It’s My Story

I know what it says, but I saw “IBM”

No, I haven’t written a story. However, if you believe all the hype about Big Data and artificial intelligence (AI), you would think imagine realize that I didn’t have to. That story can be gleaned from everything I’ve ever bought online, tweeted about, posted on Facebook and described on LinkedIn – except that’s not me. I mean, it is, but only from the point of view of the gatherer. That seems to be what the up-to-snuff organizations who are pouring money into AI and Big Data, like the proverbial drunken sailors of yore, seem to think. Hmmm, what kind of confidence level should I have when “seems to be” is in the same sentence as “seems to think?” Is “seem” additive or multiplicative? Maybe they cancel each other out like a double negative…

I raise that silly question because I don’t think the data-mining people, or the data-mining robots the data-mining people programmed understand the data they’ve collected. As evidence, I give you an example from one of the data-miningest organizations on Earth – IBM. The folks who brought Watson to Jeopardy, remember Watson? He’s still out there…he’s a product now, or rather a service. You can hire Watson to figure stuff out for you. I know, because IBM keeps offering to have Watson figure stuff out for the company I work for. If Watson could read, perhaps, oh, I don’t know, maybe our website, he would know how crazy an idea it would be for us to employ Watson.

But Watson doesn’t read.

That’s not fair, Watson reads, he just doesn’t read like you and I read. He sifts through written words, looking for keywords and maybe placing them in context, but again, the context seems limited. I think we’re at ‘seems’ cubed – Seems3 – for shorthand. Seems times seems times seems (does it seem like I am intent on pushing math into my Monday posts lately?). I ask that, because you might have noticed that trend – Watson might not. He might not notice the degree of snark going on here (I’m trying to be subtle) or the humor (I’m not trying to be subtle, you can laugh) or the fact that I am baiting him and all the other Watson-wannabes.

You see, within hours of this post being published, if previous behavior is to be used as a predictor of future activity, somebody will follow me on Twitter, put an ad up alongside my Facebook timeline or pop something up over what I’m trying to read, and that thing that will talk about Watson, Big Data or AI.

Wanna bet?

Then they will tell me their story. They didn’t read mine. They don’t care about mine, and they don’t even care if I care about theirs. Well, they do, but not the they they. The they that cares are the people or robots, probably robots, who select what ad to put in front of me. They make money if I click on their ad, or if they are the annoying kind of person/robot, if they can make it pop open, start playing or burst onto the screen with little hope of escape. Oh, wait, that’s the story I wanted to share about IBM.

This post isn’t about Watson at all. Of course, it’s too late for Watson to figure that out, or so it seems. Yes, seems4 – thanks for keeping track. How are you doing it? In your head? Most people don’t do even the simplest math in their heads these days. If you really cared, you might have a note on the bottom of a piece of paper, or your napkin, or maybe a scribbling app that looks like “||||” by now. You’re waiting for the next ‘seems’ in proper context, to draw that diagonal line – Five! Woohoo!

Earlier today, I clicked on an IBM link that was supposed to lead me to a story about “Five Myths about AI” – Only, it wasn’t an IBM link at all, it was an IAM link. I guess IAM had a spot in the acronym draft 26 places ahead of IBM – get it? More math, now combined with football – sorry. The reason I associated the link with IBM is because before I could read the article, IBM popped a survey up over the screen. I couldn’t take the survey, because I hadn’t read the article, and because I couldn’t close the pop-up without taking the survey or saying, “no thanks.” I hadn’t read the article because I was eating cereal and I didn’t want it to get soggy.

I think my cereal is getting soggy.

Watson, or whatever robot popped up that ad, seemingly didn’t count on my eating cereal (yes, that’s seems5, go ahead, draw the diagonal, you know you want to). They gave me enough time to read the article, but not enough time to finish it and leave the page. They wanted me to complete that survey. They, by the way are The Washington Post. I’m sure they would have gotten a nickel from IBM if I had taken the survey. Instead, I closed the page.

So, IAM, IBM and the Post don’t know why I didn’t take the survey. They don’t know why I followed the link, but adding the fact that I did to my ever-expanding profile will ensure that I get another opportunity. If you’ve kept track of anything besides the Seems-Factor, you now realize that they don’t know that I made a mistake but they’ll predict future behavior based on that mistake.

80 thoughts on “It’s My Story

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  1. I get the same type “follows”at least once a week. The other day when I attempted to have a look at one’follower’s’ blog something opened and flashed like a camera before disintegrating from the screen again. WTH? I exited quickly.
    Spring has definitely decided to stay huh? That is awesome. I love puddles. I hope your week goes smoothly, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Cheryl – I was right, I’ve already had followers here and on Twitter, reacting to but likely not having read this post.

      Spring is ramping up for a bright arrival. We have cool mornings, but we’re getting warm afternoons. I even put the snow blower away on Saturday.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is my first blog post of the day and it’s a full calorie one! Monday Morning Math, combined with artificial intelligence that’s about as intellectually advanced as a typical Trump supporter (yes, I went there. I’m feeling feisty).

    Love your photos – your spring is looking considerably more advanced than ours, but we’ll catch up soon (I hope). I love mud puddles too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joanne – go wherever you like, AI driven processes might be writing the news and weather reports, but my wife still finds errors in grammar, spelling and word choice.

      Spring is happening. I’m glad to see it arrive and unpack its bags. NExt year, I’ll just wait for May and not be disappointed by March and April.

      Like

      1. Good idea, Dan. We get seduced every March into believing it should be spring. You would think we should know better by now.

        btw – all those spelling and grammar mistakes drive Gilles insane …. and English is a 2nd language for him!

        Like

  3. It’s a good thing I had a large cup of coffee in my hand while reading this or it would have hurt my head doing all this thinking so early on Monday. But, there isn’t enough coffee for me to understand and accept their ability to track every keystroke. :-) I still do math in my head, but, hey, I’m a boomer. Maddie is right – a photo is always better with her in it. Enjoy the good weather. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Judy. I’ve been called out for doing math in my head. It’s really not that hard, and it is what we were taught to do. Those of us who remember time before calculators are learly about giving up those skills.

      Sorry for the math & science Monday, but this stupid encounter over breakfast started making me shake my head.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yep. I chuckle when I think about how any entity tracking my online behavior would come to a weird [and wrong] conclusion about who I am, what I follow. You see, between my bad eyesight and shaky hands I frequently click on things I don’t have any interest in. It’s an accident, but Watson won’t think so will he? Great thoughts here in this post. Timely, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m with GP about just hanging out with the squirrels, Dan.
    My editor-brain has to share about the “seems factor”… While editing Atonement in Bloom, I realized how many times I said “seemed” and “apparently”… LOL… Well, apparently, I don’t seem to be certain of anything! Except for the other word that sounds the same — I am certain that a “seam” might burst if I keep going for comfort food to console myself about the construction noise and smells. o_O
    Have a marvelous Monday. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Teagan. I was always taught to “write with a voice of authority” and then I noticed that I “seemed” pretty noncommittal on all of this.

      Be careful of those other seams, they do get some pressure when comfort food is on the agenda.

      Have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, an “authoritative voice” is particularly important in tech or business writing. But writing from a narrator’s point of view, I can’t assume she *knows* what someone else is thinking… so “seems” and appears are ways around that. But I really over did it! :D

        Liked by 1 person

  6. hahah Loved it! Math notwithstanding. Puddles are a metaphor for life. (isn’t everything?) You can’t always see what’s below the surface and sometimes you just have to get wet.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Monday morning math, huh? Well, Dan, good thing it’s only addition and I’ve already had the jolt of a liquid caffeine supplement. One more cup and you can throw some long division at me. :-p

    AI is not replacement for human intelligence and thought. I absolutely hate when I’m followed around or made to view ads only because of one simple search or something I’ve tweeted or posted. Mr. Watson can leave me alone! That being said, I would have a hard time deleting all of my social media accounts because of Mr. Robot, so will have to simply ignore.

    Have a wonderful Monday and week, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mary. Closing up shop is not the answer, but neither is turning the controls over to the robots. Still, I guess they can’t do a worse job of advertising than the humans were doing. LinkedIn is pretty good at suggesting people I might want to connect with, but I’m spending less and less time on that platform – it seems too much like work ;-)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Yikes! Math and AI with my breakfast! It seems I’m getting a headache. A photo with your shadow included is always special Dan, but you had me with the telephone pole reflection! Lol. But a peak at Maddie and the squirrel put a smile on my face.

    You have way more spring showing than we do, but some warm temperatures on the way may speed it up here. Sure hope so.
    🔹 Ginger 🔹

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry about the brain-torture, Ginger, but Mondays are the only days I can sneak anything technical into this mess. I figured the Maddie fans would appreciate her photo-bombs of my attempts to be artistic. I had a better image of the shadowy tree in the big puddle, but I decided to use the one with Maddie’s head. I like the sun on her unmanageable curls.

      Spring is here. It needs to throw back the covers and come all the way out of bed, but it’s here.

      Like

  9. I am not good at math, but I can do it in my head. Just not on paper. Weird. I love you made a little table/chair combo for Sammy. Adorable. And Maddie, she adds so much to the picture. Happy Spring, Dan. I think it is definitely heading your way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lois. So many plans have been canceled by critters. We once had an office chair we wanted to get rid of. I brought it upstairs over a weekend, to make it easy to get out to the curb on Thursday night (and hard to forget). By Tuesday, one of our cats had claimed it as his favorite place ever. We threw it out after he passed away and before the new kittens came home.

      Like

  10. Dan, I do believe that I can relate to your big data story. My former place of employment was doing the deep dive into big data. Not sure they took a deep breath before the dive. Nor that they remembered to breath when they came back up to the surface. Breath ? That is not in the programming… Kinda like that dog bringing the big tree limb meeting the narrow bridge. Still not in the programming. Today is an excellent day to go into the garden and examine mother natures big data. No quiz for mother nature – just basking in all those wonderful data points.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. In the good old days, Volkswagen had such clever advertising that viewers called up the TV stations to request the commercial schedule so they wouldn’t miss them. All the AI and Big Data in the world can’t hold a candle to viewers who want to see your ads.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I don’t enjoy being datamined. As a writer, I look at stuff I’m not interested in, but my characters are. It makes for a pretty eclectic data profile, I would think. In fact, I just trimmed my Twitter “interests” list, and can’t imagine where some of them came from.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never thought about that, Marian, but it’s a great point. I don’t have a bunch of characters to educate, but I research a lot of topics that I have no interest in jus so I can include them in a conversation someday.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I just did math right before sitting down to read this. I used the back of the receipt and a pen, because I had to borrow, or as they say now, distribute.
    The keyword factor boggles my mind. For example, I could write blog posts about how much I hate cooked beets, and then suddenly get traffic because of beets. I’d be followed by beet farmers, beet chefs, beet connoisseurs, beet marketers and distributors… SEEMS is definitely a factor here.
    I like squirrels, stumps, forsythia, and puddles, too :)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was getting concerned about the SEEMS factor, but I figured a good offense was my best defense on that one. Data mining is necessary, but data cleaning is also necessary.

      So, how many cases of beets can I put you down for?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Joey, I mentioned you on Dan’s post response comment without even checking your maths. . .I knew you would say this was challenging. Only I said, “Does this sound like our dear friend, Joey?”
      Smiles! 😀

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Privacy will never be what we remember it being, Diana. Those days are gone. Sometimes, I think the imperfect profile they have is better than the perfect one they want.

      I have had the instant-ad experience and it is creepy.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Sometimes I think they don’t really know what they’re looking for. I remember something on Monty Python years ago, where Graham Chapman was talking very quickly and pointing at a bar graph with a pointer: “This represents 23% of the population. This represent 47% of the population, and this represents 87% of the population!” Michael Palin then comes on and says “Telling figures indeed!”

    That’s the way a lot of data mining seems, anyway. I’m starting to think it’s become an end in itself…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes, it seems like the weather. The forecast says we’re under sunny skies and that that will continue, but it’s raining. We always joke that NOAA should invest in windows for their office.

      Like

  15. Hi Dan – could I opt out of your stories? but keep your photos … especially those of Maddie – and yes, ok, it’d be good to have the odd update and the beer … but no scraping allowed. I’ll see you at the #WAWTB and no doubt other posts … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Big Data gives me a headache. Thanks for making the whole thing a bigger nightmare. SEEMS needs an opt out button. I loved living in Connecticut for the Rhododendrons. I had a yard full and they were beautiful. Good post, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Did you read ‘The Circle’? It was made into a movie a couple of years ago (starring Tom Hanks, I think), but I read the book before that—and hated it. The plot has so many holes… Let’s not go there. But the dystopia it depicts is all too real: the social media bombardment, the way we get ‘followed around’ from one site to another, even from one medium to another, the progressive integration of all these ‘services’ into the ‘one ring to rule them all’… Eerily familiar, yes?

    But your photos were amazing!

    Thanks so much for stopping over Damyanti’s for my guest post, and for the lovely comment you left. Much, much appreciated.
    Guilie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t read that. I think a lot of people are seeing this pattern, but the vast majority of people don’t seem to care.

      That was s great post, I’m glad I had s chance to visit.

      Like

  18. Wow, quite a post and discussion thread! I’ve been mostly off tech today, starting with a walk in the park and some outdoor work. Of course, I’ve been reading…are you ready for this?…real books!! They’re a staple of my day.

    I get ads in my Gmail but never look at them and it’s mostly the same on FB. Even on TV, I find ads I really like and more that I can’t stand, but too often I don’t remember what they’re advertising. Guess I’m not a good consumer. But the data mining is something I don’t like at all. It amuses me, not in a ha-ha funny way, that FB is now having ads to make it seem as if they’re going back to being benign and helpful to their users. Yeah, right!

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Janet. I may have gone too far into the weeds, but I don’t believe any of these companies can be trusted with the data they already have. I’m certainly not eager to give them more, but they will dig for it anyway.

      Kudos on reading a real book. It’s pretty much the only kind I read. It sounds like you had s good day.

      Like

      1. We laugh (cynically) when the Experian ads come on, telling us that they’d like to keep our information off the dark web. Let’s see. How might it have gotten there in the first place? Data breach at Experian, a company who hired someone to head security without any experience in security.

        Like

    1. Thanks. I’m sorry about the math. Sometimes, I just can’t help myself. As I replied to someone earlier, you’re always free to skip to the photos at the first sign of math. I know how people feel :-)

      Every time we see a squirrel or a bird perched on that stump, we’re glad we kept it. The local stump-grinding service stops every year to see if we want it ground for a “special low we were just driving by” price. We send them away.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I especially love when ads pop up asking me to check out a product THAT I’VE ALREADY PURCHASED! Can’t they figure that out? Don’t they realize they’d be better off sending me ads for products related to those I’VE ALREADY PURCHASED, but they don’t do that. Not that I ever click on any of those pop-up ads anyway. I’m always afraid they’re fake ads that will let some alien force into my computer to steal all that money I don’t have.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s probably a good idea to be paranoid these days. The bad guys are getting better much faster then the good guys. You’re right, though, they never seem to keep track of what you already own, just what you might want. I keep circling back to this topic, but they don’t seem to be getting smarter – I guess they don’t read my blog :-)

      Like

  20. Like Judy, this hurt my head reading (coffee helped). 🙂 I get it. I’d rather be walking Maddie or reading to children. I think Watson would agree they’re more important.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Those surveys! Sometimes I open a website and before I can read even a single word on the page, a survey pops up, wanting to know how I feel about the website! How can I feel anything about it before I even see it? It is absurd, and mostly I end up closing the page–an act which the bot or whoever is in charge of the survey should interpret to mean absolute disgust–although if you go through the survey “absolute disgust” is not one of things they think you feel.

    You have mentioned something there that I have thought about for some time now. The algorithms that run social media . . . aren’t they linear? I don’t know so much about algorithms myself, but they look linear to me. How else do you explain those ads. I bought a clamp meter from Amazon in February. I still see ads about clamp meters on my email. I mean, how many clamp meters can a guy need? And if you watch a video on YouTube, so many similar videos are suggested to you . . . even the same one over and over again. To think you will always buy the same thing or watch the same video over and over again . . . is a linear event. Humans are too complex, too nonlinear. Our emotions are unpredictable and can’t be programmed with linear systems. I think that’s why it hurts so much when we have no choice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s true, Peter, people are way more complex than these algorithms are sensitive to. I bought replacement knives for my 12″ Delta planer from Amazon. Then I started getting ads for 12″ and 15″ planer knife sets for Dewalt and Ryobi. – It’s a stationary power tool – how many do they think I have in my shop?

      I don’t think they consider action, except for the “did you open this ad” because that’s when they make money and that’s all they care about. So, when they pop that survey open, they make money from someone. It’s all about money. The ads are brokered into place, and the advertisers pay for performance of the ad, not for results that stem from the ads. So if I can get you to appear to have read the ad, by making you clear it before you get to the page, I get paid.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. This is weird but I have been finding out all kinds of things our phones think we want to say and all kinds of Acronyms that I don’t Ever use! I thought smart phones would figure out the odds are I want to say “if” more than “I’d!” It does this all the time.
    I like how you used counting and the factor system in this. I honestly don’t know how to type the numbers to the 5th power, 4th power and other cool number thingies. Do I sound like I am channeling our dear friend Joey?! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Lovely reflections, especially the one with Maddie – not for her but for the tree. As for the rest, I really don’t know why everybody doesn’t have the adblock installed. Such peace. (I know why. People like to spend money.)

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I’m one of those people who doesn’t do simple math in my head usually. I’m just not a math person. I know I need it, of course. My checkbook has always balanced. However, that has happened because I use scratch paper.

    Liked by 1 person

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