115 million “to continue developer its core ‘AI brain’ as well as different arms of the company that are using it specifically to break new ground in drug development and more.”

That round values the company at $2.1 billion. 

Some background:

The core of BenevolentAI’s business is focused around what Mulvaney describes as a “brain” built by a team of scientists — some of whom are disclosed, and some of whom are not, for competitive reasons; Mulvaney said: There are 155 people working at the startup in all, with 300 projected by the end of this year. The brain has been created to ingest and compute billions of data points in specific areas such as health and material science, to help scientists better determine combinations that might finally solve persistently difficult problems in fields like medicine.

The crux of the issue in a field like drug development, for example, is that even as scientists identify the many permutations and strains of, say, a particular kind of cancer, each of these strains can mutate, and that is before you consider that each mutation might behave completely differently depending on which person develops the mutation.

This is precisely the kind of issue that AI, which is massive computational power and “learning” from previous computations, can help address. (And BenevolventAI is not the only one taking this approach. Specifically in cancer, others include Grail and Paige.AI.)

Another one that caught my attention was Eightfold.ai, “a new technology service aimed at solving nothing less than the problem of how to provide professional meaning in the modern world.”

Founded by former Googler and IBM researcher Ashutosh Garg (who is a search and personalization expert), the company “…boasts an executive team that has a combined 80 patents and more than 6,000 citations for their research.

What’s more interesting to me is their mission: “To bring the analytical rigor for which their former employers are famous to the question of how best to help employees find fulfillment in the workforce.”

Lightspeed Ventures and Foundation Capital are among those backing the venture to the tune of $24 million.

How it works:

“We have crawled the web for millions of profiles… including data from Wikipedia,” says Garg. “From there we have gotten data round how people have moved in organizations. We use all of this data to see who has performed well in an organization or not. Now what we do… we build models over this data to see who is capable of doing what.”

There are two important functions at play, according to Garg. The first is developing a talent network of a business — “the talent graph of a company,” he calls it. “On top of that we map how people have gone from one function to another in their career.”

Using those tools, Garg says Eightfold.ai’s services can predict the best path for each employee to reach their full potential.

Did you get that? “Building models for the talent graph of a company and how people have gone from one function to another in their career. I’m calling it a Maslowe AI play!

As for how hot the war for AI talent is, check out this New York Time’s article.  It reveals that AI specialists with little or no industry experience can make between $300K and $500K a year in salary and stock. 

Might be time to go back to school!

Written by turbotodd

April 20, 2018 at 12:47 pm

iPhone X Making Moolah

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I’ve not upgraded to an iPhone 8 or X yet, but someone out there in the ether has.  Maybe even quite a few.

MacRumor reported yesterday that, according to Counterpoint Research, the iPhone X accounted for 35 percent of total worldwide handset profits in the fourth quarter of 2017.

They also reported that the X generated 5X more profit than the combined profit of more than 600 Android OEMs during the quarter, and this despite the fact that the X was available for purchase only during the final two months of the year.

iPhone X Sales

The story indicated other Apple iPhones, including the 8, 8 Plus, 7, and 7 Plus accounted for a second large chunk of global handset profits.

And that Apple was the most profitable brand with 86 percent of total handset market profits.

Yeah, just a little bit.

So excuse me for a moment if I kid about this story that appeared in The Wall Street Journal about folks wanting to go all retro with “candy bar” and “banana” and so-called feature phones because their smartphone had too much to compel them to use it.  

Uh, isn’t that the frickin’ point?  A computer in our hands?!

I waited 20+ years to get a smartphone!

I use it for all kinds of things — writing, reading, watching stuff, playing games, navigating, travel, communicating via video and text, etc.…and you want to go back to a feature phone?  

Are you ——ing kidding me?  

I’m sorry if you’re so addicted to your smartphone that you can’t control yourself.  

But that’s your problem.  

Me, I’ll be perfectly find if I never have to send another T9 text for the rest of my adult life!

Written by turbotodd

April 18, 2018 at 1:56 pm

Posted in 2018, apple, iPhone, iphone x

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IBM 1Q18 Earnings: EPS Beats @ $2.45

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IBM’s 1Q18 earnings were just announced, and beat estimates on EPS of $2.42 per share at $2.45, and revenue at $19.1 billion (vs. estimates of $18.84 billion).

CNBC’s report highlights:

Last quarter, IBM announced revenue growth from the year-ago quarter for the first time in more than five years. That streak is now continuing for a second quarter.

But the company reaffirmed its previous guidance of $13.80 in earnings per share, excluding certain items, for the full year of 2018, while analysts polled by FactSet had expected $13.83 per share, according to Thomson Reuters.

Cantor Fitzgerald analysts led by Joseph Foresi said in a Friday note that they expect IBM to report gains from companies upgrading to IBM’s latest mainframe computer, the z14.

IBM continues to seek growth from its strategic imperatives, which include social, mobile, analytics and cloud. In the fourth quarter that group contributed 49 percent of all revenue, and the Cantor analysts expect that balance to be unchanged in the first quarter.

With respect to guidance, for the second quarter analysts expect IBM to forecast $3.05 in earnings per share, excluding certain items, on $19.9 billion in revenue, according to Thomson Reuters.

Written by turbotodd

April 17, 2018 at 3:19 pm

Posted in 2018, earnings, ibm

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Uncle Sam’s IT Challenges

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Today is officially the last day to file your 2017 taxes, and oh yeah, good luck with that.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, “Some IRS computer systems are ‘experiencing technical difficulties.’”

The problem is believed to be a hardware failure, and the IRS is rebooting its systems, said a congressional aide familiar with the matter.

The IRS sent an email at 8:46 a.m. ET Tuesday notifying accountants and other tax professionals that parts of the Modernized eFile system, which receives tax returns electronically, were “unavailable.”

Does this mean I don’t have to pay my taxes? 

Okay, okay…actually, I filed a few weeks ago, but a person can dream.

Most Americans have already filed their 2017 income taxes, but millions do so in the final days of the filing season. Last year, between April 14 and April 21, the IRS received more than 17 million returns.

The IRS has been trying to update its outdated computer systems for several years, and agency leaders have warned about potential malfunctions and said they are guarding closely against external threats.

Maybe they need more tax robots.  Call Elon.

Written by turbotodd

April 17, 2018 at 2:04 pm

Posted in 2018, government, uncle sam

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Robotic Confusion

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Have you watched the new “Lost in Space” series on Netflix?

Danger, Will Robinson!

Sorry, couldn’t help myself.  It’s good stuff.

But, I must say, I’m now all confused about this whole robotic thing.

Now because of the new Netflix series.  

No, rather, because I keep hearing loads of contradictions about what’s going on with the whole machine versus man convo.

On the one hand, I hear that robots are going to take over the world and leave us mere mortals sitting around in a depressed malaise, complaining about how the robots took all our jobs.

And then on the other, I learn that robots are “riding to the rescue” in Eastern Europe, where severe labor shortages have forced companies to call in the machines.

Perhaps both these things are true, and that’s the real warning about our future?  We just don’t know.

Two stories in particular struck me as resonant with this apparent contradiction.

First, in The New York Times, this headline: Robots Ride to the Rescue Where Workers Can’t Be Found. 

The lede: Fast-growing economies in Eastern Europe have led to severe labor shortages, so companies are calling in the machines.

As reported, despite a roaring economy and a jobless rate of just 2.4 percent, in the Czech Republic the dearth of manpower has limited the ability of Czech companies to expand and nearly a third of them have started to turn away orders.

Jaroslav Hanak, the president of the Czech Confederation of Industry, explained that “It’s becoming a brake on growth…If businesses don’t increase robotization and artificial intelligence, they’ll disappear.”

And apparently this in an Eastern Europe that is already well automated, with around 101 robots for every 10,000 workers.

But then there’s this other story: That Elon Musk is replacing robots at his Tesla factory with humans, saying that “humans are underrated.”

This is the same guy who warned us about the coming AI apocalypse.

But because his Tesla Model 3 production facility is way behind on delivering vehicles to customers who have been waiting for many months, apparently the AI apocalypse is not so close that it will prevent humans from coming in to fix the problem that the machines caused in the first place.

As Musk explained on the “CBS This Morning” show to Gayle King in a recent interview: “We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts…And it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing.”

And so Musk has now hit “pause” on the Tesla 3 production line to try and resolve those problems with the automation and figure out a way that humans can come in and restart production and, presumably, be more efficient and reach its target of 5,000 cars produced per week by the end of 2018.

As for the robots, they’ll have to get back in their own assembly line and wait to be reassigned.

No danger, Will Robinson.  That is, unless you’re Class B-9-M-3 General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot (the Robot’s real name in the original “Lost in Space”).

Written by turbotodd

April 17, 2018 at 10:40 am

Posted in 2018, AI, robots

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China’s Self-Driving Rules

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Reuters is reporting that China has laid out national guidelines for testing self-driving cars, and cites its source as the China Daily newspaper.

The rules indicate that vehicles must first be tested in non-public zones, that road tests can only be on designated streets, and that a qualified person must always sit in the driver’s position, ready to take over control.

Autonomous vehicles have become a “key plank” in Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” push.

In other Chinese Internet-related news, China’s rough equivalent to Twitter, Sina Weibo, reversed itself earlier today of an edict to ban gay content, according to a report from CNBC.

On Friday, Weibo announced plans to remove posts containing pornographic cartoons, videos that promote violence, homosexual content, and violent video games, arguing that it was making these moves to comply with Chinese law.

But over the weekend, Weibo endured a major backlash from Weibo users, and in a post from today the company said it would no longer target “homosexual content” (but would continue forward cleaning up pornographic and violent posts).

CNBC’s story points out that homosexuality was decriminalized in China in 1997, and “later removed from an official list of mental illnesses.”

Written by turbotodd

April 16, 2018 at 2:35 pm

Comey’s Ratings

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So who watched that Jim Comey interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos last evening?

Closed to 10 million people, apparently.

I won’t even come close to wading into the politics, but from a media perspective, the Hollywood Reporter made some interesting observations about the ratings and the matchups.

From my perspective, it was a bold move for ABC to put this interview in a time slot that was competing against the Academy of Country Music Awards show. Then again, there might be some Red State, Blue State (Deep State?) method to that madness.

The hour-long interview (well, hour-long, save for what seemed like 25 minutes of commercials) averaged 9.8 million viewers with a 2.4 rating in the news demo for adults 25-54 for the network.

But the ACMA still won the night, averaging 12.1 million viewers.

And let’s not forget Stephanopoulos and Comey were also competing with AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and Showtimes “Billions.” It was a rough night all around!

Anderson Cooper’s “60 Minutes” interview with Stormy Daniels on March 25th way outpaced the Comey Q&A 2:1, pulling in 22 million viewers (according to Nielsen).

To put all those numbers in some perspective, this year’s Super Bowl, which reached a seven-year low in terms of ratings, had viewership of 111.3 million and a 37.1 rating.

As for Comey’s book, it goes on sale tomorrow and currently sits atop the Amazon Kindle list of the Top 100 Paid books list.

Written by turbotodd

April 16, 2018 at 11:17 am

Posted in 2018, politics

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