A Great Simian or just a Monkey

Month: March 2017

chef watson and watson ads

Commercial use of Chef Watson with Watson Ads

Is Chef Watson included in IBMs new Watson Ad product? Chef Watson is the most publicly talked about Watson use-case, after Jeopardy I assume. Chef Watson takes a scientific approach to cooking and creates dishes that on a molecular level as well as cognitive level should fit together, it creates some pretty interesting recipes, but yet mostly tastes really good (yes, I have tasted dishes made by Chef Watson), but where did Chef Watson go?

Can I buy Chef Watson? Can I use an API all consume the brilliance of Chef Watson? Or was it just a gimmick to be used as marketing for IBM?

Well, none of the above it seems, even though the API example might be close, and naturally, marketing plays a part as well, but no, none seems fully correct.

Nonetheless, Chef Watson is still available for us all to play with at IBMChefWatson.com.

Is Chef Watson commercially available?

The initial and most interesting question must be: Can a company pay for access to Chef Watson and integrate capabilities in their business applications?

The answer seems to NO. Have been involved in discussions where companies (large global ones) have tried to acquire access, but been denied by IBM. The reason given has been that the Chef Watson team has been focused on the Watson Ads initiative. Watson Ads?

What does Chef Watson has to do with Watson Ads……and more importantly, what is Watson Ads? Does IBM nowadays produce ads or ad-tech?

What is Watson Ads?

watson ads chef watson

An example is Campell Soup that is an early advertiser using Watson Ads. If you visit a site with a Watson Ad from Campell you can start to chat and ask about recipes etc. Naturally, the answer will be recipes based on Campbells products. You can play with the ads on watsonads.com. As an ad product it is actually pretty cool and I hope many companies start to use this format instead of dumb banners etc, these are both in context and has a way higher level of engagement, which probably lead to better conversions.

watson adsWatson Ads seems to be a product brought to life by the Weather Company (acquired by IBM a while ago and a part of Watson). The product is an ad format that acts like a chatbot. The chatbot is listening to your questions and replies with contextual replies that suggest ways to consume the products of the company whose ad you are chatting with.

So, finally I have understood, what I believe is, the reason for the Chef Watson team being involved with the Watson Ad product.

I want Chef Watson APIs

I am not entirely sure that ad-tech is a great fit for IBM, I am not either entirely convinced that directing the Chef Watson team towards an ad product is the best use of those brilliant people, but now that the Watson Ad product is out there, they might go back to providing the capabilities of Chef Watson to others. Hopefully, the components of Chef Watson can be a part of the Watson APIs as the capabilities from Weather Company and the other Watson APIs that are already available. Would love to do some interesting things with a Chef Watson API.

watson financial chatbot

We built a Watson Powered Financial Companion

I have wanted to share this for a while and it never seemed to be the right moment. Well, here it is! This started as a vision a while ago, originally based on an idea from my brother-in-arms Carl and together we brought it to this (Peter & Svante not to be forgotten as co-conspirators as well).

This is an IBM Watson-powered cognitive financial companion for your complex financial life.

The video walks you through a day in your life with your financial lifestyle companion.

Above, in the video, is your financial companion that wants to inject value in every transaction you make and improve your complex financial life.

The simple background is that our personal financial lives are complex and scattered all over the place, the customer experience is usually really bad and we are constantly ripped off by fees / bad advice. Today with cognitive platforms like IBM Watson and more intuitive user experience through chatbots and other methods, we can actually improve our financial lives with products like this one. One important thing is to actually empower the users and not only capitalize on them.

It is powered by IBM Watson APIs and a lot of nice mojo from our team.


More people should have read my post last year

Yesterday I wrote a lengthy ramble on what we need to change with the internet today. Much was about how we and others use our personal data to mislead us (propaganda, fake news, alternative facts, behavioral analysis and psychometrics), but then I realized that I have actually written about this before, more than a year ago. In the below post “Transparency is the future”.

Transparency is the future

At that time none of what I wrote yesterday was public knowledge (that does not mean it did not happen), but AI, cognitive and psychographic profiling (e.g. Personality Insight with Big 5 / OCEAN, sentiment etc) was starting to be seen as important. I then realized a big challenge in all the data that is available and what actually could happen if we did not think things through. The key takeaways are:

Transparency have long be pushed down in the value-chain in favor of capitalizing on our private data, companies like Facebook, Google and others that have as a business-model to re-sell your data to companies that want to reach you with their message. Their business model is to sell your data, you are the product.

This will not compute in the era of AI and cognitive. We will, in my opinion, be much more restricted in what we share about ourselves if we do not feel safe and secure.

We and everyone else in the segment need to be fully transparent about the following:

  1. How we store the data
  2. How we keep it safe
  3. That personal information is not shared and are truly personal
  4. Provide info on the reasoning on the answers provided
  5. Provide evidence that backs the answers that are provided

Only then can a artificial intelligence and cognitive technologies really become as successful as they are expected to become.

Well, we did not think things through and now we have, misleading information and propaganda all over the place and our behavior online is constantly being profiled and then targeted…….but what is really sad is that we could have prevented it.

It is all our fault, we cannot blame anyone else!

… unfortunately, we did not decide to guard our personal data or to be transparent in what way the data is used!

It is all our fault, we cannot blame anyone else!

Photo: Kallbadhuset in Helsingborg (no I do not dip voluntarily in Swedish waters, too bloody cold), taken during a dog walk an early morning in March 2017.

personal data

Personal data and misleading information

With political powers, dictators raising, cyber-threats intensively increasing and nation sponsored propaganda machines and troll agencies always present, we need to improve several things with the Internet of today. We need to take back control over our personal data, stop misleading information and become more transparent.

It has been quite here on the blog for a while, there are several reasons for that, but one of the more important ones are that I have been struggling with what is happening with the Internet of today. The last several years, disinformation, propaganda and fake news / alternative facts have almost entirely taken over the flow of news and important information about the society we live in and the world in general. When you start to investigate this you realize how perfected the system is and how much impact it really has.

This is not about Brexit, Cambridge Analytica, Trump, Bannon, Sverigedemokraterna or Robert Mercer. They are just using the tools available at hand to reach their goals. It is how several components work together.

The system

When I wrote “The system” I actually came to think about the book The Circle (which soon will premiere as a movie with Emma Watson and Tom Hanks), which actually touches this subject as well.

The System I am referring to here is much more than Trump and Russian (or US for that matter) propaganda and / or nation-wide hacking, it is more about how we consume information today and how the companies providing this information does not have any incitement to prevent this from happening, the opposite actually. The more times we click on these links the more money they make.

Facebook and Google make a living of presenting information they think we want, now that organizations, countries, brands, politicians and individuals have found ways to use this information to manipulate us, it is has become a flawed system.

Revenue makes this system tick

I will use Facebook as an example, but this is not isolated to Facebook in any way.

  1. Facebook is an ad-tech company. Their business model is to provide tools for advertisers to put the advertising company’s information on the screens of a very targetted audience and charge money for that service.
  2. User targeting. The success of Facebooks ad-tech is in two major parts. The first is the amount of personal data we have given to Facebook (does not matter how much you change your settings, they still will get to you) and the second thing is how they utilize that information to let advertisers target you based on interest, location, gender, age, civil status, your friends, what is in your photos, where your photos are taken, where you have been etc etc. An additional scary thing is that most have also given Facebook access to other personal data like browsing history etc, that is why you see travel ads on Facebook an hour after you search for your next vacation destination with Safari or Chrome, that info is added to your info used for targeting.
  3. News targeting. This is what most people do not think about. We hear about filter bubbles and most of us have realized that the news we get is in some way personalized to fit my interest and behavior. Facebook wants us to interact as much as possible with content on the platform, so they push news to our feed that they think we want instead of showing a constant feed of lunch-pictures, which we do not interact with as much as we do with news-posts. That is why you see news articles more often even though just one friend has liked that post and 10 of your friends have more recently posted a picture of their newly ingested lunch.
  4. Conversion. The conversion rate that Facebook provide in most of their metrics is actually astonishing and the reason for that is naturally no 2 above, but to further increase this conversion they are mixing no 2 and no 3 to elevate their revenue.

Since advertiser can impact what information that is put in front of the users, a bad spiral has been created (and that is why Mark Zuckerberg constantly denies that Facebook had any impact on the US election).

The scary part – Conversion

When it gets really scary is when this data is used to profile us and put information in front of us that we actually do not agree with, but when in the way it is presented we lean towards agreeing and by this changing our mindset. This can happen since behavioural analysis is done on us and information is then presented in a way to shift our mindset. This method is perfected and originally from Cambridge University (no affiliation to Cambridge Analytica though).

It is today easy to plant disinformation, propaganda or simply false news. This also creates nationalism and authoritarianism.

This is the system that Cambridge Analytica has been utilizing when they helped Trump get elected. They did social profiling on almost every US citizen that can vote and personalized their feed to shift their beliefs (and if it did not work re-iterated until it did, on individual basis) in favor of Donald Trump. Cambridge Analytica is a company rarely seen in public, but a brief background is that it is funded by billionaire Robert Mercer from one of the most successful hedge funds in the world, Renaissance Technologies (before becoming co-CEO of this hedge fund he worked at IBM Research on computational linguistics). Cambridge Analytica also has senior Trump advisor Stephen Bannon on the Board of Directors. The CEO is Alexander Nix and it has a UK version of it as well with the name of SCL Group. SCL Group did the same thing for Brexit. Below is a video of Alexander Nix presenting what they did for Ted Cruz in the primaries, before they joined forces with Trump, it still describes what they do pretty well.

The evil ecosystem

This ecosystem is several parts that feed off each other.

  • The Platforms (Facebook etc)
  • The Impactors (I think I just made up that word). The ones that want to impact us
  • The users, that would be you and I

The platforms want revenue, the impactors want to impact us, the users want news and relevant information.

The flaw

As you see in the ecosystem section above the last part is flawed, since we are not getting information and news that is relevant, but information others (the impactors) want us to consume and be impacted from. This is a major flaw on the internet today. It impact us all in a very very bad way.

As most things in business, Facebook (again, they are just the easy to use example here) is revenue driven and they want us to see and potentially interact with as many ads as possible and that makes us vulnerable for misleading information that creates a world made of powerful people where we, the internet users are the enabler for this happening, this without our own intent and knowing.

We need to stop misleading information and take control over our personal data.

Why this rambling? I have for some time tried to get my mind around this and since I have been quite heavily into cognitive computing and AI the last years a lot of thoughts have crossed my mind. With my background it might have been logic to work more intensively with large corporations on how to target their audience in a better way with behavioral targeting (using cognitive solutions), but my conclusion is that it is not ethical to use social, behavioral profiling and cognitive computing to do this.

I have at least 10 posts on this topic in draft mode, but have not published since it only paints a negative picture of the current world and some are almost doomsday prophecies. Just imagine the post I have on “Cognitive Warfare”, interesting, but also a bit scary, will keep it in draft for a while longer.

We need to tackle the problem with personal data and misleading information first.

When the users are safe and the information is not misleading and transparent, first after that we can use cognitive to interact with users the right way as a business.

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