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Posts Tagged ‘ramblings’

Changing expectation of AI and voice interaction

January 26th, 2018 No comments
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Cognitive Computing, Deep Learning, etc. all seem to point to essentially the same thing: Computers being able to do perform tasks in a way that we would consider them smart.

Watching my children interact with Google Home got me thinking about how the technology is progressing and the future of work.

  1. How our expectations of technology grow quickly; and
  2. the legal and ethical issues that can come.

 

As background, recently I was in the US and was given a Google Home Mini by a colleague with the challenge of building something cool with it. Watching the very quick evolution of the way that they interacted with it was a bit of an eye opener.

As you’d imagine, the initial steps were pretty timid…

  • “Hey Google, play music.”;
  • “hey Google, what’s the temperature”; and
  • “Hey Google, tell me a joke”.

These were basic requests and asking for information about the now. Then they started to test it…

  • “Hey Google, what the weather for tomorrow” and
  • “Hey Google, play Fine Music FM”.

The latter getting my attention as they were able to connect to an internet radio service and start to stream music; I thought I’d locked it down to just Spotify and my selection appropriate music.

What really got me thinking was how they then started to mine the internet for information. This year they are working through some projects and so my 9yo and 7yo started asking  “OK Google, what is Malaria”.. “OK google, tell me more about the symptoms”… and finally when my 7yo says “Hey Google, you’re awesome” to which it replied “you’re pretty good yourself.”.

My 7yo turns to my wife and I and says, “I think she likes me!”.

Up until this point I was pretty certain that they knew it was a computer. They’ve interacted with Apple’s Siri a lot in the past, knowing it was a robot and even complained about the pronunciations and semi-robotic responses. The fact that the voice is fairly realistic, has great intonation and was responsive in a very human way truly had them baffled; signs of a well designed conversation. Even when we asked the same question via Google search on our phones and showed that it was just reading the first response, it was pretty hard to convince my 7yo that it was a robot.

Growth in Expectation

Seeing the expectation of the technology rapidly rise, going from a toy to a useable tool is dramatic. I’ve seen this in the past where a new piece of technology was deployed, when it was done well, the expectation of what is possible and what it should do can quickly outstrip the initial capability of the system.

The use of AI and Machine Learning, and having the experience learn from the interactions, is how we are able to take the initial experience and have it grow with our expectations. Sometimes this is training the system using captured information of interactions and correct responses to build the basis of the rules that the machine needs to create and the logic it needs to follow. Training AIs can be as simple as a dozen samples, like Google’s Dialogflow, or tens of thousands of samples. It tends to come down to the algorithm, the complexity of the task and the accuracy you need.

Garbage in and Garbage out: One of the biggest issues with learning algorithms is, garbage in and garbage out. The repositories that they use, be it the data sources or the training sources will ultimately affect the outcomes. Back when I was at IBM, building the training question and answer sets for a WATSON engine, required a lot of time and effort to ensure that each was validated and tested. Through triggering Applications in Google Home, I’m finding that some of the responses can be bizarre, especially if I was the one that tried to create the dialogue; nothing like my 3yo telling me that he want’s the story app I created to stop telling him his favourite story.

 

Legal and Ethical issues

AI has the huge potential to remove human error, introduce new levels of efficiencies, and by taking out the people, bring costs of delivering services down significantly. However, through learning algorithms, there is the risk in what is captured and how it’s used. Watching learning algorithms add to their repertoire is pretty amazing, but very quickly biases can creep in.

Learned Biases and the actions of intelligent systems isn’t a new problem, though the example I easily recall is Microsoft’s Tay becoming racist in under 24 hours and having to be taken offline. Putting guide rails on the algorithms and black-listing content and behaviours is some of how the behaviours are curbed, however, people always find a way to use things in unpredictable ways.

As with the example of how my 7yo interacted with the the AI assistant, very quickly AI will become indistinguishable from human interaction and people will make decisions and take action based on the recommendations or logic provided by AI. What should worry everyone is how misinformation, fake news and peoples agendas can shape the way people interact with and use the advice of these systems.

Today there are laws and guidelines being put in place in certain geographies to prepare for the ethical and liability issues that will eventually ensue. I tend to agree with Elon Musk’s view that there needs to be a lot more effort put into how we control and govern AI because it will quickly become a lot more complex and ingrained into society, moving past the novel toy of today.

My final initial thought is on Data Mining. How is what is going in being used? What’s being recorded? How much is being stored? who has access to it? what does this mean.

Each platform is different in how they capture, store and potentially re-use recordings of what you say or do. I love the idea of conveniently asking questions in natural language and being able to data mine the full depth of the Internet, but at what cost. I suppose we won’t really know until something bad happens.

For now it will stay a toy that is switched on when I want it and be where I can keep an eye on what my kids ask it.

 

 

 

The Procrastination Beast…

January 10th, 2018 No comments
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Procrastinate

verb (used with object), procrastinated, procrastinating.
1. to put off till another day or time; defer; delay.

(source: dictionary.com)

I’m currently on holiday with my family and thought that whilst the kids are playing Minecraft on separate devices, dinner is in the oven, and I’ve got some time to myself I thought it would be a great opportunity to start getting into some of those things I’ve put off for months.

 

No such luck. The procrastination beast has come and settled in.

 

We all procrastinate from time to time, putting off those things we need to do; or those things we tell ourselves are important and should get to.

 

There are a number of reasons why we procrastinate:

  1. Insufficient structure
  2. The task isn’t fun
  3. Timing and the link to risk or reward
  4. Anxiety fuelled avoidance
  5. Lack of confidence in one’s ability to succeed

Ordinarily I’d call one of my many smart colleagues or friends and after a few minutes I’d find the inspiration I need to get back into it. There are many different techniques to get past the beast, however, today I’ve decided to kick-back, relax and embrace the lack of motivation.

 

After all, I’m on holiday.

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Oh No!

April 21st, 2017 Comments off
Reading Time: 1
image by Tom Woodward

image by Tom Woodward

I only recently realised that it’s been over a year since I posted anything here.

Sad I know.

The last 18 months have been a little hectic with moving from one company to another, and refocusing on being a husband and a father rather than on a career and living out of a suitcase.

That said there are some exciting things in the works, one of which is a book. Whilst there isn’t a lot to say about it yet, it will be based on a couple of things, Wardley Mapping and Outsourcing. I’ll also add that my co-writers and I will bring rather unique “insiders” perspective to the process; we might even start to release some drafts here.

Molly Crabapple’s 15 rules for creative success in…

November 5th, 2015 Comments off
Reading Time: 4 minutes
selfportrait_highres1

image of Molly Crabapples self portrait

I found these great rules for creative success from Molly Crabapple via Richard Kadrey’s tumbler. I think a lot of these apply to most industries… I’ve a few favourites #6 and #8 are most relevant

 

 

1. The number one thing that would let more independent artists exists in America is a universal basic income. The number one thing that has a possibility of happening is single payer healthcare. This is because artists are humans who need to eat and live and get medical care, and our country punishes anyone who wants to go freelance and pursue their dream by telling them they might get cancer while uninsured, and then not be able to afford to treat it.

2. Companies are not loyal to you. Please never believe a company has your back. They are amoral by design and will discard you at a moment’s notice. Negotiate aggressively, ask other freelancers what they’re getting paid, and don’t buy into the financial negging of some suit.

3. I’ve cobbled together many different streams of income, so that if the bottom falls out of one industry, I’m not ruined. My mom worked in packaging design. When computers fundamentally changed the field, she lost all her work. I learned from this.

4. Very often people who blow up and become famous fast already have some other sort of income, either parental money, spousal money, money saved from another job, or corporate backing behind the scenes. Other times they’ve actually been working for 10 years and no one noticed until suddenly they passed some threshold. Either way, its good to take a hard look- you’ll learn from studying both types of people, and it will keep you from delusional myth-making.

5. I’ve never had a big break. I’ve just had tiny cracks in this wall of indifference until finally the wall wasn’t there any more

6. Don’t be a dick. Be nice to everyone who is also not a dick, help people who don’t have the advantages you do, and never succumb to crabs in the barrel infighting.

7. Remember that most people who try to be artists are kind of lazy. Just by busting your ass, you’re probably good enough to put yourself forward, so why not try?

8. Rejection is inevitable. Let it hit you hard for a moment, feel the hurt, and then move on.

9. Never trust some Silicon Valley douchebag who’s flush with investors’ money, but telling creators to post on their platform for free or for potential crumbs of cash. They’re just using you to build their own thing, and they’ll discard you when they sell the company a few years later.

10. Be a mercenary towards people with money. Be generous and giving to good people without it.

11. Working for free is only worth it if its with fellow artists or grassroots organizations you believe in, and only if they treat your respectfully and you get creative control.

12. Don’t ever submit to contests where you have to do new work. They’ll just waste your time, and again, only build the profile of the judges and the sponsoring company. Do not believe their lies about “exposure”. There is so much content online that just having your work posted in some massive image gallery is not exposure at all.

13. Don’t work for free for rich people. Seriously. Don’t don’t don’t. Even if you can afford to, you’re fucking over the labor market for other creators. Haggling hard for money is actually a beneficial act for other freelancers, because it is a fight against the race to the bottom that’s happening online.

14. If people love your work, treat them nice as long as they’re nice to you.

15. Be massively idealistic about your art, dream big, open your heart and let the blood pour forth. Be utterly cynical about the business around your art.

Finally…

The Internet will not save creators.

Social media will not save us. Companies will not save us. Crowd-funding will not save us. Grants will not save us. Patrons will not save us.

Nothing will save us but ourselves and each other.

Now make some beautiful things.

-Molly Crabapple

Collaboration vs. Co-creation

October 18th, 2015 Comments off
Reading Time: 3 minutes

CollaborationI had an interesting conversation the other evening with Markus Andrezak (@markusandrezak). It was using music co-creation and collaboration as an analogy of how to interact with your customers in the business world.

I like the analogy of music and music creation having once, in a previous life, been one (or a joke goes been the guy who hangs around with musicians). when you create music with fellow musicians it really is both collaboration and co-creation, everyone feeding off each other’s ideas essentially starting from one persons base concept. Extending that analogy into business you can look at a start-up where they originally set out to solve their own problems as the basis of the initial product being created. That same problem solving “thing” is discovered to work for others and a new business is formed.

As the start-up grows it starts listening to its initial customers for changes and enhancements, directly adding in features and capabilities. Again this works with the music analogy; the musicians listen directly to the friends and fans, those that attend the performances, and adjust accordingly; changing tempo, changing key, even playing in a different style. In both instances again this is Co-creation because it is a small group able to communicate their needs wants and expectations. As both the music analogy grows into wider distribution of the music, be it online or via physical distribution,separating musicians from direct interaction with their fans, as an organisation grows to include many more clients, it is very hard for almost impossible to maintain or even regain that level of initial intimacy and Co-creation.

What happens when you do reach such scale is that there is a lot of noise that need to be picked through.

There was a lot of debate as to what was collaboration and what was co-creation. Both are the process of working together for a common end. I’m hard pressed to really distinguish between the two and could easily argue that try differentiate is degenerating into an argument about semantics.

Trying to find other people’s views on this was interesting. over at this site I found a reference to this paper: A Typology of Customer Co-Creation in the Innovation Process, where they define co-creation as –

“Customer co-creation is an active, creative and social process, based on collaboration between producers (retailers) and users, that is initiated by the firm to generate value for customers” (Piller, Ihl & Vossen – 2010)

Where as over here  they assert that collaboration is co-creation.

Where I think the difference could be is, collaboration is a structured coming together to address a specific issue or problem and co-creation is a broader, ongoing engagement. Either way, I think the point is that it’s a good thing and should be embraced, unless of course you just meme copy and take your strategies from others