Artificial Intelligence

“The intelligence exhibited by machines or software”, artificial intelligence holds a lot of promise in making machines smarter using tools of natural language processing, reasoning, computational intelligence, robotics etc. The commercial potential includes customer service, self driving cars and personal care.

Microsoft launched an experimental chatbot based on AI last week. On Wednesday Tay was born, an artificially intelligent chatbot with the personality of a 19-year-old female American, with the aim of “conducting research on conversational understanding”.

But it quickly went wrong, within hours Tay’s twitter account was supporting conspiracy theories around 9/11, espousing right wing views to vie with Hitler or Donald Trump. Tay’s life was short, Microsoft took her offline by the evening, and the worst of her tweets started disappearing. (Not before loads of people took screen grabs).

In the same week FastCompany reported on Whisper’s Arbiter software which ensures that nothing untoward is published by the company’s user-base. Whisper is anonymous and combines text with images, a virtual version of PostSecret. Their filter software is build on masses of data, but they still use human moderators to make sure that their user generated content stays on the right side of the company’s policies. This is particular challenging in an environment of anonymous accounts and sneaky attempts to subvert the algorithm.

So why didn’t Microsoft do the same? This “troll” phenomenon is well-known and well documented, and Microsoft has significant experience using social platforms, certainly enough to predict this.  WIRED report that Microsoft advised them in an email “We have taken Tay offline and are making adjustments” so perhaps when Tay comes back online she’ll have learnt from the first experiment.

There’s an oft quoted saying “artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity”, in this case Tay learnt from us, she copied patterns of speech and opinions from the humans who interacted with her. She’s a human creation in more ways than one; to make artificial intelligence better, we need to be better humans.

Image: digitization via pixabay


Change Management in One Slide

startsmall2I was a the “working social tour” yesterday, a Microsoft event focusing on customer use of Yammer. It was great to hear the customer stories, they’ve all done well bringing social into their companies and I recognised a lot of the challenges. But my favourite slide of the day was this one, presented by Yammer co-founder and CTO Adam Pisoni.

Start Small

There’s a temptation to design and build a perfect solution and roll it out globally with a fancy big launch.

Don’t do it. Instead start small, find some willing candidates to try using your enterprise social network. Collect success and evaluate the business impact, use these stories to build support for further roll out.

I would urge companies to get the platform available for everyone as quickly as possible – you want people to be able to use it as soon as they’re ready – but the awareness and adoption steps can follow.

With Like-Minded Colleagues

Some colleagues will understand social business straight away , others will be neutral, and few will see nothing in it for them and resist the change.

Work with the ones who “get it”, you’ll get further. They’ll see the potential it brings to their work, and they’ll run with it, often building success cases in areas of the company that you’d never think of.

Those who don’t see how it works and struggle to see what’s in it for them aren’t ready to work with you – if you try you’ll spent a lot of time frustrated and make little progress.

On Projects that Matter

Look for uses that will generate genuine business value, such as;

  • improving service
  • reduced costs
  • innovation
  • supporting virtual project teams
  • leadership communication –

I like this simple mantra of how to bring social into a company; it’s not a “how to”, but it could be a useful check when working through all the challenges that come with driving change in an organisation’s culture

I Want It Now!

We’re getting it, we’re not getting it.

The rumours flew around the Internet all day yesterday, that Microsoft would, within weeks, be launching a suite of office tools for iPad.

Then the denial; sort of. Microsoft have apparently stated that the images are “not of a Microsoft product”. But stopped short of denying that such a product is being developed.

Obviously they should be developing Microsoft tools for iPads, given the rise and rise of iPad sales, and their use in large companies.

Large companies are the natural habitat of Microsoft, each with thousands of staff using outlook, word, PowerPoint and often SharePoint for intranet sites and collaboration environments. Increasingly iPads are invading this habitat – often starting in the niche areas of upper management and IT geeks.

I saw statistics for mobile access to our website today; for the first time iPad is in the lead at just under 40% – not bad for a device that wasn’t on the market two years ago. Windows phones have yet to reach 1%. Our website targets investors and analysts, a group who are increasingly addicted to iPads.

As people use iPads more and more for their work they’re going to want the office suite, I can get my work email on my iPad, and view powerpoint presentations in meetings (bonus – I’m printing less paper). It’s becoming the tool I travel with, but for the iPad to become a real work tool I need the office suite. This new way of working is a reality Microsoft acknowledge, and their 365 product is a strategic step in this direction. I really hope they’re not planning to use their old business model of locking people in – assuming we’ll buy devices with the windows operating system in order to use their software. They have to know that companies are moving towards “bring your own device” policies for IT.

So whatever the rumours, I’m hoping Microsoft are close to launching the Office tools for iPad.

Image cry