Turbotodd

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

Archive for the ‘artificial intelligence’ Category

Rain, Shine, Sleet, Snow, or AI

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Uncle Sam’s getting into the AI game, specifically with the U.S Postal Service.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, USPS is testing self-driving trucks on a more than 1,000-mile mail run between Phoenix and Dallas.

It’s a two-week pilot, and will use rigs supplied by autonomous trucking firm TuSimple to haul trailers on five round trips between distribution centers.

“The roughly 22-hour trip along three interstate highways is normally serviced by outside trucking companies that use two-driver teams to comply with federal regulations limiting drivers’ hours behind the wheel.”

Pretty simple equation. No humans, low cost, and no hours-of-service restrictions for AI Driver Dude.

So, dude (and dudettes), dissuade your kids from becoming truck drivers. There’s literally going to be no future for them.

Written by turbotodd

May 21, 2019 at 4:54 pm

Cray Cray and the PGA

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Happy Friday.

For golfers everywhere, it’s an especially special week (and weekend).

Normally, the PGA Championship is the last major championship of the year, played in the heat of the August sun.

This year, the tournament has been moved up to mid-May, and is being played at what they call the “peoples’ country club,” Bethpage Black.

Bethpage Black is the hardest of a number of golf courses open to the general public in Bethpage State Park in Long Island, New York.

It has also been home to a couple of U.S. Opens, one in 2002 and again in 2009…it was, in fact, the first public golf course to host a U.S. Open.

So, that’s the backstory. And while everyone is excited to hear about Tiger Woods play after winning the Masters this year, it was Brooks Koepka, three-time major and one-time PGA Championship winner who sunk putts from every which direction and every which length yesterday who took the lead at 7 under par.

Koepka is due back on the Black this PM, and while he has a couple of great players making chase, including Jordan Spieth who’s in today at a cumulative 5 under and Dustin Johnson (-4), it appears Koepka is in charge of his destiny this PM.

As for destiny, let’s jump over to some Friday PM tech news.

First up, for those of you who remember the hey day of supercomputing (whenever that was), you’ll remember Cray Inc.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is taking Cray off the board for $1.30 billion, roughly $35 per share and a premium of 17.4 percent to Cray’s last close, according to Reuters.

At last count, Cray’s supercomputing systems can handle big data sets, converged modeling, simulations, AI, and analytics workloads.

If this news makes you ill, you might want to check into Health at Scale. TechCrunch is reporting that the AI healthcare startup has raised $16M in a Series A round.

The startup has founders with both medical and engineering backgrounds, and writes that it “wants to bring machine learning to bear on healthcare treatment options to produce outcomes with better results and less aftercare.”

The idea is to make treatment decisions more data-driven. While they aren’t sharing their data sources, they say they have information, from patients with a given condition, to doctors who treat that condition, to facilities where the treatment happens. By looking at a patient’s individual treatment needs and medical history, they believe they can do a better job of matching that person to the best doctor and hospital for the job. They say this will result in the fewest post-operative treatment requirements, whether that involves trips to the emergency room or time in a skilled nursing facility, all of which would end up adding significant additional cost.

Anything to improve the condition of the American healthcare system.

Written by turbotodd

May 17, 2019 at 12:41 pm

Ok, Cupid, Goodbye “Chimerica”?

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Happy Tuesday.

The U.S. markets are experiencing slightly less turbulence today than they were yesterday. Maybe the Trump Put is on after all?

If so, that could very well lead to an upsurge in online dating!

In which case, Match.com has your back.

According to a report by Engadget, Match is now offering some human assistance for online daters in the form of “AskMatch,” a service that will connect its paid users to a dating coach for a chat on the phone.

“Match’s mission has always been around relationships and bringing people together. We want to go beyond just being an app on your phone,” said Match CEO Hesam Hosseini in an interview with Engadget. Match users will be able to find the option to “Talk to a coach” under the “Discover” area of the app. If selected, Match will connect you to one of its dating experts for a phone conversation. After the phone call, you can update your coach through the app with any progress you’ve made or ask further questions. 

Hosseini points out that there’s still plenty of room for us humans after all, and that the machines and algos can’t take over everything.

“Automation is great, but it’s not for everything–especially when it comes to relationships and love,” said Hosseini. While it’s doubtful that dating coaches will solve the bigger problems with online dating fatigue — chatting with a human person may help some users find clarity.

Meanwhile, the Chinese owner of Grindr, Beijing Kunlun Tech Co., released a statement indicating its being forced out of the gay-dating app game and will be required to sell Grindr by June 2020 under an agreement with U.S. officials.  

And Kai-Fu Lee, whose most recent book I would argue is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the coming AI revolution, is apparently also feeling the U.S./China trade pinch.

Lee had already left his Sinovation U.S. office last year, and now, according to CNBC, has “pulled back alongside many other Chinese investors who are struggling to put money to work in the current political environment.”

So much for “Chimerica,” you say?  

I’d say, China and the U.S. are heading down the wrong path. While trade agreements and disputes around intellectual property and related issues certainly need to be worked on to mutual benefit, a full on Chinese-American Cold War is exactly what we don’t need.

Written by turbotodd

May 14, 2019 at 2:14 pm

Boxed In

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Big news coming out of SCOTUS this morning: The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against Apple in case involving its App Store, allowing iPhone users to move forward with an antitrust suit against the company.

According to a report from CNBC, the iPhone users argue that Apple’s 30 percent commission on sales through the App Store was passed along to consumers, an unfair use of monopoly power.

Apple argued that only app developers, and not users, should be able to bring such a lawsuit:

“Apple’s line-drawing does not make a lot of sense, other than as a way to gerrymander Apple out of this and similar lawsuits,” [Justice] Kavanaugh wrote.

Shares of Apple, already battered by trade concerns, were down more than 5%, lagging the broader market.

The result of the iPhone users’ litigation could affect the way that Apple, as well as other companies that operate electronic marketplaces like Facebook, Amazon and Alphabet’s Google, structure their businesses. For Apple, hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties could hang on the outcome.

And if you’re worried about becoming boxed in by looming new automation technologies, you might want to steer clear of the Amazon warehouses. 

Reuters is reporting that Amazon is rolling out machines to automate a job held by thousands of its workers: boxing up customer orders.

The company started adding technology to a handful of warehouses in recent years, which scans goods coming down a conveyor belt and envelopes them seconds later in boxes custom-built for each item, two people who worked on the project told Reuters.

Amazon has considered installing two machines at dozens more warehouses, removing at least 24 roles at each one, these people said. These facilities typically employ more than 2,000 people.

That would amount to more than 1,300 cuts across 55 U.S. fulfillment centers for standard-sized inventory. Amazon would expect to recover the costs in under two years, at $1 million per machine plus operational expenses, they said.

A video shot by Reuters accompanying the story suggested the human workforce decline would come through attrition: Amazon would simply “refrain” from refilling packing roles over time, a job that already has huge turnover work for its 10-hour shifts.

On the man v. machine front, it sounds as though the machine boxes that box the boxes themselves will eventually beat the humans hands down.

My question is, will the boxing machines ever buy anything from the company store?  

Will Amazon give them a discount for being so efficient at their jobs??  A promotion??

Maybe a corner office on the warehouse floor??

Written by turbotodd

May 13, 2019 at 10:32 am

Breaking Up Facebook

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Wow.

Check out this opinion piece in The New York Times by Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes, entitled “It’s time to Break Up Facebook.”

I’m going to assume it will defacto get him de-listed from the Mark and Priscilla Christmas card list.

In it, Hughes call for the breakup of Facebook into multiple companies, among other remedies:

First, Facebook should be separated into multiple companies. The F.T.C., in conjunction with the Justice Department, should enforce antitrust laws by undoing the Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions and banning future acquisitions for several years. The F.T.C. should have blocked these mergers, but it’s not too late to act. 

And as to how such a breakup would work:

Facebook would have a brief period to spin off the Instagram and WhatsApp businesses, and the three would become distinct companies, most likely publicly traded. Facebook shareholders would initially hold stock in the new companies, although Mark and other executives would probably be required to divest their management shares.

Hughes also calls for a new agency “empowered by Congress to regulate tech companies. Its first mandate should be to protect privacy.”

Hughes tips his hat to the European General Data Protection Regulation, a law that “guarantees users a minimal level of protection.” He then writes that:

A landmark privacy bill in the United States should specify exactly what control Americans have over their digital information, require clearer disclosure to users and provide enough flexibility to the agency to exercise effective oversight over time. The agency should also be charged with guaranteeing basic interoperability across platforms.

Next, and finally, Hughes suggests this new agency should create guidelines for acceptable speech on social media:

This idea may seem un-American — we would never stand for a government agency censoring speech. But we already have limits on yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, child pornography, speech intended to provoke violence and false statements to manipulate stock prices. We will have to create similar standards that tech companies can use. These standards should of course be subject to the review of the courts, just as any other limits on speech are. But there is no constitutional right to harass others or live-stream violence.

As for Hughes being the billionaire pot calling the Facebook kettle black? Well, he has an answer for that, too:

I take responsibility for not sounding the alarm earlier. Don Graham, a former Facebook board member, has accused those who criticize the company now as having “all the courage of the last man leaping on the pile at a football game.” The financial rewards I reaped from working at Facebook radically changed the trajectory of my life, and even after I cashed out, I watched in awe as the company grew. It took the 2016 election fallout and Cambridge Analytica to awaken me to the dangers of Facebook’s monopoly. But anyone suggesting that Facebook is akin to a pinned football player misrepresents its resilience and power.

If it took you you until the Cambridge Analytica and 2016 election fallout to “awaken” you to “the dangers of Facebook’s monopoly,” one must ask the question were you living under a rock all those years, Mr. Hughes?

However, I’m not completely convinced of Hughes’ remedies, nor of the argument that Facebook is a monopoly.

There have been plenty of other social networks and messaging apps out there (and still are…LinkedIn…WhatsApp…Twitter…). It’s called consumer choice, and Facebook built the better mousetrap.

Just because we don’t like some of the mice it catches doesn’t mean we should break it up into Baby Zuckerbergs. 

As for data protection, I think there’s more room and inclination to maneuver there, and even Mark Zuckerberg himself has called for a GDPR-like set of regulations to provide even more consumer protection. Figuring out a solution on that front could prove a hamstring, however.

And even there I would proceed with caution.

Big data is going to fuel the next wave of innovation and serve as fuel for the next generation of artificial intelligence battles of the 21st Century, particularly when notable competitors like China have no qualms whatsoever about utilizing all varieties of data to power that engine.

Are we going to put a governor on the engine of AI before the plane has even left the ground?

Stop. Think. Deliberate. And then think some more.

It’s easy for Chris Hughes to want to dampen the Facebook bonfire after he’s cashed out his billions.

But if Facebook and its business model really bothers you that much, the easiest solution, and the one with the most market power, is this: Delete your account.

Nothing will send a clearer, unencrypted message to Mark Zuckerberg and team than that.

Written by turbotodd

May 9, 2019 at 11:13 am

Posted in 2019, artificial intelligence, privacy

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Hey Google, Get Me a Red Hat Tattoo!

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There’s so much tech news breaking this week I can’t keep up. 

I need some kind of artificial intelligence thingamajiggy to keep up with it all.

There are people working on that, but in the meantime, allow me to put my human filter on (while I still have some relevance) and convey what I perceive to be the most relevant news of the day/week.

First, on the IBM Red Hat front, the U.S. Department of Justice approved IBM’s $34B acquisition of Red Hat…While “IBM and Red Hat continue to work with competition authorities in other jurisdictions, and IBM continues to expect the transition to close in the second half of 2019.” 

FYI, the Red Hat Summit kicked into full gear today in Boston, and you can follow on Twitter at #RHSummit  And don’t forget to get your Red Hat tattoo while you wait for Ginni’s keynote to start this PM.

Google’s I/O developer conference also kicked off today and there’s more news coming out of Mountain View than you can shake an Alexa Echo at, but some headlines that caught my attention:

  • New Google Pixel 3a, comes in with “excellent camera” and a 3.5mm headphone jack, but a slower processor and no wireless changing. Starting at $399, you can’t have everything.
  • Android Q will now have a dark mode (welcome to the club, says iOS), better gestures, Live Captions, Focus Mode, and mas
  • Google Assistant’s shifting into a higher gear, with the Google Borg claiming it’s now 10X faster and has more app-specific functionality. Read that privacy policy, though. It will also have a driving mode, which hopefully will put millions of eyes back on the road where they belong. We’ll see if Siri has a response to Google A’s new smarts at WWDC shortly.
  • Google Lens is coming to Google Search, which means AR could soon help feet on the street more easily find local joints. Pokemon Go, it could be game on!

Of all these, Google Lens could be the most transformational in terms of real world implications, but I suspect I’ll get the most use out of Google Assistant’s improvements my own self. 

Finally, if you’re a full on cybersecurity enthusiast, The New York Times has a must read piece on how Chinese intelligence agencies acquired NSA hacking tools and repurposed them to attack American allies and private companies in Europe and Asia.

Talk about the laws of unintended consequences. Uh, could the last one out please lock down the Faraday Cage so we can put an ix-nay the Chinese acking-hay?

Written by turbotodd

May 7, 2019 at 3:34 pm

Show Me the Money

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Facebook had a big quarter. Or, should I say, a BIG quarter.

Despite all the privacy snafus and regulatory chafing, the company reported Q1 revenue of $15.08B, with advertising revenue up 26% at $14.91B. 

Also, Facebook explained it would set aside $3B to cover expenses associated with a fine from the Federal Trade Commission over its privacy practice (although the fine apparently could go as high as $5B).

Facebook also indicated that its Facebook stories feature now has 500M daily users across both FB and Messenger, and WhatsApp’s status has 500M daily users (poor Snapchat has a paltry 190M DUs by comparison).

In other words, Facebook sneezes, the rest of the ad industry still catches cold.

Microsoft also announced big earnings, reporting Q3 revenue was up 14% to $30.6B and net income was up 19% to $8.8B. Intelligent Cloud Revenue was up 22% to $9.7B. 

Earlier today, the company became only the third U.S. company ever to pass a market cap of $1T (the other two were Apple and Amazon).

But it’s not just the techs who are in tech.

TechCrunch reported that Walmart announced earlier today a new “store of the future,” a sort of proving ground for emerging tech, including A.I.-enable cameras and interactive displays.

Code-named “IRL” (for, the “Intelligent Retail Lab”), the store operates out of a Walmart Neighborhood Market and contains over 30,000 items. Not unlike Amazon Go’s convenience stories:

the store has a suite of cameras mounted in the ceiling. But unlike Amazon Go, which is a grab-and-go store with smaller square footage, Walmart’s IRL spans 50,000 square feet of retail space and is staffed by over 100 employees.

Plus, in Walmart’s case, these A.I.-powered cameras are not being used to determine what items customers are buying in order to automatically charge them. It still has traditional checkout stations. Instead, the cameras will monitor inventory levels to determine, for example, if staff needs to bring out more meat from the backroom refrigerators to restock the shelves, or if some fresh items have been sitting too long on the shelf and need to be pulled.

The idea is that the A.I. will help the store associates know more precisely where and when to restock products. And this, in turn, means customers will know the produce and meat is always fresh and in stock when they arrive.

The system apparently generates so much data, 1.6TB per second, that it necessitates a big data center on site.

And yet it seems to be obviously avoiding getting into the business of automated checkout solutions (which Amazon has tackled head on), instead “using the A.I. system to ensure that there are shopping carts available at all times and that registers are open and staffed.”

But don’t kid yourself…it’s probably only a few years before we’ll be seeing a virtual Sam hologram himself welcoming you to the new and improved Ai-driven Walmart.

Save Money. Live Better.

Written by turbotodd

April 25, 2019 at 10:41 am

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