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Preview: Peter O'Kelly's Reality Check

Peter O'Kelly's Reality Check



Better living through collaboration and conceptual modeling



Updated: 2018-01-23T07:45:45.900-05:00

 



IBM hasn't been this unimportant to the market in at least 40 years (CNBC)

2018-01-23T07:35:07.995-05:00

Maybe it's time for IBMCoin...

"After providing a disappointing earnings outlook last week, "Big Blue" now makes up about 0.6 percent of the S&P 500 and has sunk to 35th in the index, according to FactSet. Howard Silverblatt, a senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said it's the lowest IBM has been in his four decades following the market at S&P.

While investors have been pouring money into tech mega-cap companies like Alphabet, Amazon and Microsoft, even showing some enthusiasm of late for Cisco, Intel and Oracle, they've given IBM a giant shrug.

Of the 10 most valuable U.S. tech companies, only IBM is down over the past year. Intel, the next worst performer among the group, has gained 24 percent, and the S&P 500's technology index has jumped 42 percent."
IBM hasn't been this unimportant to the market in at least 40 years



Bitcoin May Split 50 Times in 2018 as Forking Craze Accelerates - Bloomberg

2018-01-23T07:45:45.938-05:00

What could possibly go wrong?... Tangentially, see Bitcoin broker Coinbase booked $1 billion in revenue last year — so the company has told hovering VCs to back off (Recode) and Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Bitcoin: It may fail but we now know how to do it (Medium)
"“Unfortunately, most fork-based projects we see today are more of a sheer money grab,” said George Kimionis, chief executive officer of Coinomi, a wallet that lets Bitcoin owners collect their new forked coins. “Looking back a few years from now we might realize that they were just mutations fostered by investors blinded by numerical price increases -- rather than honest attempts to contribute to the blockchain ecosystem.”

He predicts forking may soon sideline a more popular alternative, initial coin offerings, in which startups raise money by selling entirely new tokens. That market has gotten crowded after raising about $3.7 billion last year, and smaller offerings have struggled."
Bitcoin May Split 50 Times in 2018 as Forking Craze Accelerates - Bloomberg



Tesla’s Pay Deal to Keep Elon Musk: All or Nothing - The New York Times

2018-01-23T07:30:22.217-05:00

Incent different -- check the full article for details; in other Elon Musk company news, see SpaceX gets good news from the Air Force on the Zuma mission (Ars Technica) and Musk's Boring Company Presents L.A. Tunnel Plan (Bloomberg)
"Mr. Musk has often said he is not driven by money. So what is it about this incentive plan that appeals to him?

“None of it is intended for dynastic wealth creation,” he said. “The reason that it’s important to me personally is that there’s some pretty big things that I want to do.”

“I want to contribute as much as possible to humanity becoming a multi-planet species,” he said, alluding to a goal he has talked about often, including having people live on Mars. “That obviously requires a certain amount of capital.”"
Tesla’s Pay Deal to Keep Elon Musk: All or Nothing - The New York Times



Once Cozy With Silicon Valley, Democrats Grow Wary of Tech Giants - The New York Times

2018-01-23T07:04:40.087-05:00

Later in the article: "Fundamentally, the problem is that “disinformation campaigns and legitimate advertising campaigns are effectively indistinguishable on leading internet platforms, ” Mr. Ghosh and Mr. Scott wrote."

"A few months later, Mr. Ghosh quit his job at Facebook, where he worked on privacy and public policy issues. On Tuesday, a Washington think tank, New America, and Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society published a report he co-wrote, asserting that technology behind digital advertising — the financial lifeblood of Facebook, Google and Twitter — has made disinformation campaigns more effective.

“The problems were much broader than we imagined, and it was not just about one tool or platform,” said Mr. Ghosh, who with his co-author, Ben Scott, worked on devising Mrs. Clinton’s tech policy platform. “It’s the profit model underlying the whole digital advertising system.”"
Once Cozy With Silicon Valley, Democrats Grow Wary of Tech Giants - The New York Times



SpaceX’s Big Rocket, the Falcon Heavy, Finally Reaches the Launchpad - The New York Times

2018-01-23T06:59:15.179-05:00

Also see Falcon Heavy Expands the SpaceX Fleet (NYT)

"“We were pretty naïve about that,” Mr. Musk said in July at a conference in Washington, D.C. “At first, it sounds really easy. Just stick two first stages on as strap-on boosters. How hard can that be? But then everything changes. All the loads change. Aerodynamics totally change. You’ve tripled the vibration and acoustics.”

The central core was redesigned and reinforced to handle the stresses, one of the key reasons that the Heavy is more than three years behind schedule. While the two side boosters are reused from earlier Falcon 9 launches, the core is all new, as is the second stage."
SpaceX’s Big Rocket, the Falcon Heavy, Finally Reaches the Launchpad - The New York Times



Google Executives Pledge to Scour More Content Ahead of Midterm Elections - Bloomberg

2018-01-22T07:30:34.242-05:00

Also from the source MSNBC/Recode interview (which will air on MSNBC Friday 1/26 at 10:00 PM ET): Google CEO Sundar Pichai compares impact of AI to electricity and fire (The Verge)

"Google’s search engine and its news-aggregation service have been criticized for showing misleading answers and distributing false stories online. Meanwhile, YouTube is facing one of the worst crises in its roughly 18-year existence after advertisers found their marketing messages running alongside extremist and offensive videos. YouTube has also been swept up in investigations into whether Russia used social media to influence the 2016 presidential election.

"All of us are obviously very upset that somebody could have influenced the election," Pichai said. However, he warned that it’s difficult for such a large company to decide what is true or false. "Drawing the line is becoming increasingly hard," he said. "We’re a global company. We operate in many countries. People disagree.""
Google Executives Pledge to Scour More Content Ahead of Midterm Elections - Bloomberg



Facebook Says Social Media Is Not Always Healthy for Democracy - Bloomberg

2018-01-22T07:15:55.702-05:00

See Hard Questions: Social Media and Democracy (Facebook Newsroom) for more details; also see Cass Sunstein's essay, Guest Post: Is Social Media Good or Bad for Democracy? (Facebook Newsroom), which begins "On balance, the question of whether social media platforms are good for democracy is easy. On balance, they are not merely good; they are terrific. For people to govern themselves, they need to have information. They also need to be able to convey it to others. Social media platforms make that tons easier."

"“From the Arab Spring to robust elections around the globe, social media seemed like a positive,” Katie Harbath, who runs the Facebook team that builds relationships with governments around the world, wrote in a blog post. “The last U.S. presidential campaign changed that, with foreign interference that Facebook should have been quicker to identify, to the rise of ‘fake news’ and echo chambers.”

Following the November 2016 election, Menlo Park, California-based Facebook has frequently promised to work harder and devote more resources to fixing such issues. But it also usually emphasized that bad actors made up a small percentage of activity and that, overall, the company was doing something good for society. Facebook’s post today is the most self-critical assessment of the company’s impact to date, complete with an admission that its efforts may not be successful."
Facebook Says Social Media Is Not Always Healthy for Democracy - Bloomberg



Tim Cook: I keep my tween nephew away from social networks - CNET

2018-01-22T08:31:45.780-05:00

Tbd how many U.S. middle school systems effectively require a Facebook account at this point, e.g., to coordinate student group projects; tangentially, see Consensus view now appears to be to guide children’s screen-time, not limit it (9to5Mac)
"Cook's nephew will soon be a teenager. The minimum official age to have a Facebook account is 13, yet some have said for years that this is regularly flouted. Some estimates have put Facebook participation among under-13s at 7.5 million.

A recent UK study showed that 51 percent of 12-year-olds and 28 percent of 10-year-olds have a social media profile.

In December, perhaps to address this reality, Facebook launched a Messenger Kids app specifically for the under-13s."
Tim Cook: I keep my tween nephew away from social networks - CNET



There Is Nothing Virtual About Bitcoin’s Energy Appetite - The New York Times

2018-01-22T07:52:29.894-05:00

From a *coin entropy reality check; tangentially, see Here’s why you can’t buy a high-end graphics card at Best Buy (Ars Technica)
"In the virtual currency world this creation process is called “mining.” There is no physical digging, since Bitcoins are purely digital. But the computer power needed to create each digital token consumes at least as much electricity as the average American household burns through in two years, according to figures from Morgan Stanley and Alex de Vries, an economist who tracks energy use in the industry.

The total network of computers plugged into the Bitcoin network consumes as much energy each day as some medium-size countries — which country depends on whose estimates you believe. And the network supporting Ethereum, the second-most valuable virtual currency, gobbles up another country’s worth of electricity each day."
There Is Nothing Virtual About Bitcoin’s Energy Appetite - The New York Times



Facebook is going to start ranking news sources — once its users tell it how to rank news sources - Recode

2018-01-19T17:27:15.856-05:00

See News Feed FYI: Helping Ensure News on Facebook Is From Trusted Sources (Facebook newsroom; pretty sure it's a "trusted source...") for more details

"But what’s most telling about today’s announcement is that Facebook remains insistent on arguing that it’s not really in a position to make judgements about the stuff it shows its two billion users — someone else needs to do it.

“The hard question we’ve struggled with is how to decide what news sources are broadly trusted in a world with so much division,” Zuckerberg writes in a blog post today.

But to be clear, it’s not because the people who work at Facebook, who build their own internet-beaming drones, aren’t smart enough to figure out the difference between the New York Times and the Denver Guardian, which doesn’t actually exist. It’s that they don’t want to do it, Zuckerberg says. ”We could try to make that decision ourselves, but that’s not something we’re comfortable with.”"
Facebook is going to start ranking news sources — once its users tell it how to rank news sources - Recode



The Fall of Travis Kalanick Was a Lot Weirder and Darker Than You Thought - Bloomberg

2018-01-19T08:18:01.721-05:00

From an extensive profile by Eric Newcomer and Brad Stone; on a related note, see Travis Kalanick is walking away with $1.4 billion as Uber's deal with SoftBank closes Thursday (CNBC)

"A year ago, before the investor lawsuits and the federal investigations, before the mass resignations, and before the connotation of the word “Uber” shifted from “world’s most valuable startup” to “world’s most dysfunctional,” Uber’s executives sat around a hotel conference room table in San Francisco, trying to convince their chief executive officer, Travis Kalanick, that the company had a major problem: him."
The Fall of Travis Kalanick Was a Lot Weirder and Darker Than You Thought - Bloomberg



SEC cools traders’ hot plans for cryptocurrency-based exchange traded funds | TechCrunch

2018-01-19T07:59:04.429-05:00

On a related note, see Bitcoin could be here for 100 years but it's more likely to 'totally collapse,' Nobel laureate says (CNBC)

"In a strongly worded letter to the heads of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association and the Investment Company Institute, the director of the division of investment management, Dalia Blass said that there were “significant outstanding questions” around how funds that held large amounts of cryptocurrencies (and related products) would satisfy the necessary regulatory requirements.

In the letter Blass identified a number of areas of concern for the regulatory agency including the valuation of underlying cryptocurrency assets held by mutual funds or exchange traded funds; the actual liquidity of the assets that these funds would hold; the institutions that would provide custodial oversight for the assets; and the exposure of the assets to both market manipulation and trading arbitrage."
SEC cools traders’ hot plans for cryptocurrency-based exchange traded funds | TechCrunch



Google announces patent agreement with Tencent amid China push (Reuters)

2018-01-19T07:53:48.169-05:00

Coincidentally, see Tencent Widens Its Lead Over Facebook (Bloomberg)

"Google has previously said that agreements such as these reduce the potential of litigation over patent infringement.

The agreement with the Chinese social media and gaming firm Tencent covers a broad range of products and paves the way for collaboration on technology in the future, Google said on Friday, without disclosing any financial terms of the deal.

Tencent oversees China’s top social media and payments app, WeChat, which has close to a billion users. It also oversees one of the country’s most popular app stores and hosts the country’s biggest gaming and livestream platforms."
Google announces patent agreement with Tencent amid China push



IBM Ends 22-Quarter Streak of Falling Revenue - The New York Times

2018-01-19T07:34:54.963-05:00

See IBM Reports 2017 Fourth-Quarter and Full-Year Results (IBM newsroom) for cloudy accounting details such as "Cloud revenue over the last 12 months was $17.0 billion, including $9.3 billion delivered as-a-service and $7.8 billion for hardware, software and services to enable IBM clients to implement comprehensive cloud solutions" and creative "cognitive" categorization, e.g., "Cognitive Solutions (includes solutions software and transaction processing software)"
"In a statement, Ms. Rometty noted the strong growth in the new businesses, which IBM collectively calls “strategic imperatives” and now represent 46 percent of the company’s revenue. “We are pleased with our overall revenue growth in the quarter,” she said. Company executives said they expected revenue growth to continue throughout 2018. 
In after-hours trading, IBM shares fell 3.5 percent. The company’s shares had risen nearly 10 percent this year, and some investors were apparently expecting stronger results."
IBM Ends 22-Quarter Streak of Falling Revenue - The New York Times



How to tame the tech titans - Competition in the digital age (The Economist)

2018-01-19T06:52:04.204-05:00

From a timely platform market dynamics reality check

"But big tech platforms, particularly Facebook, Google and Amazon, do indeed raise a worry about fair competition. That is partly because they often benefit from legal exemptions. Unlike publishers, Facebook and Google are rarely held responsible for what users do on them; and for years most American buyers on Amazon did not pay sales tax. Nor do the titans simply compete in a market. Increasingly, they are the market itself, providing the infrastructure (or “platforms”) for much of the digital economy. Many of their services appear to be free, but users “pay” for them by giving away their data. Powerful though they already are, their huge stockmarket valuations suggest that investors are counting on them to double or even triple in size in the next decade.

There is thus a justified fear that the tech titans will use their power to protect and extend their dominance, to the detriment of consumers (see article). The tricky task for policymakers is to restrain them without unduly stifling innovation."
How to tame the tech titans - Competition in the digital age



Microsoft aligns its different Office code bases as of the latest Mac Office release | ZDNet

2018-01-19T06:27:28.316-05:00

I'll believe this is significant when I see intra-page unread activity indicators in macOS OneNote

"Office for iPad, when it initially shipped in 2014, made use of the converged codebase as of the second release in 2017, as did Office for Android, Office for Win32 and, as of January 18, Mac Office.

While Microsoft isn't promising 100 percent feature parity across its various Office flavors, officials say the shared cross-platform code means Microsoft should be able to light up new Office features more quickly and closer to simultaneously. And customers who use Office on different platforms should see more fidelity across the versions as a result of this work."
Microsoft aligns its different Office code bases as of the latest Mac Office release | ZDNet



Amazon Has a Plan toBecome Profitable. It’s Called Advertising - Bloomberg

2018-01-18T08:06:34.651-05:00

Final paragraph: "Ultimately Amazon could upend the entire advertising industry, although some analysts believe Google will withstand the threat, as it did when Facebook pushed into the market. The ad money going to Amazon isn’t necessarily being redirected from Google. Instead it is dollars once allotted for television or offline retail promotions, according to Resolution Performance Media’s Manas, who says: “I’m seeing it come from all sorts of nooks and crannies.”" Also see Amazon’s ad business is growing faster than Google’s and Facebook’s, although the duopoly still dominates (Digiday)
"Having bet on Amazon cloud services and pushed the shares past $1,300, investors are now salivating about the ad business, which doesn’t require big investments in new data centers or shipping hubs and generates fat margins. On Monday, BMO Capital Markets upped its Amazon price target to $1,600 a share, based largely on the growth of the ad business. Some analysts are predicting Amazon will reach $2,000, making it the first company with a $1 trillion market value.

“Advertising is the most profitable business in the world,” says Jay Kahn, a partner at Light Street Capital, who notes that Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. gets more than half its revenue from ads. “For Amazon, advertising is going to be more profitable than its cloud business.” Amazon declined to comment."
Amazon Has a Plan toBecome Profitable. It’s Called Advertising - Bloomberg



Google’s Self-Training AI Turns Coders into Machine-Learning Masters - MIT Technology Review

2018-01-18T07:41:22.965-05:00

See the Cloud AutoML page and Cloud AutoML: Making AI accessible to every business (Google Cloud blog) for more details
"The technology is limited for now, but it could be the start of something big. Building and optimizing a deep neural network algorithm normally requires a detailed understanding of the underlying math and code, as well as extensive practice tweaking the parameters of algorithms to get things just right. The difficulty of developing AI systems has created a race to recruit talent, and it means that only big companies with deep pockets can usually afford to build their own bespoke AI algorithms. 
“We need to scale AI out to more people,” Fei-Fei Li, chief scientist at Google Cloud, said ahead of the launch today. Li estimates there are at most a few thousand people worldwide with the expertise needed to build the very best deep-learning models. “But there are an estimated 21 million developers worldwide today,” she says. “We want to reach out to them all, and make AI accessible to these developers.”"
Google’s Self-Training AI Turns Coders into Machine-Learning Masters - MIT Technology Review



IBM May Finally Stop Shrinking. But Is It a Turnaround? - The New York Times

2018-01-18T06:57:46.694-05:00

From an IBM reality check by Steve Lohr

"For five and a half years, nearly the entire tenure of its chief executive, Virginia M. Rometty, IBM has reported a steady erosion of revenue.

Selling off its chip manufacturing and smaller data-center computer businesses contributed to the decline. So, too, did the fact that new businesses like cloud computing, data analytics and artificial intelligence had not yet grown big enough to make up for the downturn in IBM’s traditional hardware and software products.

But IBM’s half-decade losing streak will most likely end on Thursday, analysts predict, when the company reports its quarterly performance."
IBM May Finally Stop Shrinking. But Is It a Turnaround? - The New York Times



The Future Computed: Artificial Intelligence and its role in society - The Official Microsoft Blog

2018-01-18T06:30:28.543-05:00

Visit this page to read more about the research and download the full (pdf) book

"All of this leads us to what may be one of the most important conclusions of all. Skilling-up for an AI-powered world involves more than science, technology, engineering and math. As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions. If AI is to reach its potential in serving humans, then every engineer will need to learn more about the liberal arts and every liberal arts major will need to learn more about engineering.

While we don’t have a crystal ball that shows us the future, we do know that we’re all going to need to spend more time listening to and learning from each other. We hope that The Future Computed can contribute to this conversation."
The Future Computed: Artificial Intelligence and its role in society - The Official Microsoft Blog



Ripple co-founder loses $44 billion on paper during cryptocurrency crash (CNBC)

2018-01-17T17:25:11.494-05:00

Somehow the "Larsen now holds the equivalent of just $15.8 billion" part makes it difficult to feel sympathy...
"The digital currency plunge has wiped billions from the paper fortune of a cryptocurrency billionaire in just a few weeks.

Ripple's XRP coin has fallen 74 percent from an all-time high of $3.84 hit on Jan. 4, erasing $44 billion from the holdings of Chris Larsen, co-founder and executive chairman of Ripple.

With XRP trading near $1 Wednesday, Larsen now holds the equivalent of just $15.8 billion, according to CNBC calculations using figures from Forbes. Citing sources at Ripple, Forbes said earlier this month that Larsen has 5.19 billion of XRP and a 17 percent stake in the start-up. Ripple holds 61.3 billion of the 100 billion XRP coins in existence."
Ripple co-founder loses $44 billion on paper during cryptocurrency crash



Apple accelerates US investment and job creation - Apple

2018-01-17T16:59:49.190-05:00

Also see Apple, Returning Overseas Cash, to Pay $38 Billion Tax Bill (Bloomberg)

"Apple today announced a new set of investments to build on its commitment to support the American economy and its workforce, concentrated in three areas where Apple has had the greatest impact on job creation: direct employment by Apple, spending and investment with Apple’s domestic suppliers and manufacturers, and fueling the fast-growing app economy which Apple created with iPhone and the App Store. Apple is already responsible for creating and supporting over 2 million jobs across the United States and expects to generate even more jobs as a result of the initiatives being announced today.
Combining new investments and Apple’s current pace of spending with domestic suppliers and manufacturers — an estimated $55 billion for 2018 — Apple’s direct contribution to the US economy will be more than $350 billion over the next five years, not including Apple’s ongoing tax payments, the tax revenues generated from employees’ wages and the sale of Apple products."
Apple accelerates US investment and job creation - Apple



Expanding our global infrastructure with new regions and subsea cables (Google blog)

2018-01-17T08:49:09.587-05:00

Check the full post for more details

"At Google, we've spent $30 billion improving our infrastructure over three years, and we’re not done yet. From data centers to subsea cables, Google is committed to connecting the world and serving our Cloud customers, and today we’re excited to announce that we’re adding three new submarine cables, and five new regions.

We’ll open our Netherlands and Montreal regions in the first quarter of 2018, followed by Los Angeles, Finland, and Hong Kong – with more to come. Then, in 2019 we’ll commission three subsea cables: Curie, a private cable connecting Chile to Los Angeles; Havfrue, a consortium cable connecting the U.S. to Denmark and Ireland; and the Hong Kong-Guam Cable system (HK-G), a consortium cable interconnecting major subsea communication hubs in Asia.  

Together, these investments further improve our network—the world’s largest—which by some accounts delivers 25% of worldwide internet traffic. Companies like PayPal leverage our network and infrastructure to run their businesses effectively."
Expanding our global infrastructure with new regions and subsea cables



Slack Hopes Its AI Will Keep You from Hating Slack - MIT Technology Review

2018-01-17T08:22:26.309-05:00

From an extensive Slack + AI update

"But while it can be an efficient way to collaborate, keeping up with Slack can become a full-time task, particularly when you return from a few days away and find thousands of status updates, scattered across dozens of channels. Slack estimates that the average user sends 70 messages per day. How can you know which are must-reads and which can be skipped?

Slack’s solution: artificial intelligence. In early 2016, the startup hired Stanford-trained computer scientist Noah Weiss to make the platform smarter and more useful. Over the past year and a half, Weiss’s group has used machine learning to enable faster, more accurate information searches within Slack and identify which unread messages are likely to matter most to each user. Eventually, Weiss aims to make Slack function like your ruthlessly organized, multitasking assistant who knows everything that’s going on and keeps you briefed on only the most salient events."
Slack Hopes Its AI Will Keep You from Hating Slack - MIT Technology Review



Bitcoin Steadies After Slump Shakes Global Cryptocurrency Market - Bloomberg

2018-01-17T08:13:04.406-05:00

For other *coin dynamics, also see Crypto Junkies’ Favorite Messaging App Is Planning the Biggest ICO Ever (Bloomberg), Did Bitcoin Just Burst? How It Compares to History's Big Bubbles (Bloomberg), and Steven Johnson's broad Beyond the Bitcoin Bubble (NYT)
"It’s been a week of reckoning for the cryptomarket, with some $300 billion knocked off its market value in three days. Reports have mounted in various countries of regulators trying to curb an explosion of speculation in digital coins and potential fraud. Meanwhile Bitcoin’s market share is dropping as research increases into rival names -- from Bitcoin Cash and Stellar to sub-$1 billion coins like Ox, Qash, even Golem.

“Cryptocurrency holders are trying to decide whether to abandon Bitcoin,” said Steven Englander, head of research and strategy with Rafiki Capital. “The dilemma is that once you stop pricing Bitcoin and its derivatives as new assets that will head to the moon, the pricing model is more conventional and much less breathtaking,” he said in a note to clients."
Bitcoin Steadies After Slump Shakes Global Cryptocurrency Market - Bloomberg