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Opinion | America’s Risky Approach to Artificial Intelligence
October 7, 2019 | The New York Times | By Tim Wu
Mr. Wu is the author of “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires.”

The brilliant 2014 science fiction novel “The Three-Body Problem,” by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin, depicts the fate of civilizations as almost entirely dependent on winning grand races to scientific milestones. Someone in China’s leadership must have read that book, for Beijing has made winning the race to artificial intelligence a national obsession, devoting billions of dollars to the cause and setting 2030 as the target year for world dominance. Not to be outdone, President Vladimir Putin of Russia recently declared that whoever masters A.I. “will become the ruler of the world.”..... if there is even a slim chance that the race to build stronger A.I. will determine the future of the world — and that does appear to be at least a possibility — the United States and the rest of the West are taking a surprisingly lackadaisical and alarmingly risky approach to the technology........The plan seems to be for the American tech industry, which makes most of its money in advertising and selling personal gadgets, to serve as champions of the West. Those businesses, it is hoped, will research, develop and disseminate the most important basic technologies of the future. Companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft are formidable entities, with great talent and resources that approximate those of small countries. But they don’t have the resources of large countries, nor do they have incentives that fully align with the public interest (JCK: that is, "business interests" vs. "public interest"]..... The history of computing research is a story not just of big corporate laboratories but also of collaboration and competition among civilian government, the military, academia and private players both big (IBM, AT&T) and small (Apple, Sun)......Some advocates of more A.I. research have called for a “Manhattan project” for A.I. — but that’s not the right model. The atomic bomb and the moon rocket were giant but discrete projects. In contrast, A.I. is a broad and vague set of scientific technologies that encompass not just recent trends in machine learning but also anything else designed to replicate or augment human cognition.....the United States government should broadly fund basic research and insist on broad dissemination..... the United States needs to support immigration laws that attract the world’s top A.I. talent. The history of breakthroughs made by start-ups also suggests the need for policies, like the enforcement of antitrust laws and the defense of net neutrality, that give small players a chance.... the computer scientist and entrepreneur Kai-Fu Lee, in his book “AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order,” describes a race between China and Silicon Valley, as if the latter were the sum total of Western science in this area. In the future, when we look back at this period, we may come to regret the loss of a healthy balance between privately and publicly funded A.I. research in the West, and the drift of too much scientific and engineering talent into the private sector.
antitrust  ARPA  artificial_intelligence  Beijing  Bell_Labs  Big_Tech  business_interests  China  China_Rising  FAANG  high-risk  immigration  industrial_policies  Kai-Fu_Lee  Manhattan_project  publicly_funded  R&D  risks  science_fiction  Silicon_Valley  talent  Tim_Wu  Vladimir_Putin  Xerox 
october 2019 by jerryking
Why big companies squander good ideas
August 6, 2018 | | Financial Times | Tim Harford

.....Organisations from newspapers to oil majors to computing giants have persistently struggled to embrace new technological opportunities, or recognise new technological threats, even when the threats are mortal or the opportunities are golden. Why do some ideas slip out of the grasp of incumbents, then thrive in the hands of upstarts?.....“Disruption describes what happens when firms fail because they keep making the kinds of choices that made them successful,” says Joshua Gans, an economist at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto and author of The Disruption Dilemma. Successful organisations stick to their once-triumphant strategies, even as the world changes around them. More horses! More forage!

Why does this happen? Easily the most famous explanation comes from Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School. Christensen’s 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, told a compelling story about how new technologies creep up from below: they are flawed or under-developed at first, so do not appeal to existing customers. Holiday snappers do not want to buy digital cameras the size of a shoebox and the price of a car.

However, Christensen explains, these technologies do find customers: people with unusual needs previously unserved by the incumbent players. The new technology gets better and, one day, the incumbent wakes up to discover that an upstart challenger has several years’ head start — and once-loyal customers have jumped ship.
............Within academia, Rebecca Henderson’s ideas about architectural innovation are widely cited, and she is one of only two academics at Harvard Business School to hold the rank of university professor. The casual observer of business theories, however, is far more likely to have heard of Clayton Christensen, one of the most famous management gurus on the planet.

That may be because Christensen has a single clear theory of how disruption happens — and a solution, too: disrupt yourself before you are disrupted by someone else. That elegance is something we tend to find appealing.

The reality of disruption is less elegant — and harder to solve. Kodak’s position may well have been impossible, no matter what managers had done. If so, the most profitable response would have been to vanish gracefully.

“There are multiple points of failure,” says Henderson. “There’s the problem of reorganisation. There’s the question of whether the new idea will be profitable. There are cognitive filters. There is more than one kind of denial. To navigate successfully through, an incumbent organisation has to overcome every one of these obstacles.”

......Henderson added that the innovators — like Fuller — are often difficult people. “The people who bug large organisations to do new things are socially awkward, slightly fanatical and politically often hopelessly naive.” Another point of failure......The message of Henderson’s work with Kim Clark and others is that when companies or institutions are faced with an organisationally disruptive innovation, there is no simple solution. There may be no solution at all. “I’m sorry it’s not more management guru-ish,” she tells me, laughing. “But anybody who’s really any good at this will tell you that this is hard.”
Apple  blitzkrieg  disruption  ideas  IBM  innovation  iPod  missed_opportunities  hard_work  Rotman  Steve_Jobs  theory  Tim_Harford  upstarts  large_companies  WWI  Xerox  Walkman  Clayton_Christensen  organizational_change  organizational_structure  MPOF  militaries  digital_cameras 
september 2018 by jerryking
Four Ways to Innovate Through Analogies - WSJ - WSJ
By JOHN POLLACK
Nov. 7, 2014 | WSJ |

Here are four rules for innovating through analogy.

(1) Question conventional analogies. Always kick the tires on the analogies you encounter or consider. Some analogies ring true at first but fall apart on closer examination.
(2) Explore multiple analogies. No matter how seductive an analogy may be, be sure to examine several others before deciding which one might be most useful. Usually, more than one analogy can shed light on a given situation.
(3) Look to diverse sources. The art of analogy flows from creative re-categorization and the information that we extract from surprising sources
(4) Simplify. Similarly, Steve Jobs recognized that the digital “desktop,” first developed but unappreciated at Xerox PARC, was an analogy with the potential to make computers accessible to millions of people—an insight he put to work when he launched the first Mac.
storytelling  pattern_recognition  innovation  analogies  simplicity  Charles_Darwin  theory  theory_of_evolution  conventional_wisdom  Steve_Jobs  under_appreciated  Xerox 
november 2014 by jerryking
Forget the CV, data decide careers - FT.com
July 9, 2014 | FT |By Tim Smedley.

The human touch of job interviews is under threat from technology, writes Tim Smedley, but can new techniques be applied to top-level recruitment?

I no longer look at somebody's CV to determine if we will interview them or not," declares Teri Morse, who oversees the recruitment of 30,000 people each year at Xerox Services. Instead, her team analyses personal data to determine the fate of job candidates.

She is not alone. "Big data" and complex algorithms are increasingly taking decisions out of the hands of individual interviewers - a trend that has far-reaching consequences for job seekers and recruiters alike.

The company whose name has become a synonym for photocopy has turned into one that helps others outsource everyday business processes, from accounting to human resources. It recently teamed up with Evolv, which uses data sets of past behaviour to predict everything from salesmanship to loyalty.

For Xerox this means putting prospective candidates for the company's 55,000 call-centre positions through a screening test that covers a wide range of questions. Evolv then lays separate data it has mined on what causes employees to leave their call-centre jobs over the candidates' responses to predict which of them will stick around and which will further exacerbate the already high churn rate call centres tend to suffer.

The results are surprising. Some are quirky: employees who are members of one or two social networks were found to stay in their job for longer than those who belonged to four or more social networks (Xerox recruitment drives at gaming conventions were subsequently cancelled). Some findings, however, were much more fundamental: prior work experience in a similar role was not found to be a predictor of success.

"It actually opens up doors for people who would never have gotten to interview based on their CV," says Ms Morse. Some managers initially questioned why new recruits were appearing without any prior relevant experience. As time went on, attrition rates in some call centres fell by 20 per cent and managers no longer quibbled. "I don't know why this works," admits Ms Morse, "I just know it works."

Organisations have long held large amounts of data. From financial accounts to staff time sheets, the movement from paper to computer made it easier to understand and analyse. As computing power increased exponentially, so did data storage. The floppy disk of the 1990s could store barely more than one megabyte of data; today a 16 gigabyte USB flash drive costs less than a fiver ($8).

It is simple, then, to see how recruiters arrive at a point where crunching data could replace the human touch of job interviews. Research by NewVantage Partners, the technology consultants, found that 85 per cent of Fortune 1000 executives in 2013 had a big data initiative planned or in progress, with almost half using big data operationally.

HR services provider Ceridian is one of many companies hoping to tap into the potential of big data for employers. "From an HR and recruitment perspective, big data enables you to analyse volumes of data that in the past were hard to access and understand," explains David Woodward, chief product and innovation officer at Ceridian UK.

This includes "applying the data you hold about your employees and how they've performed, to see the causal links between the characteristics of the hire that you took in versus those that stayed with you and became successful employees. Drawing those links can better inform your decisions in the hiring process."

Data sets need not rely on internal data, however. The greatest source of big data is the internet, which is easy for both FTSE 100 and smaller companies to access.

"Social media data now gives us the ability to 'listen' to the business," says Zahir Ladhani, vice-president at IBM Smarter Workforce. "You can look at what customers are saying about your business, what employees are saying, and what you yourself are saying - cull all that data together and you can understand the impact.

"Most recruitment organisations now use social media and job-site data," says Mr Ladhani. "We looked at an organisation which had very specialised, very hard to find skill sets. When we analysed the data of the top performers in that job family, we found out that they all hung out at a very unique, niche social media site. Once we tapped into that database, boom!"

Ceridian, too, has worked with companies to "effectively scan the internet to see what jobs are being posted through the various job boards, in what parts of the country," says Mr Woodward. "If you're looking to open a particular facility in a part of the country, for example, you'll be able to see whether there's already a high demand for particular types of skills."

Experts appear split on whether the specialisation required for executive recruitment lends itself to big data.

"I hire 30,000 call-centre people on an annual basis - we don't hire that many executives," says Ms Morse, adding "there's not enough volume". However Mr Ladhani disagrees, believing that over time the data set an organisation holds on senior management hires would become statistically valid.

As more companies start to analyse their employee data to make hiring decisions, could recruitment finally become more of a science than an art?

"The potential is clearly much greater now than ever before to crunch very large volumes of data and draw conclusions from that which can make better decisions," says Mr Woodward. "The methods and computing power being used in weather forecasting 10 years ago are now available to us all . . . who knows where this may go."

It is a trend worth considering - to get your next job, perfecting your CV could well be less important than having carefully considered the footprint you leave in cyberspace.

Case study Demographic drilling-down helps LV=recast recruitment ads

Kevin Hough, head of recruiting at insurance firm LV=, was a pioneer of big data before he had heard the term.

A year ago, the question of where best to target the firm's recruitment advertising provided an innovative answer. LV= looked up the postcodes at which its current staff lived and organised the findings by the employee's level of seniority, explains Mr Hough. "Using software called Geo-Maps, which works similarly to Google Maps, we could zoom in and out of clusters of our people to see where they are willing to travel from to get to work."

Next, the insurer looked at the locations from which candidates were applying and compared those with the postcodes of current staff. It also looked at the locations and interests of its followers on social media sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. The analysis included their interests, stated sexual orientation, ethnicity and gender.

This allowed the firm to create a profile of its typical, successful candidate, also taking into consideration their age and location.

"What was really interesting was the reach some of our advertising was having and, more importantly, some of the gaps," Mr Hough says.

The analysis, which took little investment or expertise, has allowed LV= to redesign its recruitment advertising.

"Sometimes, with all the clever systems that people have in organisations, you can be blinded to the simple, raw data that is there," says Mr Hough.

Next, LV= will add performance review data, taking the analysis to a higher level. He explains that this piece of work will ask who of the group recruited a year before is still there.

"It will help shape not only how we attract people, but will even start to shape some of the roles themselves," he says.

Tim Smedley

By Tim Smedley
analytics  call_centres  Ceridian  data  data_driven  data_storage  Evolv  executive_management  FTSE_100  hard_to_find  hiring  internal_data  job_boards  Managing_Your_Career  massive_data_sets  personal_data  predictive_analytics  recruiting  résumés  small_business  social_media  unstructured_data  Xerox 
july 2014 by jerryking
The Empire Strikes Back - Technology Review
December 1, 2011
The Empire Strikes Back

How Xerox and other big corporations are harnessing the force of disruptive innovation.

By Scott D. Anthony and Clayton M. Christensen
disruption  large_companies  Xerox  innovation  Clayton_Christensen  Scott_Anthony  Innosight 
december 2011 by jerryking
Xerox Seeks Faster Services Growth - WSJ.com
MAY 11, 2011 | WSJ | By DANA MATTIOLI. Xerox Makes Push for Faster Services Growth. Segment's Expansion Rate Expected to Triple That of Tech Side
Xerox  Dana_Mattioli  services  growth 
october 2011 by jerryking
Project Delta: How to Bake an Open Source Cookie - PARC, a Xerox company
8 December 2005
how does a package of cookies end up in your local grocery store? Where
do the ideas come from, and how are they developed? For the past 60
years, the hierarchical management model has served the food industry
well. But like all industries, the food industry is seeking ways to get
new products to market faster, and better. Steve Gundrum, President and
CEO of Mattson, a Silicon Valley innovation firm that leads the US food
industry in the development of new products, wanted to learn what
happened when you challenged food scientists and chefs to use software
development techniques to create new products. The result, Project
Delta, and the quest for the ultimate cookie. Chronicled by Malcolm
Gladwell in the September 2005 Food Issue of The New Yorker, Steve will
take you behind the scenes for a look at how Open Source and Extreme
Programming techniques could play a role in revolutionizing the food
industry.
open_source  baked_goods  howto  food  Xerox 
august 2011 by jerryking
"The Best Advice I Ever Got" - March 21, 2005
March 21, 2005 | Fortune Magazine | By INTERVIEWERS Julia Boorstin.

Brian Grazer
"My whole career has been built on one piece of advice that came from two people: [MCA founder] Jules Stein and [former MCA chairman] Lew Wasserman. In 1975 I was a law clerk at Warner Bros. I'd spent about a year trying to get a meeting with these two men. Finally they let me in to see them. They both said, separately, 'In order for you to be in the entertainment business, you have to have leverage. Since you have none--no money, no pedigree, no valuable relationships--you must have creative leverage. That exists only in your mind. So you need to write--put what's in your mind on paper. Then you'll own a piece of paper. That's leverage.'

"With that advice, I wrote the story that became Splash, which was a fantasy that I had about meeting a mermaid. For years, I sent registered letters to myself--movie concepts and other ideas--so that I had my ideas officially on paper. I have about 1,000 letters in a vault. To this day, I feel that my real power is only that--ideas and the confidence to write them down."
advice  career  inspiration  entrepreneur  Managing_Your_Career  Clayton_Christensen  humility  MBAs  Siemens  Salesforce  Mickey_Drexler  JetBlue  Peter_Drucker  Jim_Collins  Rick_Warren  leverage  Xerox  Andy_Grove  conventional_wisdom  Richard_Parsons  negotiations  Jack_Welch  Vivek_Paul  thinking  Starbucks  Warren_Bennis  Richard_Branson  Warren_Buffett  Brian_Grazer  creating_valuable_content  Lew_Wasserman 
december 2010 by jerryking
When Being First Doesn't Make You No. 1 - WSJ.com
AUG.12, 2004|WSJ|CRIS PRYSTAY.In Jan. 2000--almost 2 yrs.
before Apple.'s iPod hit the mkt.--Singapore-based Creative Tech.
unveiled a similar prod.: an MP3 player w. a tiny hard drive that stored
hundreds of hrs. of music. In biz., though, being 1st doesn't always
make you No. 1. Creative is best-known for its Sound Blaster audio cards
for PCs, a product category it pioneered & dominates. But it's
still a niche player; annual sales are a tenth of Apple's. Apple ran
mktg. rings around Creative even in its own backyard. For iPod's
Singapore launch in late 2001, Apple plastered the CBD with funky
posters & ran a hip ad blitz in movie theaters.Creative's response
finally came last month, when it began sponsoring a children's TV show
& running its 1st-ever TV ad campaign--but only in Singapore.
"There's been a big shift in our biz, & right now, our biggest
challenge is mktg.," concedes founder/CEO, Sim Wong Hoo. "But I'm
stingy. I don't want to waste $ unless I know it's going to work."
branding  Xerox  Ricoh  image_advertising  Apple  iPODs  competitive_landscape  product_launches  Singapore  first_movers  fast_followers  consumer_electronics  marketing  new_products  new_categories  category_killers 
october 2010 by jerryking
Xerox Touts Its Business-Services Side - WSJ.com
SEPTEMBER 2, 2010 | Wall Street Journal | By DANA MATTIOLI.
Xerox Corp. is launching its most expensive advertising campaign in two
decades, as Chief Executive Ursula Burns looks to reposition the
company as more than just a copier maker. The campaign, fully funded by
Xerox, is targeting business people, particularly those with
decision-making power and focuses on Xerox's relationships with six
clients.
Xerox  repositioning  advertising  Dana_Mattioli 
september 2010 by jerryking
Unboxed - Who Says Innovation Belongs to the Small? - NYTimes.com
May 23, 2009 | New York Times | By STEVE LOHR. Technology
trends also contribute to the rising role of large companies. The lone
inventor will never be extinct, but W. Brian Arthur, an economist at the
Palo Alto Research Center, says that as digital technology evolves,
step-by-step innovations are less important than linking all the
sensors, software and data centers in systems.
innovation  size  Steve_Lohr  Clayton_Christensen  large_companies  W._Brian_Arthur  sensors  software  interconnections  Fortune_500  brands  back-office  data_centers  systematic_approaches  systems  systems_integration  Xerox 
october 2009 by jerryking

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