Court of Public Opinion

It strikes me that our media has now decided without our consent to try all “cases” they believe they have decided, using the news cycle to “taint the jury” once things go to trial.

We still await their frenetic investigation about whether Russia or some other foreign power used social media to swing public opinion, yet they seem conspicuously insensitive to whether they are complicit in the same misdeeds.

Perhaps the incident that makes me a bit crazy was this morning after an American snowboarder (a sport I do not personally like since I am a skier) won Gold in the Olympics after conquering his fear over an extremely difficult move that almost cost him his life less than a year ago.

I really don’t care about rumors, or gossip about his personal life at this time.  Let’s celebrate his accomplishments and the encouragement it provides for others who are challenged by fears.

And, why is it that these same people cry foul about political correctness on issues where they feel it might tilt the playing field against them?

Ex Machina is Here

Courtesy USA Today

I have blogged about artificial reality and the potential for human-like interactions.  The movie Ex Machina available free on Amazon Prime was prescient as in its plot, Eva becomes seemingly aware of her situation through her interactions with Caleb as part of a Turing test.

Well, we just saw the parallel to this in real life when Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to a synthetic woman. View the USA Today story here. 

Of course, this may be a stunt, but it is a singular event in our transitions using artificial intelligence.  Admittedly, it has been a long time since we heard the request “Open the pod bay doors” to HAL in 2001 Space Odyssey.

Most computerization technology has been driven by military warfare.  There is obviously a lot at risk here, so the concepts of drones and other ways to avoid the loss of life are key.

But, for those of you who think this is still a distant possibility for our world, you might like to remember that the same root driver is working here that brought about the commercialization of video tape recordings and many other digital innovations that were not driven by military desires.  It may be illegal … it may be immoral … but it is alive and well throughout the world and there is a lot of money in this driver.



What does PoP Mean?

No, this is not our acronym for Personalized Outbound Proactive communication.  It is the Probability of Precipitation.  It struck me that all the weather channels use it, but does anyone really know what it means?

I used to explain it to people based upon the way I was told you could forecast the weather when I lived upstate in New York.  The folklore was that cows stood up when it was going to be good weather and sat down when they thought it was going to rain.  The answer was clear to me … count the number of cows sitting and divide by the total number of cows … simple enough.

But, I felt there had to be a more precise answer given all the weather forecasters now report it.  So, what does “40 percent” mean? …will it rain 40 percent of the time? …will it rain over 40 percent of the area?  The “Probability of Precipitation” (PoP) describes the chance of precipitation occurring at any point you select in the area.

How do forecasters arrive at this value? Mathematically, PoP is defined as follows:

PoP = C x A where “C” = the confidence that precipitation will occur somewhere in the forecast area, and where “A” = the percent of the area that will receive measurable precipitation, if it occurs at all.

So… in the case of the forecast above, if the forecaster knows precipitation is sure to occur ( confidence is 100% ), he/she is expressing how much of the area will receive measurable rain. ( PoP = “C” x “A” or “1” times “.4” which equals .4 or 40%.)

But, most of the time, the forecaster is expressing a combination of degree of confidence and areal coverage. If the forecaster is only 50% sure that precipitation will occur, and expects that, if it does occur, it will produce measurable rain over about 80 percent of the area, the PoP (chance of rain) is 40%. ( PoP = .5 x .8 which equals .4 or 40%. )

In either event, the correct way to interpret the forecast is: there is a 40 percent chance that rain will occur at any given point in the area.

So, after all that I am lead to the conclusion that you get the same answer as counting cows.  What I find funny about this is that we all hear these statistics and then make decisions about things without ever asking how good this statistic is to predict what we care about.



AI is Reality

USA Today recently ran an interesting article about the key questions in Artificial Intelligence (AI).  Read for yourself here.

These questions and concerns seem distant from what we in our industry focus on:  business analytics and customer engagement.  As with all movements in technology, there are good things that can happen and some pretty ugly things as well.

Our digital age permits amazing things in our daily lives, but also exposes us to previously inconceivable threats to our well-being.  Do we try to put the genie back in the bottle?  Of course we can’t.  Then, can we legislate morality about its use?  Some will try.

What strikes me as troubling is our lack of dialogue about the tougher questions.  Let me scare you into a reality … we now have the merger of drones and AI that raise truly profound questions for our society. Watch this video demonstration.

Are you OK with any government having this kind of weaponry?  Is there a need for a new code of conduct?  Why is this different from chemical warfare?

By contrast, Apogee has perfected an array of truly useful everyday AI skills for the Amazon Echo.  Let us know if you would like to be one of the first to deploy them.

Retail Big Brother

Courtesy SmartShop Magazine

We Americans resent the concept of government intervention into our lives.  We value privacy and have an almost immediate negative reaction to the concept of Big Brother.

My wife Susan always points to Kroger here in Atlanta who sends personalized valuable coupons out to us showing that they are keeping track of what we buy.  She points out that them keeping track of our buying habits is a bit creepy, but the free coupons for things we buy seems caring.

The balance between creepy and caring depends a lot upon what we know about how our activities are being tracked.  Perhaps it is going to freak you out … but you are now being watched.  Read Consumer Reports article here.

Pretty scary, isn’t it?